Yesterday, English Heritage announced that 16 Underground stations have been given Grade II listing and a further three exiting Grade II stations have been upgraded to Grade II*. The 16 are: Aldwych, Belsize Park, Brent Cross, Caledonian Road, Chalk Farm, Chesham, Covent Garden, Hendon Central, Oxford Circus (counts as two), Perivale, Redbridge, Russell Square, St John’s Wood, West Acton, and Wood Green. The three upgraded ones – all by Charles Holden – are: Arnos Grove, Oakwood, and Sudbury Town.
I am not familiar with all of these stations. But while questioning Perivale’s credentials, I am pleased that Russell Square is included, partially for personal reasons. For in the last year of my degree, we attended a weekly tutorials on 15th Century Florentine Politics at rooms in nearby Bedford Square. It is a station whose wide frontage belies its small size. It is one of the deep tubes which, like Covent Garden, has no escalators, relying instead on three antiquated lifts or, if you’re mad enough, a 175-step spiral stairwell. Russell Square is also the nearest station to one of my favourite London institutions, the wonderful Foundling Museum.
Russell Square station is from the second generation of Underground construction in the early 1900s which added deep tunnel lines thanks to the new tunnelling technology of South African engineer James Greathead (1844 – 1896). The first generation tube system from forty years previous had had to rely on the cut and cover method, basically train lines in a covered ditch. It is also one designed by the architect Leslie Green, a Londoner, overshadowed in history by the great Charles Holden.
One of the reasons for Green’s relative obscurity is perhaps the fact that he died of tuberculosis in 1908 at the tragically young age of 33, having been made a fellow of RIBA the previous year in the wake of his greatest achievement. He was responsible for the designs of no fewer than 28 Underground stations on what are today the Piccadilly, Bakerloo and Northern Lines, placing him very much in the pantheon with Holden when it comes to station design.
Green’s Arts and Crafts influenced stations are characterised by the distinctive “ox-blood” glazed tiling which adorn their street frontages. His platform decorations incorporated a variety of geometric patterns with the station names writ large in pleasing, pre-Johnston typefaces. A great deal of his interiors were lost over the years during various renovations and upgrades, but in recent years much has been sympathetically restored by London Transport. There is a good list of Leslie Green’s stations on Wikipedia, here.
What is your favourite of the newly-listed stations?