Back in 1868 a gang of workers poses in front of the station they have built for the Metropolitan Railway. The road in front of the booking office is still a dirt track. Although the station is only yards away from Cromwell Road, which will become one of London’s major thoroughfares it stands on its own on an otherwise empty site waiting for development to catch up with it. The first Ordnance Survey map of the area shows some development on the east side of the road around Stanhope Gardens but to the west is a market garden and on the north side of Cromwell Road St Stephen’s Church also stands isolated.
Just below ground level are the platforms.
The interior is still recognisable today. I walked down a staircase in more or less the same position this morning. In 1868 steam trains will be running on these tracks so although this is an underground railway it will stay as close to the surface as possible with plenty of open air sections. Take a look at that roof by the way.
Jump forward almost exactly a hundred years to December 1969.
The original building is still there, stripped of some of its ornament, and the front of the building has been taken over by retail. Gloucester Road itself looked quite different in 1969. The area had become a tightly packed urban conclave of retail outlets, hotels and houses.
To the north of the entrance were more shops.
There was a narrow street, Lenthall Place, which has now gone and clustered next to the station a series of ramshackle looking shops.
There was this substantial building on the corner of Cromwell Road.
The specialist shops and the flats above have all gone now of course, replaced by this development behind which is a modern shopping arcade:
But I promised you two tube stations, didn’t I? And there are two stations at Gloucester Road. Look back at 1969 again:
There on the left you can see the second station, built for the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway in 1906 to serve their deep level tunnels and the lifts which took passengers up and down. The Piccadilly Line then ran between Hammersmith and Finsbury Park. This 2013 view is rather clearer:
The colour image shows the distinctive ox-blood coloured tiling which was a characteristic of Piccadilly and Northern Line stations in Central London. The Exit sign is still visible on the left although the exit from the lifts is now through the old station. The Metropolitan and District Railway was then part of the United Electric Railway Companies. They ran both the District and Circle Lines (as they are now known) through the old station.
You can see the same twin station set up at South Kensington Station.(And in a larger format at Victoria main line Station which was also originally two separate stations.) The two stations at Gloucester Road were later joined up internally so they shared the same entrance and ticket office.
In 1969 Gloucester Road was looking very like a hundred year old building.
The signs are faded and the frontage cluttered.
That roof I told you to look out for?
Gone in this 1972 picture. In fact if it wasn’t for the station signs on the right you might think you were looking at a different building. I think this is an east to west view with an eastbound District Line train entering the station. Check out the weighing machine. Weighing yourself was once a common recreation for tube travellers along with trying to get chocolate bars out of those unhelpful machines which sometimes dispensed them.
The 1990s development next to the station gave us Waitrose and Boots and a covered way through to Cromwell Road was built on a deck which covered the platforms. The strange thing for me is that I can’t remember how it looked before. I suppose I didn’t use the station that much in those days.
If you look at a modern picture of the station you can see that some effort has been made to restore the original façade and balustrade.
The entrance is back where it started out and although the ornamentation on the top is not quite the same the 1868 building has survived more or less intact even though it is now dwarfed by the surrounding offices and hotels. The tube network has expanded but Gloucester Road’s two conjoined stations are still a destination for travellers entering London for the first time.
1969 pictures by John Rogers. 2013 pictures by myself.
This post is the first in a month long series which will be based on the general theme of transport and ties in with this year’s CityRead campaign. The book is Sebastian Faulks’ A month in December. Unlike last year when I had all four posts worked out in advance I have no idea what I’m writing next week, so keep your fingers crossed.