Tag Archives: Gloucester Road Station

From the Penta Hotel: 1974

In this week’s post our roving surveyor Bernard Selwyn leaves his perch on the West London Air Terminal / Point West and crosses the Cromwell Road to take up a vantage point on one of the upper floors of the Penta Hotel which we saw last week. This was it in the days of the Air Terminal, not one of Selwyn’s pictures.

Copy of Penta Hotel

The 25-storey Penta was designed by Richard Seifert and partners and built in 1971-72. Although it looks vast and imposing it was actually smaller than the original design which would have included a bridge to the Terminal. The Architectural Review, in a piece called “Bad Dreams coming true”, called it “a terrifying interruption of the weave of this part of London” although the writer did admit that the large site meant it could sit out of alignment with the buildings next to it which caused less harm to the street layout. I love architectural language. “What the passer-by sees is an apparently chaotic pile forcing its way upwards through successive layers of low level impediments.”

Is that a Ford Capri in the foreground?

Penta Hotel p137

The hotel was subsequently called the London Forum and more recently the Holiday Inn. It still sits rather incongruously among the other buildings which line the Cromwell Road although in the passing years residents have grown used to it.

Selwyn got to one of the upper floors in 1974. I’ve made a selection from two films showing the views he got from up there.

Penta Hotel July 1974 004

I like the way part of his vantage point is visible in some of the pictures. It makes it easier to picture him leaning out of a window to take the pictures. As someone prone to vertigo (who has nevertheless been up many tall buildings) I get a hint of the danger / thrill of high places in some of these pictures. This particular view is not  terribly interesting but it does show the Gloucester Hotel (1972-73) which the Survey of London describes as “better-mannered” than the Penta. It certainly blends in with the skyline. Below you can see it next to Bailey’s Hotel which was built almost a hundred years earlier.

Penta Hotel July 1974 006

This view shows Gloucester Road and Cromwell Road looking east.

Penta Hotel July 1974 007

And there’s that white building I referred to last week. After writing last week’s post I was looking through the packets of photos and found a couple which would have answered my question immediately.

Penta Hotel July 1974 002


Here you see Gloucester Road Station laid bare, before it was built over in the 1990s. There are two trains, in different liveries,  stopped at the platforms. on the right a sparsely populated car park is is temporary use. Below you can see the outline of Lenthall Place.

Penta Hotel July 1974 003

The buildings are gone, and the former mews has become another parking area. The former bank on the corner of Gloucester Road has gone (see it in this post) and the remaining buildings are propped up with scaffolding. Can you see that irregularly shaped structure next to the trees? What was that used for, I wonder?

Selwyn turned towards central London.

Penta Hotel July 1974 001

The green domed tower of the Imperial Institute is a nearby landmark. The tall buildings further away are harder to make out. So look in the foreground at the surprising bulk of St Stephen’s Church.

In the next picture Selwyn pointed at the Natural History Museum but he also caught the V&A, the Brompton Oratory and in the distance you can make out Big Ben and St Paul’s.

Penta Hotel July 1974 013

And then there’s this 1960s  building, relatively recent in 1974.

Penta Hotel July 1974 014

Still called the Post Office Tower at this time, and still a bit of a wonder against the relatively subdued north London skyline.

This was a much more familiar landmark.

Penta Hotel July 1974 018

The picture shows how impressive the Albert Hall must have been when in dominated the landscape around it. You can see the Gothic spires of the Albert Memorial rising above the trees of Kensington Gardens.

Selwyn must have moved to a different vantage point for this view westwards.

Penta Hotel July 1974 012

The unmistakeable Earls Court Exhibition Centre and beyond it the Empress State Building on Lillie Road, a significant local landmark.

Continuing the movement round, we’re now looking south west.

Penta Hotel July 1974 010

The gasometers are south of the New King’s Road. You can also see the back of one of the stands at Chelsea Football Club, and below it the trees of Brompton Cemetery, the dome of the chapel just about visible. The cemetery grounds are also visible here

Penta Hotel July 1974 011

The church, after some puzzling, I think is St Luke’s Redcliffe Square.

Penta Hotel July 1974 021

Now this church is St Mary the Boltons, but there are two cathedrals of power generation in the background, Lots Road, showing one of its chimneys, and Fulham with four of them in line.

Finally, a look down from where Selwyn was standing to see some smaller but still impressive chimney stacks surrounded by trees.

Penta Hotel July 1974 022


I must have set some sort of record for the number of links to other posts here, but like a virtual Selwyn I’ve covered a lot of ground since starting this blog. There are going to be another couple of posts based on his pictures coming up soon, but neither of them covering as wide an area.

A tale of two tube stations – Gloucester Road

Gloucester Road Station 1868 385.643 GLO - Copy (2)

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.

Gloucester Road  1869

Just below ground level are the platforms.

Copy of Gloucester Road Station under construction october 1868

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.

Copy of Gloucester Road west side - Station

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.

Gloucester Road west side dec 1969

There was a narrow street, Lenthall Place, which has now gone and clustered next to the station a series of ramshackle looking shops.

Gloucester Road west side 2 Lenthall Place - 178 GR dec 1969

There was this substantial building on the corner of Cromwell Road.

Gloucester Road west side 120-122 dec 1969

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:

Gloucester Road west side dec 1969 stations

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.

Gloucester Road west side dec 1969 - Stations detail

The signs are faded and the frontage cluttered.

Gloucester Road looking north from Courtfield Road dec 1969

That roof I told you to look out for?

Gloucester Road Station 1970s

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.

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