The Brompton Road tube station, which closed in 1934 after being made redundant following the opening of other stations, sold for a reported £53 million over the weekend. The former Piccadilly Line station, located between South Kensington and Knightsbridge stations, opened in 1906 and was designed by architect Leslie Green for the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. It was used as a command centre for anti-aircraft guns during World War II and the story goes was where Nazi Rudolf Hess was interrogated after being captured in 1941. Owned up until the sale by the Ministry of Defence, it was most recently used as a training centre for air cadets and naval reservists. It will reportedly be converted into residential flats.
Apologies for the delay in posting this piece – next week we’ll post the final in this series!
The first underground railway system in the world, the London Underground – fondly known as the ‘Tube’ – is this year celebrating the 150th anniversary of its creation.
Born out of an idea to link the inner city with the various large rail termini on the outskirts, the first section of what is now the underground system – a six kilometre stretch between Paddington and Farringdon – opened on 9th January, 1863, and was run by the Metropolitan Railway, known less formally as the ‘Met’.
It was constructed using the ‘cut and cover’ method in which streets were dug up and tracks laid in a trench before being covered by brick-lined tunnels and the street above replaced (the method was later abandoned, apparently due to the disruption it caused to traffic). The first trains were steam-driven locomotives and drew gas-lit wooden carriages behind them (the first journey was re-enacted earlier this year – see our earlier post here. Other events commemorating the 150th included a visit to Baker Street Station by Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and the Duchess of Cambridge).
The idea proved a success – 26,000 people used the new railway every day during the first six months of its operation – and the Metropolitan District Railway opened a new line between Westminster and South Kensington (station is pictured) in December, 1868, while the first Tube tunnel under the Thames, from the Tower of London to Bermondsey, opened in 1880, and what is now the Circle Line was completed in 1884.
In December 1890, the world’s first deep-level electric railway opened, running between King William Street in the City and passing under the Thames to Stockwell. Ten years later the ‘Twopenny Tube’, more formally known as the Central London Railway, opened between Shepherd’s Bush and Bank (it was from this that the use of the word ‘Tube’ to describe the Underground system caught on).
The uniting of the system began the following year with the creation of the Underground Electric Railway Company of London and by World War I, all but the Met were within a single group organisation. The name Underground first appeared on stations in 1908, the same year electric ticket machines were introduced.
In 1933, the Underground came under the control of the London Passenger Transport Board – the same year that Harry Beck’s first diagrammatic map of the underground system appeared.
Stations in the system were used as air raid shelters during World War II – part of the Piccadilly Line was closed and used as a storage site for treasures from the British Museum. Following the war, the organisation running the system went through various name changes until the formation of London Underground in 1985.
The system has since expanded – the Victoria Line was opened in the late 1960s and the Jubilee Line a decade later – and now consists of more than 408 kilometres of railway lines and 275 stations which serve more than three million passengers a day – equating to more than a billion a year, the same as the entire national rail network.
For more on the history of the Underground, see our earlier 10 Questions with London Transport Museum curator Simon Murphy. Poster Art 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs runs at the London Transport Museum until October. Admission charge applies. For more (including the many events around the exhibition), see www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events/events-calendar#posterart150.
For more, check out David Bownes’ Underground: How the Tube Shaped London or Andrew Martin’s Underground, Overground: A Passenger’s History of the Tube.
• The history of the Royal Menagerie is the focus of a new exhibition on now at the Tower of London. Royal Beasts explores the history of the Tower menagerie which, founded during the reign of King John in the early 1200s, remained there for more than 600 years. Among the animals were lions (the first record of which dates from 1210), a grizzly bear (a gift from the Hudson Bay Company to King George III), elephants, tigers, ostriches and kangaroos. Highlights of the exhibition include modern animal sculptures by artist Kendra Haste and interactive sensory displays. The recently restored north wall walk and the never before opened Brick Tower will host some of the displays, including sights, sounds and smells of some of the animals. See www.hrp.org.uk/TowerofLondon.
• A 1938 tube train will run along the western end of the Piccadilly Line this Sunday (that’s Father’s Day in case you’ve forgotten) as part of the London Transport Museum’s Heritage Vehicles on the Move 2011 programme. Leaving Northfields, the train will travel to High Street Kensington via Earl’s Court (crossing from the Piccadilly to the District Line in a move not normally experienced by the general public) before heading back down the District Line to Acton Town where it will change back onto the Piccadilly Line. The train will then undertake the “fishhook move”, visiting Heathrow Terminal 4 before going to Terminals 1,2,3 and 5. The entire journey is expected to last about two hours. Tickets, which can be purchased at the museum ticket desk or by calling 020 7565 7298, will need to be collected at Northfields Station. For more, see www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/events/vehicles-on-the-move.
• Lambeth Palace Library is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible with a new exhibition. The exhibits include a 1611 edition of the Bible as well as Medieval Bible translations, landmark editions of the Bible which drew on the textual scholarship of the Renaissance and Reformation and early printed vernacular versions. Runs until 29th July. Admission is by pre-booking only. For information on buying tickets and more, see www.lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/2011exhibition.
• On Now: Time is running out to see Sir Herbert Oakley’s collection of 27 models of European and English cathedrals at the Sir John Soane Museum. The models were made in the 1850s by William Gorringe, who was a modelmaker by appointment to Queen Victoria. Runs until 25th June. For more, see www.soane.org/exhibitions/