Charles Holden goes west

Posted on August 10, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 1 comment(s)

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Sudbury Town understand station


Last year, I attended an architectural walk organised by London transport museum to explore English architect, Charles Holden's iconic art deco underground stations (click here to read the blog entry) on the north east end of the Piccadilly Line. This year, I attended another walk (which was also part of the London festival of architecture) that explored the north west end of the Piccadilly Line.

I love these walks not only because of the architecture and design, but it is immensely fascinating to learn about the history of London. When I visited these stations which were built almost a century ago, I felt like time has stood still and that I was transported to a different era. When you look at these photographs, you can see that good architecture and designs truly stand the test of time because every detail is well thought out and is still functional after all these years.


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Many original features including signage can be found ar Sudbury Town understand station; Bottom right: small garden at Rayners Lane station


Housing developments in the early 1920s around Richmond, Hounslow, Harrow and Ealing meant that the Piccadilly line had to be extended to replace some of the District Railway services. And three men who were in charge of this project were Charles Holden, Frank Pick and Stanley Heaps.

The tour started at the Grade II listed Sudbury Town station, the first tube station that Charles Holden designed for Frank Pick, built in 1929 and completed in 1931. Holden described this as "a brick box with a concrete lid".

At the station, the station conductor was keen to provide us with his knowledge of the station and he even let us into the original ticket booth for a bonus tour! Like most other stations designed by Holden, this station is symmetrical, spacious, bright, with wide entrance and has no architectural ornament.

The original signage can still be seen at this station and the typefaces used are the standard London Underground 'Johnston typeface' with 'petit-serif', which was developed by Holden and Percy Delf Smith. I especially love the blue barometer on the wall, but sadly no longer works (there is an identical-looking clock on the opposite side of the hall). Now the barometer's hand is stuck at 'change', which is very accurate of what our weather pattern these days.


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 Alperton tube station and bus garage


Our second station that we visited was Alperton station, which was built in 1931 and completed in 1933. The station is similar to Sudbury Town station and has a block-like ticket hall with high ceiling, large windows with plenty of natural light.

Next to this station is the Alperton bus garage, one of the very few built for Central Bus operation in the 1930s.


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Park Royal station


Although the Grade II listed Park Royal station was not designed by Charles Holden, it evidently influenced by him. The art deco station was designed by Felix. J. Lander from Welch & Lander in 1935 and was completed in 1936. I love the art deco exterior and the tower is a prominent feature that can be spotted from afar.


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 Hanger Hill estate - Top main: Hanger Court; Bottom left: Hanger Green/ Royal Hill Court; 2nd & bottom row right: Park Royal Hotel


Not far from the Park Royal station is the locally-conserved Hanger Hill estate, a 'superior suburbia' developed in the 1930s by Haymills Ltd. This was a large commercial development with houses, flats and public buildings, and the team of architects involved in the project included Welch & Lander and Cachemaille Day. Many art deco architectural elements can be seen in this area, but I found the derelict Park Royal Hotel especially intriguing. Originally I thought this was a theatre because of the unusual twisted brick columns on its facade, but when I did my research online, I was surprised to find out that it used to be a hotel. However, I could not find much more information on it, it is a pity that this fascinating-looking hotel is left neglected while thousands of cars drive past it everyday without even noticing that it is there!


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Hanger Lane station


After exploring the estate, we walked over to the nearby Hanger Lane station, which is situated in the middle of a roundabout on the busy (and rather gloomy) North Circular Road. Back in the days when I used to drive, I drove past this station many times as this is one of the most popular routes to get to Heathrow airport. Yet I never knew that in the underpass tunnel underneath the station there is a superb display of vintage Underground posters. Who would have thought that this underpass is actually a poster gallery for the Transport of London?


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 Acton Town station


Our last station of the walk was the Grade II listed Acton Town, an important example of Holden's mature work for an interchange station. Designed in 1931 and completed in 1933, all the Holden's signature style and materials are used here. The notable features include the art deco lighting in the ticket hall and brass railings that can be seen throughout the station.


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Mill Hill park estate


Our last optional tour was a visit to the nearby Mill Hill Park estate developed from the 1880s by William Willett and son. Many houses here are influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, which was at its height around the turn of the century. Each house here is unique and very well maintained, and like the Hanger Hill estate, this area is a local conservation area with special architectural or historic interest.

London is a city full of surprises and hidden gems, and once again, I have discovered something new about this city in just a few hours. Like Samuel Johnson said, “Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” I think the best bits about London are often hidden, and so if one is tired of the city, it is because they haven't looked or dwelled deep enough.


This post was posted in London, Architecture, British design, Hiking & walking, Architectural conservation, Design, Modernist & Art Deco, Transport, British heritage and was tagged with London, walks, British design, heritage, London transport museum, Charles Holden, art deco architecture

1 Response to Charles Holden goes west

  • Can anybody advise me where I can find out more details about the programme of walks that may be taking place as I would like to attend and join in
    Bob Hayward

    Posted on April 14, 2015 at 10:06 pm