25 June, 2007

Victoria Line: Finsbury Park - Green Park

When I was growing up in the 1980s, my parents used to take me and my sister on trips to London to visit an old work friend of my mum. She lived in Highbury, hence her local Underground station was Highbury and Islington. It was for a very long time, after King's Cross St Pancras (where our train into London would terminate), the only Underground station I really knew. Even venturing one stop further north to Finsbury Park was a no-go.

As such I took lasting intricate mental pictures of Highbury and Islington, the kind you do when you're 9 or 10 years old, to the extent that when I revisited it for this journey, despite not having set foot in it for decades, I remembered the design and layout eerily well.

I have particularly vivid memories of being intrigued by the platform adjacent to the Victoria Line one, which we never used but of which I forever caught glimpses through connecting tunnels. This was, and still is, the old Northern City Line, about which I've talked when I visited Moorgate, and which back then was run by British Rail.

The fact it's adjacent to the Victoria Line platforms is testament to the logic applied to Highbury and Islington when the station was reconfigued to incorporate the Victoria Line. It's a brilliant interchange all round, really, with the mainline service on adjacent platforms to the Victoria Line both north and southbound, plus an easy link to the Silverlink North London Line, which this year will become - excitingly - the London Overground.

Anyway, the current entrance to Highbury and Islington hails from the opening of the Victoria Line in 1968 and has little merit:

The original 1872 station, however, still stands in all its splendour on the opposite side of the road:

At the time of writing, King's Cross St Pancras is even more of a mess than usual. Ironically the entrance to the Underground is one of the few bits that's actually fairly tidy.

Work has obviously picked up apace ahead of the fixed opening of St Pancras International in November, and now there's an even more tortuous route from the mainline station to the Underground. What there is to see of the renovated building, however, looks monumentally stunning.

Similar Herculean work is scheduled to begin at Euston soon, to construct a sensible and long-needed tunnel between it and the nearby Euston Square station, hence enabling a simple, if long, connection between the Victoria/Northern lines and the Circle/Metropolitan/Hammersmith & City lines.

Both of these stations, and the next - Warren Street - I've already visited on the Northern Line. As this blog goes on, more of these duplications will inevitably arise. I can't think of anything else to say about Warren Street except the new University College Hospital building opposite is superb.

Saturday afternoon outside Oxford Circus station is one of the worst places in the world.

It seems there was never not a time when this insidious interchange wasn't overcrowded, or in a state of renovation, ever since its opening in 1900. Intriguingly, during the expansion to accommodate the Victoria Line in the 1960s, a large bridge-like edifice was built over the Regent Street/Oxford Street junction, over which all traffic was diverted for five years. Despite being such an iconic and ostensibly flagship station, you take your life in your hands when you enter during the rush hour. Some of the corridors bear posters from the late 1980s.

Green Park is only marginally less busy, but gains points for boasting an acoustic guitar-wielding busker every weekday morning who plays, among other things, the theme from The Deer Hunter.

It was first opened in 1906, called Dover Street. The name was changed in 1933 when new entrances were added on the south side of Piccadilly, thereby allowing you to exit and be inside the titular park within seconds. All I can say is that this nearness to nature is a blessed relief when you're emerging, always hot and usually bothered, from the Victoria Line of a workday morning.


Chris Hughes said...

It's somehow reassuring to see that picture of the outside of Green Park station - in the seven years I've lived here, I must have changed lines at Green Park hundreds of times (and it never ceases to be a hike), but never yet have I actually got on or off there.

Five-Centres said...

I thought it was just me, but I've nearly expired on the Victoria Line lately, and the weather is not what you'd call hot at the moment.

Why is it so hot down there?

Ian Jones said...

Didn't Ken Livingstone offer a reward a few years ago for anyone who could come up with an invention that solved the problem of overheating on the Underground? Did nobody think to contact Wilf Lunn?

Graham Kibble-White said...

I recently saw a woman in an orange boiler suit at Highbury & Islington, with something along the lines of 'Tube Temperature Control Team' on the back. Here's hoping she makes a breakthrough soon.

And, while I'm here, am I the only one who thinks the recorded announcements at Highbury & Islington sound like George Martin?

mjw4849 said...

Is the tunnel between Euston and Euston Square still going ahead? Is there a scheduled start date do you know?

us said...

I too am fascinated by Highbury & Islington station. I am searching for an imagage of the original Victorian-Gothic station of 1872. You have a photo of the building of 1904, which still exists across the road. One trace remains of the original, grand station; a mock-greek column at the left of the present entrance. I believe it was destroyed by a well-documented V bomb towards the end of the 2nd World War.

Notional67 said...

'Us' and Ian - I'm gradually putting various pictures of the 1872 Highbury and Islington (the North London Line's imposing gothic building) onto Flickr and my own website. My favourite photo of the 1872 building is here (link below) - and the post generated a lot of correspondance on the subject. It comes as a big surprise to many to discover that the high-Gothic station was not destroyed by the Luftwaffe in 1944 (though they tried hard) - but by the British Railways Board in 1967. Sad but true.