Just Some Photos Of Early 20th Century Underground Stations Looking Glorious

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 19 months ago
Just Some Photos Of Early 20th Century Underground Stations Looking Glorious
Barons Court (1905) © Ryan Trower

Leslie Green's tube stations — all ox blood glazed tiles, sweeping crescent windows — might be the paradigm of a traditional tube station, but Green himself had his own architectural forerunner, in Harry Bell Measures.

Brent Cross (1923) © Ryan Trower

"Measures was the architect of the Central London Railway, which we now know as the Central line," photographer Ryan Trower and historian Joshua Abbott, tell us, "Measures introduced terracotta tiles and prefabricated ceramics, and also became an influence for Leslie Green."

The theatrical yet refined facias of Measures' work can be admired at Shepherd's Bush and Oxford Circus stations; they also appear in a book by Trower and Abbott, Tube Station Anthology 1900-1933.

Chalk Farm (1907) © Ryan Trower

A prequel to Tube Station Anthology 1924-1961, this time the focus is on the tube stations borne out of an earlier — but just as thrilling — epoch in tube building history.

In the first third of a century from 1900, the Central line and Piccadilly line were built, and extensions attached to the likes of the Bakerloo and Northern lines. This is also when the London Underground really began to sculpt an identity — although not an entirely homogenous one.

Edgware Road (1907) © Ryan Trower

The book's creators tell Londonist: "The architects for the different railway companies had a variety of architectural styles to choose from; neoclassical, arts and crafts, Queen Anne revival and others. This allowed the designers to differentiate their stations from their competitors and achieve what we would call a 'brand'."

Edgware Road Metropolitan (1928) © Ryan Trower

Leslie Green himself is the most celebrated tube architect of this era, and for good reason: "Green designed 50 buildings for the tube in the short space of three years, transforming the transport network in London probably more than anyone else has since, Trower and Abbott explain. "His simple but elegant stations were planned flexibly to be able to be used on a variety of sites, allowing them to be used all over the capital."

Famously, overwork is thought to have contributed the cause of Green's untimely death, aged just 33.

Embankment (1914) © Ryan Trower

You could see London's Underground station design as a kind of chain reaction; while Green was influenced by the stations of Harry Bell Measures, Green's work was continued by his apprentice Stanley Heaps (stations such as Kilburn Park and Maida Vale are patently in the mould of Green's work). Heaps then later became the chief designer of London Transport, working with Charles Holden's modernist rebrand of the 1920s and 30s.

Great design begets great design.

Great Portland Street (1930) © Ryan Trower

The fourth architect to put his stamp on this fecund period of tube station building was Charles Walter Clark — chief architect for the Metropolitan Railway, and designer of the stately Great Portland Street and Farringdon stations.

As the Underground lines evolved, so too did Clark's work. As well as going on to design quaint suburban houses in Metro-land, he also drew up the blueprints for some of the area's understated, cottagy stations, such as those at Croxley and Watford.

Hyde Park Corner (former ticket office 1906) © Ryan Trower

"We had known for a long time that the Underground was vast, but had never really needed to use it to its full extent," the book's authors tell Londonist, "It wasn't until we took the treks out to the ends of the lines that we realised just how suburban (and almost rural) it gets."

Lambeth North (1906) © Ryan Trower

Clark's Metropolitan Railway stations — with their sea-green tiling, at the likes of Aldgate and Willesden Green — are among the pair's favourite stations from the book. So too are some of the smaller stations that've since become disused or repurposed — think Down Street, Aldwych and Hyde Park Corner.

Maida Vale (1915) © Ryan Trower

"Of the many stations from that era that have been demolished, the two we would most like to have seen are Leslie Green's Brompton Road entrance to Knightsbridge station with its floral metalwork decorations or Stanley Heaps's Wood Lane station rebuild, with its red terracotta finish and "Underground" Mosaic in the ticket hall," say Trower and Abbott.

Mornington Crescent (1907) © Ryan Trower

Plenty more of these stations, though, remain as practical and handsome as they ever were — testament to the draughtsmen who created something that was both a reflection of their time, but ultimately timeless.

North Harrow (1930) © Ryan Trower
Northwick Park (1932) © Ryan Trower
Northwood Hills (1933) © Ryan Trower
Oxford Circus (1906) © Ryan Trower
South Kentish Town (former ticket office 1907) © Ryan Trower

Tube Station Anthology 1900-1933, by Ryan Trower & Joshua Abbott, published by ADM publishing, RRP £25

Last Updated 16 September 2022

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