Woodstock (Edgware line)

Woodstock (Edgware line)

The line from central London to Edgware was built in three stages. First the section from Charing Cross to Golders Green where a terminus and a large depot had been built was opened in 1907. The next stage to Hendon opened in November 1923 and the final stage to Edgware opened during August 1924. There were indeed plans to extend the line beyond Edgware to Aldenham and Bushey Heath – and a fair amount of that new route was built before being abandoned completely. This is covered in a later Morden-Edgware line post.

Golders Green was all but fields before the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway had arrived. The first few new houses were begun in 1905 and development was quite rapid. When the new station had opened it was claimed to be a mile and half from the nearest settlements. It was probably no more than a third of a mile at the most! That soon changed when a flurry of completely unplanned and unregulated development got underway, all the time while land prices were shooting up and developers were most anxious to grab a piece of the action. Clearly the Hampstead tube itself had played a part in accelerating the development of this part of London for it too both encouraged and invested in this rapidly evolving part of London.

Both the Hampstead station and the one at Golders Green were doing an equal amount of business and although the latter station is at present about a mile and half from nowhere, the passengers who made their exodus from it soon found the place.

Golders Green station is a mile and half from nowhere! An extract from the Hampstead Record newspaper for June 1907 which can be seen at Hampstead tube station.

The earliest plans for a line had emerged in 1901 with parliamentary approval gained soon after. The proposed line to be built beyond Golders Green became known as the Edgware and Hampstead Railway and a company under that name was set up to build it. Curiously the original plans for the Charing Cross Euston and Hampstead Railway had also attracted a similar scheme for an extension to Edgware (which was initially known as the Hampstead, Hendon and Edgware, this being 1901-1902) and that to be worked in conjunction with the CCE&HR. That earlier route did not entail going via Golders Green but via the Finchley Road instead. That plan fell through quickly. No doubt the UERL (Underground Electric Railways Limited) were looking to extending their new line thus prompting further property speculation in the locality and their scheme was known as the Edgware and Hampstead Railway. New powers were also gained for an extension to Watford (which includes Bushey Heath) however that’s well beyond the scope of this post.

Comprehensive five page feature on the CCE&HR in Electrical Engineering June 1907.

The UERL’s initial plans soon had to be changed because of rapid property development which made their original route unviable. During 1912-1914 the UERL’s new route (a deviation rather) was finalised and it was soon made known the station immediately following Golders Green would be called Woodstock. Indeed tube maps were produced showing the new Edgware extension with Woodstock marked – and this name followed after the large house which owned a substantial area of the land. Indeed several new roads were also named after the house.

Tube map circa 1915 showing the proposed Woodstock station which later became Brent.

Several tube maps were produced showing the proposed station at Woodstock on the Edgware line.

Evidently the whole point of the Edgware extension, as author Jack Rose says, was to promote housing which would afford a means of increasing patronage on the new tube railway! It was originally Charles Yerkes’ idea and his UERL were soon responsible for advertising that extolled the advantages of living in Hendon or Edgware and then using their new line to reach central London.

Here then was a case of a purely profit motivated transport company promoting property development. Firstly the company profited by dealing in land that was about to increase in value through the coming of the railway and secondly it encouraged as much building as possible around the station, so as to capture rail revenue.

Expansive property development was what the UERL had hoped for in order to boost passenger use of its new tube line. Dynamics of Urban Property Development.

Ironically when it came to building the extension to Edgware the new tube line had to be deviated from its original planned course because of the numerous developments that were being built at the time. The Hampstead and Edgware line was conceived at a time when there was considerably little development north of Golders Green – ironically it was the tube line that was majorly responsible for the huge expansion in housing and its parliamentary approved route soon proved nigh on impossible to even pursue. The original planned route had been envisaged to follow part of the course of the Decoy Brook before an embankment and bridges took the line across the Brent Valley and then along a higher elevated alignment towards the Burroughs tunnel.

Map I created showing the two Northern line (Hampstead and Edgware railway) routes the black one is the original route and the gold coloured one is the newer route.

The black line is the original parliamentary approved route between Golders Green and the Burroughs. The gold route is the later approved deviation plus two stations. The blue boxed area denotes the present Burroughs tunnel alignment. Map created by the author.

Available land on the original route was getting more scarce even though the first set of houses on the other side of Finchley Road had in fact been built with a view to accommodating the new railway. Alternative routes were sought and a more western route was eventually agreed upon between Golders Green and Hendon – even though the land was fast being developed too. In short the house building was pretty unregulated in those days as there was no powers at the time to oversee and regulate the process. It was only when local planning laws were brought in that there was some form of control as to what the various plots could be used for. Even when the time came to start building the UERL’s new route a number of new houses already built on the proposed alignment had to be demolished to make way for the new railway. In a bizarre turn of events some of the earlier properties to the west of Golders Green station which had in fact been built to accommodate the envisaged route of the original line had to be demolished to make way for the new alignment!

The original route would have been built on land somewhat higher than the present and the revised route, following the land contours more closely including a considerable dip through Brent, would not meet the original parliamentary route until a point just below the Burroughs. Indeed the Hendon station proposed on the original would have been somewhat more to the east of the present – having approached via a more easterly route upon higher ground – evidently the earlier planned Burroughs tunnel would have been shorter that the one that was instead built.

View of Hendon Central and the Burroughs tunnel - the earlier parliamentary route would likely have run past at a higher level.

Hendon Central station. The original parliamentary approved route to Edgware would have come in on the right and that would be at a higher level leading to a cutting and a shorter Burroughs tunnel.

The UERL had already benefitted from the fact their original terminus at Golders Green had led to a vast influx of new development – one of which included the sale of Woodstock House and its adjoining land in 1908. It was only by way of perhaps more luck than anything else the UERL were able to find a route through the Woodstock area – considering the amount of land that had been taken up for new housing – and it was on one of those parcels of land that the UERL undertook an official ceremony to start construction on the new line to Edgware.

Lord Ashfield cuts the first sod of the Hampstead-Edgware Railway at Woodstock Road near Golders Green in June 1922.

Lord Ashfield cuts the first sod with onlookers such as Philip Lloyd Greame present. LT Museum.

Much of the land between Golders Green and the next station northward was to be used for the new railway and this was land belonging to the aforementioned Woodstock House. The first sod was cut in a ceremony conducted by Lord Ashfield, and Philip Lloyd Greame, the MP for Hendon, to commence construction of the new tube between Golders Green and Hendon: ‘The ceremony of cutting the first sod was performed on June 12th , 1922 , near Woodstock Avenue , Golders Green.’ This was the largest available parcel of land upon which the railway could begin its work. The fact it was Woodstock Avenue was honourable – however the ceremony’s actual location wasn’t actually part of the former estate, but rather it was outside the estate’s southern boundary where Woodstock Road is.

The tube station at Woodstock was no doubt an early proposal in terms of the new line to Edgware. That even though the station itself is actually built on land belonging to the Woodstock estate as is the railway towards Golders Green. The feature image on this page shows ‘Woodstock’ station purely in terms of what if it had been that name instead? The station has always been known as Brent (from the 1970s it was Brent Cross). Much of the land in Brent had not yet been developed hence the UERL were essentially doing what came naturally and since Brent was largely undeveloped there were no doubt hoping this renamed station would spark further development and thus bring custom to the new railway.

What that means is by naming it as Brent instead they were essentially helping to convey the idea that this was new unchartered land ripe for development. Its a bit like the Metropolitan Railway and its Metroland schemes, or the new line down to Morden or even the Piccadilly line towards Arnos Grove and Enfield West where yet further undeveloped land was turned over to housing at a rapid pace – and the various Underground companies benefitted from the arrangements greatly. In fact there’s a rare picture of the new station at Brent under construction along with chaotic scenes of intensive housebuilding too! Basically that is what it was all about. An underground railway builds a new line and stations in the middle of nowhere – and new developments spawn around the tube lines’ new stations en masse. Hence the following picture which is a relatively little known scene drawn by Fred Taylor in 1923. The picture was evidently a commentary on the new tube lines, new stations, and how all these new developments sprouted up around the stations like magic!

Fred Taylor's New Works picture dated to 1923 detailing the chaotic building around Brent tube station.

New works (1923). ‘The Hampstead Tube was extended overground from Golders Green to Edgware in 1923-4, prompting new development in what had been open countryside around every station. Fred Taylor’s poster makes the point without the need for a single word of copy.’ Swann Galleries.

The new line was opened in November 1923, having taken less than a year and half to build. This must be something of a record for construction of a new railway in what were quite difficult conditions entailing substantial vertical cuttings, viaducts, overbridges (both rail and road) long embankments and two new stations, as well as the remodelling of many local roads in order to accommodate the new railway.

It has been necessary to make considerable extensions at Golders Green station, where three platform lines with five platform faces, together with additional siding and car shed equipment, are now available. Immediately beyond Golders Green station. Finchley Road is crossed by a large girder bridge, having an 88-ft. span. Other large bridges are those over Golders Green Road (92-ft. span), and Elmcroft Crescent (I29f-ft. span). Altogether there are 12 steel girder and brick bridges, while about 5,000 ft. of viaduct have had to be erected, the principal being that at Brent, 300 ft. long and 34 ft. high. The principal embankments are those at the “Riding” (1,870 cubic yards), and between Highfield Avenue and Brent (32,228 cubic yards). The principal cuttings are those between “Ridgeway” and Woodstock Avenue (11,575 cubic yards), and leading to Hendon (Central) station (70,000 cubic yards). while between Woodstock Avenue and Elmcroft Crescent 2,148 cubic yards of filling have been required. Altogether about 8,000,000 bricks have been used in the construction of viaducts, bridges, retaining walls, etc., and some 165,000 tons of earth excavated with the aid of steam shovels, having a capacity of 750 tons a day, and transported to other portions of the line as required; 35,000 tons of concrete have been used for foundations and other purposes. Associated works included the raising of Woodstock Avenue 7 ft. to permit the line to pass beneath on the level, while Queen’s Road, Hendon, has been raised 4 ft. to enable the line to pass beneath it. (Extract from Railway Magazine on the opening of the line. January 1924 p45).

Philip Lloyd Greame, the MP for Hendon with his son on the first train from Golder's Green to Hendon.

Philip Lloyd Greame, the MP for Hendon with his son on the first train from Golders Green to Hendon. 19th November 1923. LT Museum.

Brent station possibly just before it was opened. 1923. The scene is a foggy one.

The new as yet unopened Brent station when most of the land around was still undeveloped. This situation would however change pretty fast and there would soon be houses as far as the eye could see! The whole station area is built on land that originated from the former Woodstock House estate. LT Museum.

Woodstock in the 21st Century:

These scenes are of the stretch of line that was built through the former Woodstock estate. The railway constitutes what is essentially a switchback route with substantial gradients from Golders Green down to Brent Cross station and then up to Hendon Central. From the platforms at Brent Cross station these gradients can be observed and its evident the station is right at the bottom of a substantial dip in elevations. The original route planned to Edgware would have taken in a far more level route, however as has been detailed property development overtook the UERL’s wishes and forced them to adopt this new and considerably more difficult route.

Some of the scenes are reminiscent of those that can be photographed along the route between Ealing and South Harrow, but perhaps more so from the two footbridges across the Piccadilly Line between South Harrow and Rayners Lane

The Northern line seen from Woodstock Avenue bridge with a train making its way north to Edgware. Plenty of trees line the cutting that stretches into the distance.

View from Woodstock Avenue looking up the gradient towards Golders Green. The middle of these four carriages is about where the line crosses the boundary into the former Woodstock estate. The point where the tracks disappear into the distance marks roughly the site where the first sod was dug in 1922.

The Northern line seen from Woodstock Avenue bridge with a train making its way north towards Brent Cross station and Edgware.

The line south of Woodstock Avenue emerges onto an open section of line that continues on a falling gradient towards Brent Cross station – the route includes viaducts, embankments, and steel overbridges which were necessary to keep the line’s gradients to an acceptable limit.

A peep over the wall to see a Northern line train making its way south near Woodstock Avenue.

Some rare lineside views of the tube can be obtained if one’s tall enough to be able to point their camera over the wall near Woodstock Avenue! Service is for Morden via Bank.

Southbound Northern line train makes its way past Elmcroft Crescent with the tracks into Brent Cross station visible in the distance.

Northern Line train en route to Golders Green near Elmcroft Crescent. Part of the track into Brent Cross station can be seen as well as the rising gradients that lead out of the station. This Kennington bound service seems to be running ten minutes late.

Southbound Northern line train makes its way up the gradients past Elmcroft Crescent with Brent Cross station visible in the distance.

Having left Brent Cross station this train makes its way up the gradients through the former Woodstock estate. The station can be easily seen. The large pointed roof at right is the station’s ticket hall. One can see how the line’s gradients would shortly lift this train much higher than the station platform canopies! Service is for Kennington.

Brent Cross station with a train about to leave. The substantial line gradients start before the end of the platforms. Station roundel on the right.

Brent Cross station with a train about to leave. It can be seen the substantial line gradients start before the end of the platforms. The Woodstock Avenue bridge can be easily seen from the platforms.

This special post arose as a result of research conducted for the Morden-Edgware line series. Since this section of line was built at a time when the Clapham to Morden extension of the route had not even been finished let alone opened, thus what is posted here isn’t really what one could call Morden-Edgware line material.