>>by Adrian Davies
Once upon a time . . .
station on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (you
do not need much imagination to see how the name was shortened first
to the Piccadilly tube, then the Piccadilly line) opened on 15th
December 1906. It was designed by the architect Leslie Green in
the “arts and crafts” style, and situated between Knightsbridge
and South Kensington, in a location convenient for the Victoria
and Albert Museum and the Brompton Oratory, as well as the shops
of the Brompton Road, but traffic levels were disappointing, and
within a few years, a practice arose of running some trains through
the station without stopping, to speed up the service.
A train of the original Piccadilly line stock enters Piccadilly Circus station shortly after opening in 1906
A map of the London Underground in 1908. (Click to download a more detailed version.) Many of the stations shown have since closed, notably Brompton Road, Down Street and York Road on the Piccadilly line, City Road on what was then the City and South London Railway (now the City branch of the Northern line) and South Kentish Town (Hampstead tube, now the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line, and since extended to Kennington via Waterloo). Others are still open, but under new names, so that Westminster Bridge Road (Bakerloo) is now Lambeth North, and Walham Green (District) is Fulham Broadway. On the Piccadilly line, which has seen more changes than most, Dover Street was renamed Green Park, and partially resited. The old entrance on Dover Street is long since gone. Gillespie Road was renamed Arsenal on 5th November 1932. The old station was demolished and rebuilt at surface level in the early 1930s, but the tiling on the platforms is more or less in its original condition, and still shows the old name. Some have both changed their names and later closed, for example, Aldwych (formerly Strand) on the Piccadilly line.
It will also be seen that the colours used to depict some of the line have changed. In 1908, yellow, not royal blue, was the Piccadilly line's colour, royal blue being used for the Hampstead tube and a lighter shade of blue for the Central London Railway, now the Central line. The attractive salmon pink then used for the Great Northern & City Railway has disappeared altogether. More happily, the line itself is still in service, but as part of Network Rail, not London Underground.
Brompton Road station platform, 1920s
(c) TfL London Transport Museum
This practice also obtained at several other
stations on the Piccadilly line, indeed it still does nowadays between Hammersmith and Acton Town, but for whatever reason, it stuck
in the minds of Londoners in the case of Brompton Road, so much
so that the words “Passing Brompton Road” (which the
guard would call out at Knightsbridge or South Kensington to forewarn
passengers that the train would not stop at the next station) became
the title of a West End farce by Jevan Brandon-Thomas, starring
one of the famous actresses of the time, Marie Tempest, which enjoyed
a run of 174 performances at the Criterion, though the play’s
success was attributed more to Miss Tempest’s fame that any
merit in the script! (The Daily Mail review of the production can be viewed here.)
Click on the images for larger pictures of
(above) cover of 1920s play Passing Brompton Road
(below) an extract from the play
Bizarrely a second play centred on Brompton Road Station - Sailing By - has recently been produced, as you can read at the website of the Byfleet Players.
click here to view
The London Railway Record,
Vol. 1, no. 13, October 1997,
“Recalling Brompton Road”
by J. E. Connor
(4MB PDF file)
©Jim Connor, reproduced by permission
The entrance to Brompton Road Station in the 1920s
Brompton Road closed briefly in 1926 as a consequence
of the General Strike, but re-opened after a few months by local
demand (despite its supposed unpopularity). The following question was raised in the House of Commons by the MP for Kensington South, Sir William Davison, and answered by the Minister of Transport, Wilfrid Ashley (later Lord Mount Temple).
BROMPTON ROAD TUBE STATION.
HC Deb 29 June 1926 vol 197 cc973-4 973
Sir WILLIAM DAVISON asked the Minister of Transport, whether his attention has been called to the closing of the Brompton Bond Tube Station; whether he is aware of the inconvenience which is being suffered in consequence by the trading and residential district in its immediate vicinity, and to persons wishing to go to Brompton Oratory and Brompton Parish Church, which adjoin the station; and whether, in view of its effect on London traffic, he will refer the matter to the Traffic Advisory Committee, with a view to the re-opening of the station at the earliest possible moment?
Colonel ASHLEY I understand from the railway company that certain stations on the railway, including the station to which my hon. Friend refers, are kept closed with the object of releasing a train from service, thus enabling them to economise in power during the present shortage of coal, and that the station in question will be re-opened as soon as circumstances permit.
(above and below)
Two views of the station foyer at Brompton Road, taken in October 1927
(c) TfL London Transport Museum
By the early 1930s, its then owner, by then
London Electric Railways (which became part of the London Passenger
Transport Board on 1st July 1933) was looking at ways to speed up
journey times on the Piccadilly tube, which was becoming more popular
for long distance commuting. The extension from Finsbury Park (its
original northerly terminus) to Cockfosters was in contemplation,
while the Piccadilly was also expanding westwards from Hammersmith
(its original westerly terminus), taking over some lines formerly
operated by the District Railway.
Entering Brompton Road station in February 1930
(c) TfL London Transport Museum
The trains of those days could not accelerate
away from stations so quickly as modern trains, so it was decided
to close three of the less busy stations (Down Street, York Road
and Brompton Road) to speed up the service for the benefit of longer
click map for full size image
Outside Brompton Road station in 1930: four years before closure.
Closure and afterlife
Down Street closed
on 21st May 1932, York Road followed on 19th September 1932, but
Brompton Road survived till Sunday 29th July 1934, when the rebuilding
of Knightsbridge station was complete. Its new entrance in Hans
Crescent opened on Monday 30th July 1934.
(reproduced by kind permission of Mr Colm McCarthy, owner of the original)
On 27th July 1934 the local Kensington News and West London Times reported in its 'Kensington Chimes' column:
Changes at Knightsbridge
Many changes are taking place at Knightsbridge, known in the old days as “Kingsbridge”.
On Monday next a further step in the path of progress will be taken by the opening of an additional entrance to the Underground Station there. This entrance is situated at the corner of Hans Crescent and Brompton Road.
From the main street entrance there is a long subway lined with showcases opening out into a new booking hall, which has been constructed under the entire width of Brompton Road, with two new escalators leading down direct to the west end of the station platforms.
This second entrance to the station, three hundred yards west of the entrance at the junction of Sloane Street and Knightsbridge, which serves the east end of the platforms, and which was opened earlier in the year, eliminates the necessity of keeping Brompton Road station open any longer, and this will now be closed.
The idea was that the
new southerly entrance to Knightsbridge station was close enough
to Brompton Road to serve much of Brompton Road’s catchment
area, but that is a very debatable proposition, as anyone who has
struggled up the pavement of the Brompton Road in a sea of shoppers
and tourists can attest. Local residents, especially in the streets
to the north of the Brompton Road (for whom neither South Kensington
nor Knightsbridge stations are very convenient) would surely disagree
with the suggestion that an entrance to Knightsbridge station in
Hans Crescent is sufficient for their needs.
Brompton Road's closure drew the attention of the Baltimore Sun's London correspondent A.M. Emmart (click here to read his column of 9th September 1934).
2010 photographs of York Road station, which closed in 1932, two years before Brompton Road
During the Second World War, the station
saw use as the headquarters of London’s anti-aircraft defences,
remaining in military hands long after advances in aviation had
made “ack-ack” batteries obsolete as a defence against
enemy bombers. Its present use is a legacy of its wartime past. (see J.E. Connor's article 'A Wartime Use for Brompton Road' in the London Railway Record, Vol. 4 No. 41, available here as a 5MB PDF)
The officers of 1st Anti-Aircraft Signals, photographed in November 1939 outside no. 2 Egerton Gardens, just off Brompton Road (not in the Brompton Road itself, as the caption misleadingly suggests). The view towards no. 2 Egerton Place is little changed more than seventy years later. I suspect that the officers were billeted in Egerton Gardens, just across the road from the disused station, as Brompton Road station was (I believe) the HQ of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Signals during the Second World War. I should be grateful for any further information from military historians with specialist knowledge of that period.
Pictured are Lt Col Hemsley M.B.E. (RCOS), Major Boyd Faulkner (RAMC) and, from what I can make out, Lt Wailen (RAMC). The soldier wearing glasses is Major J. H. Whittles (RAMC), whose family owned the album from which this photograph was taken.
A 1946 RAF aerial photo of the Brompton Road station area
click here to download a larger version of this photo (640KB)
A Way Out sign at Brompton Road Station
photo taken in 1997
BBC News (2)
York Road Campaign
The Times Archive