Site Records

Site Name: Brompton Road Station & London's
Anti-Aircraft Defences

Brompton Road (Junction with Cottage Place)
London, SW3
OS Grid Ref: TQ292792

Sub Brit site visit 2008

Brompton Road had a brief and undistinguished life as a station on the London Underground but during WW2 the redundant station was given a new lease of life and played a strategic role in the Capital’s defences against the German Luftwaffe.

During the early years of the development of London’s underground rail network, the Brompton & Piccadilly Circus Railway was one of the first to receive parliamentary sanction on 6th August 1897, when the company was authorised to build an electrified line between Piccadilly and South Kensington with five intermediate stations at Dover Street, Down Street,
Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge and Brompton Road. Unfortunately the company was unable to raise sufficient finance and work on the construction never started. In 1899 financial problems forced the delay of another venture proposed by the Great Northern & Strand Railway to build a line from Wood Green to Aldwych.

Both lines were eventually revived under the direction of the American capitalist Charles Tyson Yerkes who had played a major role in developing mass-transit systems in Chicago. In 1900, Yerkes decided to become involved in the development of the London Underground network and quickly took control of the Metropolitan District Railway and the unfinished Baker Street & Waterloo Railway where much of the tunnelling had already been constructed. He also purchased the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway and the

Brompton Road station in 1907
two ailing schemes, the Great Northern and Strand Railway and the Brompton & Piccadilly Circus Railway which he combined as the Great Northern Piccadilly & Brompton Railway after receiving parliamentary approval for a link between Piccadilly and Holborn.

Two further parliamentary Bills were required to sanction an additional length of line linking Aldwych with the B & PCR’s proposed terminus at Piccadilly. The two companies merged on 8th August 1902 and the Great Northern Piccadilly & Brompton Railway was officially formed on 18th November that year.

Construction started at Knightsbridge in July 1902 and soon work was underway along the whole length of the route. At Brompton Road, the two station tunnels each 21’ 2 ½” in diameter and 350’ in length and two 60’ 3” deep lift shafts (each accommodating two lifts had been finished by December 1903. Work was still underway on the running tunnels but these and the interconnecting subways between the platforms were completed by 30th June 1904.

By the end of December 1904 the narrower shaft for the emergency spiral staircase had been sunk and the platforms had been largely completed apart from some finishing.  By the December 1905, the spiral staircase was in place and the station was ready for tiling which was to include the station name fired onto the tiles in large brown letters three times on each platform. Each station has a different tile pattern to aid passenger recognition, at Brompton Road the tiles were white and cream with green
and brown decoration and included embellished ‘Way Out’ and ‘No Exit’ signs.

The street level building stood on the north side of Brompton Road at the junction with Cottage Place; it was designed by Leslie Green to his standard design. The steel framed building was faced with ox-blood red glazed bricks supplied by the Leeds Fireclay Company, with the ground floor divided into wide bays by columns and featuring large semi-circular windows at
first floor level. The building was ‘L’ shaped with another face in Cottage Place which was only used by staff. In fact the only door into it opened onto stairs to the upper level. The corner site was occupied by the Gladstone pub forcing the construction of the ‘L’ shaped station building.

Photo:Brompton Road station entrance c.1968. This was demolished in 1972 when Brompton Road was widened as was the Gladstone pub seen on the left. The secondary entrance which was never used by passengers still survives in Cottage Place.
Photo by J E Connor

The completed line ran from Finsbury Park to Hammersmith (the section between Finsbury Park and Wood Green was not built at that time). It was ready for use on 3rd December 1906 and after passing a Board of Trade inspection was ceremonially opened by David Lloyd George (MP) on 15th December a year
afterYerkes’ death. Brompton Road opened with the line although three of the intermediate stations, including Down Street were unfinished and didn’t open until the following spring. A short branch between Holborn and Strand (later renamed Aldwych) opened on 30th November 1907. On 1st July 1910, the GNP&BR and the other Yerkes owned railways were merged by private Act of Parliament to become the ‘London Electric Railway Company’.

Brompton Road station in 1923
From the outset, Brompton Road failed to attract many passengers; it was conveniently sited for the Brompton Oratory and the Victoria & Albert Museum but there was little else to attract passengers as it was very close to both South Kensington to the west and Knightsbridge to the east and from an early date some trains went through Brompton Road without stopping and "passing Brompton Road" was soon to become a familiar call heard by passengers leaving Knightsbridge or South Kensington. One lift was removed in 1911 and the adjacent lift was taken out in the
late 1920’s leaving just two lifts in operation and it was clear that the station was being run down in an attempt to save money. The booking office was closed with passengers buying tickets from the lift attendant or machines and in about 1914 the ‘Women's Institute and club for Underground employees’ was opened in some of the redundant rooms within the entrance building.

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Last updated: 04 01 2011
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