Site Records


Site Name: North End Station (Northern Line) & the Bull & Bush Floodgate Control Centre

Hampstead Way
London, NW.3
OS Grid Ref: TQ261872

Sub Brit site visit 2009

THE CHARING CROSS & HAMPSTEAD RAILWAY
Royal Assent for the construction of the CCE&HR had been granted under the 1893 Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway Act, but this only authorised an underground railway as far north as Hampstead.  Financing difficulties meant that work hadn’t started by the beginning of the twentieth century and the company was bought out by a syndicate led by American financier Charles Tyson Yerkes in 1900.

Following the purchase, plans were revised to continue the route northwards under Hampstead Heath to Golders Green where a depot could be provided and where open farmland offered the

opportunity for property development.  The new proposals met with strong opposition from residents of Hampstead and users of the heath who feared that the construction of tunnels would detrimentally affect the heath's ecology.  The Metropolitan Borough of Hampstead also initially objected, but relented and parliamentary approval was granted for the extended route in the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway Act of 1903.



One of the conditions for construction of the extended route was the provision of an intermediate station at North End, which would have been located on the north side of Hampstead Way, opposite Wylde’s farmhouse.  The station would have served a new residential development being planned to the north of the heath but this was scuppered by social reformer Henrietta Barnett who conceived the idea of the model housing development of Hampstead Garden Suburb in 1904.  She instigated the purchase of the land for an extension to Hampstead Heath.  This extension is an open space to the northwest of the main heath; it was created out of farmland, and its origins can still be seen in the form of old field boundaries,

Henrietta Barnett
hedgerows and trees.

There was also much local opposition to the proposed station from the influential upper classes who lived on the heath; they didn't want the 'common folk' invading 'their' area at weekends by tube.

WORK ON NORTH END STATION STARTS
Tunnelling for the CCE&HR had begun in 1903 and initially plans for the construction of North End station continued at track level where the larger diameter station tunnels and low-level subways were excavated.  It soon became apparent however that the abandoning of the proposed residential development would significantly reduce the number of passengers using the station.  Work on the station was stopped in 1906 before the lift shafts were sunk and before any work on a surface building was started.  Services began on the CCE&HR on 22 June 1907, running through the unfinished station.

Photo:One of the unfinished stairways to the lower lift landing that wa never built.
Photo by Nick Catford

Although the official name of the station would have been North End, it was referred to by railway staff as 'Bull & Bush' after the nearby well-known public house.  Track- level construction included cross-passageways between the two station tunnels, platforms and two stairways up to subways that would have served both sides of a lower lift landing.  The platform edges were removed in about 1933 to reduce maintenance and the platforms were later removed altogether, probably during World War II.  During the war the unfinished and unlined subways were used to store archives with access only available from the cabs of passing trains.

UNDERGROUND CONTROL CENTRE

Since the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) in 1933, the operational control centre of the underground network had been in offices above Leicester Square station (still used today as administration offices for the Northern Line management team).  Leicester Square was the base for the traffic controllers for all tube lines, each in separate offices.  The main controller for the entire network was based at 55 Broadway above St. James's Park station.
 

During WW2, some of the station tunnels at Leicester Square station were adapted as emergency offices for the line controllers.  A new control room was also established to operate floodgates which had been installed in tunnels near the Thames to stop water ingress if a bomb breached a tunnel.  (At Balham station a bomb penetrated almost to platform level).  Following WW2 the tunnels at Leicester Square were returned to their original use.

Manual floodgate inserts from the 1930s
In 1953 with the re-establishment of a national civil defence network, steps were taken to keep the tube running in the event of a nuclear strike.  The buzz words at that time were "due functioning" which basically meant continuing public services for as long as possible during and after a Hiroshima-sized atomic bomb (12.5 kiloton) had been dropped on the capital.  This also applied to British Railways and the major utilities of electricity and water.  A plan was formulated to build a bomb-proof centre for traffic control staff and administration, incorporating a central floodgate control room
controlling all the gates on the network (there were also local control panels adjoining the gates).

This project was under the banner of the 'Special Works’ programme which also involved refurbishing the floodgates and installing new ones at strategic locations.  The other project was the installation of a crossover at King’s Cross so that if the new floodgate at Russell Square was closed, the Piccadilly line could still operate between King’s Cross and Cockfosters.  The plan was to operate the tube right up to and immediately after an attack.  The whole ‘Special Works’ programme was given a high degree of secrecy.

Photo:Floodgate control panels. The left hand panel was used during WW2 in the control centre at Leicester Square to supervise the closure of floodgates at stations threatened with flooding if the Thames embankment was badly damaged. The right hand panel controlled the operation of post war floodgates. They were operated individually or my a single master control

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NORTH ENDS NEW ROLE
The chosen site for the main control centre was to be at the deepest point on the underground system at the uncompleted North End station sited deep under Hampstead.  The original planned site of North End station entrance building had been sold for residential development in 1927 and work started in 1954 at an adjacent site in the quiet Hampstead Way on London Transport property adjoining the LT-owned Manor House Hospital (now demolished).  This involved building a small entrance blockhouse from where stairs led down to a new 33-metre shaft which was sunk down to the unfinished station subways; a low capacity lift was installed in the shaft together with a spiral staircase.

At platform level on the northbound platform area, a number of rooms were to be built, and at the first-floor level where the lower lift landings were originally to be sited a central two-level control room for the flood


Rooms under construction in the northbound platform area in 1956.
gates was constructed.   The floodgate control room made use of a short existing tunnel where the control panel was installed and a lower floor was excavated for use as a battery room.  In the subway between the control centre and the Northern Line a heavy steel blast door was fitted to seal the tube lines off from the control centre.


Steps linking the new lift shaft with the North End station subway during the construction of the floodgate control centre in 1956.
At platform level the brick shell of the offices was completed on the northbound platform.  However in 1955 work was stopped following the nationwide cancelling of all civil defence control schemes when it was realised that with the immense power of the H-bomb there would be little left to control.  The new floodgates and associated control room opened in 1956 but no staff accommodation was provided apart from a toilet.  Plans for 'due functioning' controlled from the site – now actually called 'Bull & Bush' –  were scrapped.  No plans were made for control of the tube after attack apart from accessing what remained of the network and ‘see what can be done

Click here for or further information and pictures of North End station


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Last updated: 04 01 2011
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