Moorgate Station has a complex and interesting history. Although the station has never been closed it has a number of abandoned parts linked to the abortive Lothbury extension to the Great Northern and City line in 1902 and the modernisation of the station between 1922-1924.
CITY & SOUTH LONDON RAILWAY
The City and South London Railway (C&SLR) opened between Stockwell and King William Street on 18th December 1890 and the new line was an immediate success, with an average of 15,000 passengers a day; it was difficult for the new terminus at King William Street to handle that volume of traffic. Because of its position it was not possible to extend the line and in 1891 a Bill was put before parliament for a ‘branch line’ leaving the existing line short of King William Street station and running to the Angel via Bank and Moorgate Street.
The Bill failed but a further Bill was immediately prepared proposing a new station at London Bridge where twin tunnels would run under the Thames to a new station at Lombard Street and then on to the Angel. After some delay this Bill was passed in 1893 and in 1895 the company directors agreed to start work on the extension as far as Moorgate Street, with an intermediate station at Bank. Moorgate Street would become a temporary terminus until the line was extended to Angel at a later date.
The original stations on the line had island platforms, but the new stations at London Bridge, Bank and Moorgate Street had two station tunnels at the same level joined by cross passages. At Moorgate Street there was a scissors crossing in a double tunnel just short of the station with a signal box on girders over the line. The three stations were provided with electric lifts. King William Street closed on 24th February 1900 and the extension to Moorgate Street opened the following day, a Sunday. On 17th November 1901 the line was further extended to Old Street, City Road and Angel and on 11th May 1907 the line was extended once again to Kings Cross and Euston.
In 1913 the C & SLR came under the control of the London Electric Railway (LER) and a Bill was immediately put before Parliament to enlarge the tunnels. This would bring them to the standard of other tube lines in London which were now also under the control of the LER. Some of the tunnels were 10’ 2” in diameter whilst others were 10’ 6”.
Work on the reconstruction of the line had only reached a planning stage when it was stopped at the outbreak of War in 1914 and didn’t restart until the August 1922 when the line between Euston and Moorgate Street was closed. The old tunnel segments were reused, with four extra segments being added giving a slightly irregular shape but close to the 11’ 8¼ underground standard.
The northern section of the line reopened on 20th April 1924 with through trains running between Moorgate (the station was renamed from Moorgate Street on reopening) and Hendon;
City Road which had closed with the other stations on the northern section was not reopened. The southern part of the line was reopened on 1st December 1924. Apart from the enlargement of the running tunnels, a number of stations were modernised; all but seven of the stations (including Moorgate) were equipped with escalators and the redundant lifts and associated subways were taken out of use.
THE GREAT NORTHERN & CITY RAILWAY & THE EXTENSION TO LOTHBURY
The Great Northern & City Railway was intended to allow mainline trains of the Great Northern Railway to run from Finsbury Park directly into the City of London at Moorgate. The tubes were made large enough to take a main-line train, unlike those of the other tube railways being built in London at the time. The internal diameter was 16 feet compared with less than 12 feet for the Central London Railway and smaller still for the original City & South London Railway tunnels. However, the Great Northern was lukewarm about the scheme and the GN&CR had to settle for a northern terminus in tube underneath Finsbury Park station.
In November 1901, the Great Northern & City Railway published a notice of its intention to present a private bill to parliament seeking permission for an extension of the company’s tunnels then under construction between Finsbury Park and Moorgate. The bill proposed a short, 270 yd southward, continuation of the line to Lothbury which would become the southern terminus in place of Moorgate Street as originally planned. The bill received Royal Assent on 8 August 1902 as the Great Northern and City Railway Act, 1902.
The station was to have been entirely below ground with access to the surface by lift and pedestrian subways to the corners of the junction of Lothbury, Gresham Street, Moorgate and Princes Street. One peculiarity of the scheme was that the running tunnels between Moorgate Street and Lothbury stations were to have been shorter than the platform tunnels at the two stations; meaning that the front of a full length train would have arrived at Lothbury before the end had left Moorgate. The line could not be extended any further south due to the proximity of the City & South London Railway’s tunnels under Princes Street. Work began on the Moorgate to Lothbury section but was abandoned almost immediately, with the Greathead tunnelling shield left in place at the end of the southbound tunnel just south of Moorgate station. The line opened to Moorgate on 14th February 1904.
The Great Northern & City Railway (GN & CR) Act, 1907, which received assent on 26 July 1907, granted additional time for the construction of the Lothbury extension but the money could not be raised and no further work was done.
The GN&CR was bought by the Metropolitan (‘Met’) Railway in 1913; the Met made various plans to link it to some point on the Circle line, but this never came to fruition. The Met also revived the Lothbury station proposal in a modified form as part of a number of plans to connect the GN&CR to the Waterloo & City Railway (W&CR) and the Met itself. When the Metropolitan Railway Act was passed on 15 August 1913, neither of the proposals for connections were permitted, but Lothbury station was allowed, again as the terminus station. In 1914, the Met introduced revised proposals for its connections between the GN&CR and the Met and the W&CR which removed the need for a station at Lothbury. Although these connections were never made, Lothbury station was not revived again.
After the Metropolitan was nationalised (along with the other underground lines) in 1933, the line was renamed the Northern City Line and became part of the Edgware-Morden Line (which became the Northern line in 1937) for operational purposes. As part of London Underground’s ‘New Works’ programme, plans were made to connect the Northern City Line to the surface at Finsbury Park, and then join suburban branches to Alexandra Palace, High Barnet and Edgware as described earlier.
When the ‘Northern Heights’ plan was dropped after the war, the Northern City Line remained isolated from the rest of the network. Services were cut back from Finsbury Park to Drayton Park in 1964 to make room for the Victoria line to use the platforms at Finsbury Park (low level). In 1970, the line was renamed Northern Line (Highbury Branch). The following year, an agreement was made to transfer the line to British Rail and connect it (as was intended by its original promoters) to the main line at Finsbury Park. By running commuter trains to Moorgate instead of King’s Cross, congestion at King’s Cross was relieved.
The last London Underground services ran in October 1975 and British Rail services commenced in August 1976. These BR services used the name ‘Great Northern Electrics’. The track is now owned by Network Rail and services to Hertford North are provided by First Capital Connect. The name ‘Northern City Line’ has been revived to refer to the subsurface part of the route.
From time to time there are still proposals to extend the line southwards. Most recently The Green Party has proposed that the Northern City Line be connected to the Waterloo & City line to create a new cross-London route. The core section of the route would be from Finsbury Park to Clapham Junction via Moorgate, Bank and Waterloo, with a new connection at Blackfriars. Through services could then run from Welwyn Garden City and Hertford North to destinations like Hounslow, Richmond, Shepperton, Kingston and Weybridge, thus enabling much better use of the capacity offered by this part of the network, particularly outside city commuting hours. However, the Waterloo & City was designed and built as a deep tube line; were this to be connected to the Northern City line this would mean either a reversion to using deep tube stock along the whole length, or converting the Waterloo & City for main line sized rolling stock. The latter would be made more difficult still because of the tight curves, which would not suit conventional carriages. It would therefore probably mean boring completely new tunnels for much of the length.
TOUR OF MOORGATE
Our guide at Moorgate was Customer Service Assistant Martin Davis. From the concourse we made our way down the emergency stairs towards the present ‘Great Northern Electrics’ platforms. Nearing the bottom of the stairs, a nondescript wooden door on our right opened onto the abandoned subway to the lower lift landing that was taken out of use in 1922; the subway is still used for ventilation and is lit. The white tiled walls are grubby but still in good condition with some signage including ‘Way out’, ‘To the City Line’ and ‘No Smoking’.
There were two lifts shafts, each with two lifts and an emergency spiral staircase in a third shaft . The lifts have been removed but both shafts are open and by looking up it was possible to see the doors onto the upper lift landing. The shafts are still in used for ventilation and one of the lift shafts has been turned into a machinery room with ventilation plant, electrical switchgear and a metal stairway down into the lift well from where a short passage (well grilled!) led into the Northern Line running tunnels. On the far side of the lift shafts, a grimy, unlit subway curves away to the left but is blocked by a brick wall after 80 yards. This subway has not been used since the lifts were taken out of service in 1922 and although the brown tiles are still in place, the floor has lifted in places.
Back on the lift landing, a wooden door opened onto another grimy, unlit stairway up to a landing at the bottom of the emergency spiral staircase. The spiral staircase has been removed and replaced by a new metal stairway which has, itself, clearly been out of use for many years. The stairway goes up to two landings where short subways are blocked at a point where they presumably rejoin the existing subway network, the lower landing led to the sub-surface Metropolitan Line platforms while the upper landing led to the booking office. At the lower of the two landings there is a sign fixed to the tiled wall which says “To Metropolitan Railway for Aldgate, Essex Road, Drayton Park, Farringdon Street, Finchley Road, High Street Ken, Liverpool Street, Wembley Park”. Both landings are hot and humid with no through ventilation.
Returning to the current emergency stairs we made our way down to the Northern City line platforms 9 and 10. Both tunnels extend for about 50 yards beyond the station, these tunnels were part of the incomplete extension to Lothbury, which was abandoned in 1903. The station was the site of the infamous Moorgate train crash in 1975 when a southbound Northern City line train ploughed into the buffers beyond the station killing 46 people and injuring 74.
We made away along a walkway along one side of the opposite tunnel where, at the end, the Greathead shield was left in place when the extension was abandoned in 1903. The shield is still in situ and is in surprisingly good condition. Just before the shield, a pedestrian bridge crosses the track and enters the Moorgate sub-station which is still in use and was not part of our visit.
We made our way back along the walkway and just before the platform we turned left into a long abandoned pedestrian subway that once led to the Metropolitan Line platforms. The tiling is very dirty but it was still possible to make out a number of old posters. The subway is now used for ventilation with ventilation trunking suspended from the ceiling at one side.
Part way along the subway there is a vertical shaft. It has been suggested that this was another lift shaft, but it seems more likely it was built for ventilation and there is no evidence of lifts ever having been installed. At the end of the subway there was a large fan filling the tunnel which, luckily, was not working on this occasion.
It was now gone 6pm and we assumed that this was the end of our visit to Moorgate, but we had more in store. Having got special permission, we climbed back up the emergency staircase and out on to the sub-surface platforms comprising the Metropolitan Line and the First Capital Connect service to Bedford (now closed). We walked along one of the Bedford line platforms and along the track (there was no service on a Saturday!) before descending a ramp below track level. Having passed through a number of low doorways we entered a series of plant rooms on two levels; these contained pumps for de-watering the Moorgate Spring. Our guide jokingly said they were going to bottle it and sell it. After climbing a stairway back up to track level we entered a ventilation plant room with two huge fans for ventilating the Bedford line tunnels. A further stairway led to a tunnel with a small grille door at one end.
Passing through the door we found ourselves at ceiling level in one of the underground loading bays beneath the Barbican Centre. A cleaner working below seemed shocked when I emerged into the loading bay high above his head.