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The Underground

It's strange to think that a short journey from Turnham Green to Acton Town via Chiswick Park traces the complete evolution of the Underground from a Victorian railway, through amalgamation and nationalisation, to twentieth century Modernism. In Bedford Park and Turnham Green, we have a feast of railway history in front of our eyes.

TurnhamGreenStationLike many of the early lines incorporated into the 'Underground' in the early 20th century, the District line started out as a privately owned, mainline suburban railway.

The embankments and railway lines that now support the District line were built across Acton Green in the early 1860s by the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) to connect Ealing to the City. Shoppers on Turnham Green Terrace would have enjoyed the glorious spectacle of steam trains dashing across the bridge at high speed, billowing smoke.

Turnham Green station itself opened on 1 January 1869 to help service a new branch line from Olympia to Richmond. The station building has not been changed materially since then, although the line itself has changed name three times, and the building is still a classic Victorian suburban station.

OldChiswickParkChiswick Park (seen here on the right) was opened in 1879 by the then Metropolitan District Railway. The station was originally named 'Acton Green'. It was renamed 'Chiswick Park and Acton Green' in 1889, then changed to just 'Chiswick Park' in 1910. It is a strange anomaly that it is actually nearer to Turnham Green than the station of the same name. The photo shows the original  classic Victorian design of the station, with a drop-off area in front. However, when the Piccadilly Line was developed, the track area needed to be widened to allow trains to run through, and the old station had to go.

'International Modernism' came to Chiswick with the arrival of the new Chiswick Park Station. It was the product of a unique collaboration between the head of the London Underground, Frank Pick, and an architect, Charles Holden.  Sometimes wrongly called an Art Deco building, its redesign in 1932 was part of a larger project to create the streamlined design style for London Transport that would become one of the defining motifs of 20th Century London.  The station designs that appeared in Chiswick and Acton Town set a trend for station building for the next 50 years.

NewChiswickParkThe new Chiswick Park station is dominated by its tall, semi-circular ticket hall, with large panels of clerestory windows that let light into the structure. Inside, the ticket hall is light and airy, a surprise for such a solid structure, and the icing on the cake is a huge brick tower, emblazoned with the London Underground roundel and the station name, which was built to make the station visible from Chiswick High Road.

Chiswick Park is a precursor of the 'round classics' to be found at Arnos Grove and Southgate tube stations.



johnston-alphabetChiswick Underground Trivia: Edward Johnston was the master caligrapher who worked with Holden and Pick on the new Underground concept. He lived near the Thames at Black Lion Lane, Chiswick, where there is a blue plaque marking his house. He designed the unique London Underground font or ‘alphabet’ (shown right) used on all posters and signage, which only London Transport are allowed to use.