Standing on Cockfosters Road (the A111) in Barnet, north London, Cockfosters Station is a station serving as the northern terminus of the Piccadilly Line on London Underground. Today, the underground system is operated as a unified system, however in the early 1930s public transport in London was operated by a number of separate companies, including the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERL). UERL operated a number of underground lines including the Northern and Piccadilly lines.
UERL was managed by Frank Pick (1878-1941). Pick's involvement with London's Underground system is evident today in the network's stations and branding. Pick commissioned British designer Edward Johnston (1872-1944) to design a typography and Underground 'roundel' symbol for the company. As the Underground lines were extended out of central London Pick commissioned British architect Charles Holden to design many of the new stations required. Charles Holden was born in Bolton on 12 May 1875. He entered architectural practice in 1892 and joined the practice of Henry Percy Adams (1865-1930) in 1899. In 1913 architect Lionel Godfrey Pearson (1879-1953) joined and the practice became the Adams, Holden and Pearson Partnership.
Holden's first worked under the supervision of Stanley Heaps (1880-1962), head of the Underground Group's Architects Office. However, Pick soon commissioned Holden directly, designing seven stations for UERL's Northern Line extension to Morden in 1926. Holden implemented a modern style, which set the style for London Underground design up until the Second World War.
The Piccadilly Line was one such line that was extended in the 1930s; it was extended northwards from its northern terminus at Finsbury Park. By September 1932 the line was extended to Arnos Grove, to Oakwood (originally named Enfield West) in March 1933 and finally to Cockfosters in July 1933.
Charles Holden used a number of different basic concepts for his London Underground station designs: at Sudbury Town, Sudbury Hill, Rayners Lane and Eastcote Holden used a 'brick box with a concrete roof' design; at Chiswick Park and Arnos Grove Holden utilised a brick-drum shaped ticket hall; and at Osterley and Boston Manor Holden implemented designs with a tower/obelisk feature. Cockfosters Underground Station differs somewhat, with Holden using a wide, low, single storey structure with two outer, squat towers. Attached to the outer elevations of the towers are large, pole-mounted 'Underground' roundel signs. These pole mounted roundels are a common feature at Holden's stations, such as Rayners Lane and Sudbury Hill. The central section of the main elevation at Cockfosters sits beneath a deep, projecting canopy. Beneath there is a wide central entrance and either side are wide, metal framed windows with distinctive horizontal fenestration. Information boards are carried either side of the entrance.
The ticket hall and platforms are set below the street level structure and are accessed by two staircases. The ticket hall and platforms are a revelation following the fairly conservative design implemented above. The ticket hall is a wide, open area with a central wooden ticket office (albeit un-used) surviving in-situ. The ticket hall is shaped like the prow of a ship, and this shape is most clearly seen looking at the impressive roof of the ticket hall, where the concrete frames join at the central point, forming a 'star' shape. Beyond, the structure forms a 'shed' over the platform, formed by prominent, irregularly spaced concrete frames, which are canted inwards. The 'shed' is brightly lit thanks to full height, metal framed clerestory windows set between the concrete frames. The ticket hall and platforms at Cockfosters are arguably the most dramatic and impressive of any station on the Underground network.
Cockfosters Station is surprisingly unaltered, and necessary changes to make the station suitable for modern transportation have been made in a sympathetic manner. Between 2006 and 2007 the station was refurbished and modernised to provide travel information, including dot matrix displays and a public announcements system, and closed-circuit television for security and safety.
The station building and platform including canopies was awarded Grade II-listed status on 26 May 1987.
Posted by Richard Coltman on Sunday, October 14, 2012