By: Charles Holden and Charles Hutton
Standing on the Great West Road, which runs west out of London to Bristol, Osterley Station is a station serving the Piccadilly Line on London Underground. In the early 1930s public transport in London was operated by a multitude of separate companies. This saw large companies such as the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, which operated a number of underground lines including the Northern and Piccadilly lines, providing services alongside numerous smaller companies.
In 1933 the London Passenger Transport Act sought to consolidate public transport services within the designated 'London Passenger Transport Area' under the auspices of the London Passenger Transport Board (London Transport). Underground and over-ground lines, buses, coaches and trams were combined, although separate 'brands' were created. For example inner London buses were red (such as the Routemaster) whilst in the outer areas 'Green Line' buses were dark green.
From the outset London Transport was managed by Frank Pick (1878-1941). Pick was an enlightened leader for the company, with an appreciation for good design. Previously, as Managing Director of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London he had commissioned designer Edward Johnston (1872-1944) to design a typography and Underground 'roundel' symbol for the company. Frank Pick had also commissioned British architect Charles Holden to work on designs for the Underground Company.
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.
Initially Holden's commissions involved works to station facades supervised by Stanley Heaps (1880-1962), head of the Underground Group's Architects Office. Later Holden's commissions extended to complete stations; in 1925 Pick commissioned Charles Holden to design the seven stations of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London's Northern Line 1926 southern extension to Morden.
These new Northern Line stations adopted a modern style which marked the beginning of Holden's influence over London Underground design. But it was Holden's plans for Sudbury Town Station that set the mould for London Underground design up until the Second World War by introducing a bold, new style for London Underground.
On the formation of London Transport Frank Pick and Charles Holden continued to work together, building stations as suburban London expanded rapidly. In 1933 the Piccadilly Line was extended from Northfield to Hounslow West. As part of the works Osterley Station was built in 1934.
The original plans for Osterley Station were drawn up by Stanley Heap's office and used Holden's 'box' configuration, seen at Sudbury Town and other later stations. The plans were worked upon by Holden and his assistant Charles Hutton (1905-1995). Charles Hutton worked not only on Osterley Station, but also neighbouring Boston Manor Station and Arnos Grove Station, one of the network's finest Modernist stations. As Holden became increasingly busy with work he delegated design work to assistants within the partnership and also to other practices, a solution not entirely to Frank Pick's satisfaction.
The design of Osterley Station is dominated by a tall, square-plan brick tower, carrying the London Underground roundel on the left and right-hand sides. The tower is surmounted by a concrete 'obelisk' finial with rectangular light fittings. At night, the illuminated obelisk acts as a beacon on the skyline. At street level the building is a single storey structure with wide two entrances, with double doors providing access to the ticket hall and shop. To the right, the street frontage of the shop is dominated by large glazed windows, terminating at the right-hand side with a curved, glazed wall. Above the entrance, the station name is spelt out across a 'ribbon' of glass, set beneath a projecting concrete roof. Behind, the ticket hall rises within a half-height space, lit by clerestorey windows beneath a further projecting concrete roof.
Osterley Station is unusual, unlike most Underground stations the platforms are set someway behind the main ticket hall building. From the rear left corner of the ticket hall a bridge (not shown in the illustration above) extends to the tracks, running roughly at a 45 degree angle to the ticket hall building.
The building was awarded Grade II-listed status on 26 May 1987.