Park Royal Station, London

  • Western Avenue, London, Greater London, W5 3EL
  • Designed by: Herbert Arthur Welch and Felix Lander
  • Built: 1935 - 1936
  • Tags: Art Deco, Transport

Standing on Western Avenue, which runs west out of London, Park Royal Station serves 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 the practice, forming 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 1931 a new station was built on Western Avenue, part of the westwards extension to the Piccadilly Line from Hammersmith to South Harrow. The station - named Park Royal - was a temporary structure and would be replaced within five years.

Alongside his work for London Underground, Holden was also accepting other commissions. Between 1932 and 1937 Holden's Senate House was constructed at the University of London, close to Russell Square in central London. That project took an increasing hold over Holden's time and in response Holden delegated London Underground design work to assistants within the partnership and also to other practices. However, this solution was not entirely to Frank Pick's satisfaction. Park Royal Station was subcontracted to the partnership of Welch and Lander.

Herbert Arthur Welch (1884-1953) practiced in London and was responsible for many fine houses in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Welch worked with Frederick Etchells on what is considered Britain's first office building in the 'International' style, 233 High Holborn, London for the W S Crawford advertising firm. Welch entered partnership with Felix Lander (1898-1960) in 1930. Lander was already in partnership with N F C Cachemaille-Day and had worked under Raymond Unwin, working on buildings in Welwyn Garden City.

Park Royal Station occupies a corner plot at the junction of Western Avenue and Hanger Green. The building extends along both roads, forming a 'L' shaped footprint. The Western Avenue frontage includes the station to the left and a block of shops to the right. The station comprises a drum-shaped ticket hall and tall tower to the left. The shops form a block that curves away from Western Avenue with a return down Hanger Green.

At street level on Western Avenue a canopied entrance provides access to the ticket hall, which rises as a double-height, drum-shaped space behind lit by clerestorey windows. To the right, the tall tower rises dramatically. Windows are set into the three, lower storeys of the tower. The facade of the tower is broken with a vertical ribbon of brick fluting, which terminates in a circular brick panel carrying the London Underground roundel. There is an overhanging, concrete slab roof atop the tower.

The block of shops comprises a ground floor, with two further storeys above. Columns, clad with faience tiles at street level break the frontage into five bays. At street level the shops fronts have large, plate glass windows. Metal framed windows form a 'ribbon' of glass on the first and second storeys. The windows on Western Avenue are later replacement windows, those on Hanger Green appear original.

The platforms are set below the ticket hall; the ticket hall is alongside the northbound track with a bridge across to the southbound track. Both north and southbound platforms are accessed by stepped stairwells with clerestorey glazing leading down to enclosed waiting rooms. A small, wooden waiting room stands on the northbound platform.

Park Royal Station is surprisingly unaltered, given the necessary changes in public transport, such as the need to provide travel information, and as a consequence of health and safety legislation.

Although not by Holden, Park Royal Station continues many of his design themes. Holden had previously used a tower at Bounds Green and Turnpike Lane, although the Park Royal tower is by far the tallest. Drum-shaped ticket halls were used by Holden at a number of stations including nearby Chiswick Park.

The building was awarded Grade II-listed status on 28 January 1987.

Posted by Richard Coltman on Saturday, October 29, 2011

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