Sudbury Town Station, Wembley

  • Station Approach, Wembley, Middlesex, HA0 2LA
  • Designed by: Charles Holden
  • Built: 1931
  • Tags: Art Deco, Transport

Standing on Station Approach, off Harrow Road and a mile west of Wembley Stadium in west London, Sudbury Town 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.

The Underground Electric Railways Company of London was managed by Frank Pick (1878-1941). Pick was an enlightened leader for the company, with an appreciation for good design. He commissioned designer Edward Johnston (1872-1944) to design a typography and Underground 'roundel' symbol for the company. Frank Pick 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. Sudbury Town Station was designed in 1931, part of the westwards extension to the Piccadilly Line from Hammersmith to South Harrow.

Holden modestly likened his design for Sudbury Town and subsequent stations to "brick boxes with concrete lids". Sudbury Town Station comprises a tall, central ticket hall with shorter wings either side. At street level two separate sets of doors provide access to the double-height ticket hall. Above the entrances two sets of tall, metal-framed windows provide light into the hall. A flat, concrete roof projects from the ticket hall. Beneath the roof-line a concrete band carries the station name. The wings either side of the ticket hall contain the station facilities and waiting room.

Sudbury Town is not an 'underground' station; the platforms are directly behind the ticket hall at the same level. At platform level there is extensive use of concrete with deeply cantilevered concrete canopies providing shelter over the platforms.

Sudbury Town 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. Inside the ticket hall, an original wooden ticket office (albeit un-used) survives in-situ. The London Underground roundel and station name lettering on the front elevation are not original. Charles Holden died in 1960, but his designs for London Underground stations are used by thousands of passengers each day. Sudbury Town Station is a remarkable station, setting the pattern for London Transport's pre-war Modernist vision.

The building was awarded Grade II-listed status on 19 February 1971 and upgraded to Grade II*-listed status on 20 July 2011.

References

  • Lawrence, David (2008) Bright Underground Spaces - The Railway Stations of Charles Holden Harrow Weald: Capital Transport Publishing

Posted by Richard Coltman on Saturday, July 23, 2011

A celebration of Modernist architecture in Britain