Many moons ago we lived somewhere between Gants Hill and Barkingside in London’s Essex overspill. Rapidly urbanised between the 20th century’s two World Wars it was ideally situated for London’s commuters and an aspirational destination for East-end boys made good. Still aspirations being what they are. about seventeen years ago we moved on to a part of Essex with access to Epping Forest. Curiously, in the way of people saying ‘Small world isn’t it’ I had to return to our old neighbourhood this week to collect a bathroom fitting from a shop just around he corner from where we used to live. The shop used to be an off-licence where I frequently stopped to chew the fat with manager Bernard, but that’s another story.
One of the things that fuelled the eastward expansion of London was the London Underground’s Central Line and considering what an architectural wasteland Gants Hill is, the tube station below is a little piece of buried Art Deco treasure.
London Underground began work on the station during the 1930s. The architect was one Charles Holden who aside from his work for London Transport also designed the University of London’s Senate house. Holden had also advised upon the construction of the Moscow Metro , hence the rather marvelous barrel vaulted ceiling of the concourse between the platforms. Hitler disrupted building for a few years when the excavations were used as an air raid shelter and a munitions factory and the station eventually opened up in 1947.
Unlike many of Holden’s very distinctive London Underground stations, like say Arnos Grove or Southgate, nearly all of the station is beneath the ground including the ticket office, but I think the beauty of the platform concourse makes up for the lack of any external features