Shepherd’s Bush Tour
The Hidden London tour of Shepherd’s Bush station (named officially as “Shepherd’s Bush: Suburbs to the City”) occurred on Friday, 4th November 2022, with the designated meeting place being outside the striking 2008 street level building - a replacement for the original Harry Bell Measures-designed Central London Railway construction, which dated from 1900, and served as the line’s original western terminus, prior to the 1908 extension to Wood Lane. Although the surface building was replaced, much of the original layout remains, with the current escalators and emergency staircase utilising the original 1900 lift shaft, which was unusual in that it accommodated three separate lifts. Even these were found to be insufficient for the numbers using the new “Twopenny Tube”, as the CLR became known, and in 1902-3, two additional lift shafts, with both accommodating two lifts each, were added. These aided the congestion issues that had plagued the station, although they became obsolete by 1925, when the original lift shaft was re-purposed for housing the two escalators and emergency stairs; the installation of which required alterations to be made to the subterranean passageways leading to the platforms.
In the bright and airy new ticket hall, Pat, one of the two guides on the tour, explains the history of the station, as well as the Central line generally. The emergency stairs are visible below the right-hand information panel.
Having passed down to platform level, we were led up a flight of stairs at the eastern end of the platforms (lengthened in 1938 as part of the London Passenger Transport Board’s “New Works Programme”) and shown into a tunnel that was constructed at the same time for use in providing ventilation to the station. By the start of the Second World War, the tunnel was still awaiting the installation of a fan, and so, it became an air raid shelter for the duration of the war.
Ventilation was a problem on the line from even the earliest days, and in 1911, a system that was supposed to “ozonise” the air at 6,000 cubic feet per minute was introduced. The poster below, depicting King Neptune blowing into a tunnel, was produced at the time, in order to promote the new feature; the thinking being that the fresh smell would be reminiscent of the seaside, although the poet Sir John Betjeman described the resultant odour as being more remiscent of “something chemical from Birmingham”!
The end of the tunnel is plugged with a wall of concrete.
The tour then headed to the section of the station that fell out of use after the 1925 remodelling - the original glass tiling still surviving in this passageway, and for the most part, still being in excellent condition. The doors in the background lead back into the open part of the station.
This 1914 plan of the station depicts the original wide lift shaft, as well as the two later additional shafts that were constructed.
Another of the information panels in this area displayed an Edwardian image of the CLR’s Power Station at Wood Lane, along with a view of the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition at White City; the name being derived from the white marble cladding applied to the Exhibition buildings.
The northernmost of the additional lift shafts now houses a modern staircase within it - this serving as an alternative emergency exit.
Looking up the shaft reveals a relatively short ascent to reach the top.
Surprisingly, the tunnel segments used to construct the shaft are marked “C C E & H R", which represents the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway (the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line in the modern era), which was under construction at the time.
The passageway on the side of the lift shafts used by passengers entering the system was converted into another ventilation tunnel in the 1970s, with the original floor being removed at this time, creating an odd sense of scale.
An extension to the passageway culminates in several ventilation grilles that overlook the eastbound platform. This work was completed in 1972, with evidence of this being that some of the tunnel segments carry 1960s’ manufacturing dates, having been left over from the construction of the original Victoria line. Other segments carry GPO branding, suggesting that they were produced for the Post Office Railway. The new ventilation passageway works in conjunction with the 1930s’ passageway, with the former bringing fresh air into the station, while the latter extracts it.
A short passageway in this area leads up to the lower escalator landing, with a fine mesh concealing the world that lies within close proximity to regular commuters.
Towards the start of the 1970s’ alterations is this grilled-off doorway; formerly, another of the lift exits, but these days, the grille faces into the staircase that supplements the escalators.
The original 1900 emergency staircase shaft was obliterated during the station’s conversion to escalator access in the 1920s, although much of the tiling remains extant beneath the supports for the escalators.
As an idea of how the surface building at Shepherd’s Bush would have appeared prior to its redevelopment, Holland Park station (one stop eastbound) provides a useful guide. As with Shepherd’s Bush, although provision in the building’s design enabled the possibility of future development above, this was never exploited here.