diamond geezer

 Monday, August 21, 2006

  Metro-land revisited
  Marlborough Road

From Baker Street the Met line burrows north, more than two miles out to Finchley Road without stopping. But the journey wasn't always this fast. There used to be three stations inbetween, one at Lord's, one at Marlborough Road and one at Swiss Cottage. The former was well used during the cricket season, but otherwise all three stations barely justified their existence. Then in 1939 the new parallel Bakerloo line tunnels were opened, along with new stops at St John's Wood and Swiss Cottage, and the old three stations were closed for good. Only Marlborough Road is still clearly visble, both above ground and below, although you have to know where to look. You probably wouldn't give this Chinese restaurant a second glance, for example, not unless you were a St John's Wood resident with disposable income to expend. But this is the old station building, now scrubbed and whitewashed and serving up "Dim Sum daily" [photos]. It's a bit of a comedown, but still a culinary improvement on 1972 when Betjeman found an Angus Steak House here instead.

Sir John was also able to stand on the disused platform - one of the many advantages of being a documentary-making Poet Laureate. Here he waited, at the bottom of a deep brick canyon, looking appropriately wistful as the shiny white trains sped past. All that passing passengers get to see today, during a brief few seconds of daylight, is a rather more overgrown and rubble-strewn platform [photos]. The walls are arched, echoing the design of the station building above, and still painted a very faint shade of Metropolitan purple. And there's a wire-framed door in the east wall with a green sign labelled "Emergency exit", just in case any train should ever need to be evacuated here in a hurry. You never know your luck, you might end up here one day and be able to pop upstairs for a Chinese takeaway.

"Early electric, punctual and prompt,
off to those cuttings in the Hampstead hills,
St John's Wood, Marlborough Road, no longer stations,
and the trains rush through."

John Betjeman at Marlborough Road station ("Metro-land", BBC, 1973)

Marlborough Road 1969
See inside Marlborough Road station today
Scores more abandoned and disused tube stations

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