diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tubewatch (37) Brockley Hill
You'd know where Brockley Hill was if it had its own tube station. On the northern edge of town, where the A41 marks the boundary between Harrow and Barnet, that's where. And Brockley Hill should have had its own tube station, nearly did have its own tube station, still has remnants of its own tube station. Except it never did get its own tube station, after all kinds of reality unexpectedly kicked in, which is why it remains an obscure London backwater. And rightly so.

There were plans in the mid-1930s, big plans, to extend the Northern line beyond the suburbs. The railway had already been responsible for the urbanisation of large areas of Middlesex beyond Golders Green, and now the plan was to repeat this beyond Edgware. Three more stations, one at Brockley Hill, one at Elstree South and one at Bushey Heath, each with vast tracts of undeveloped countryside alongside ready to be covered with housing stock. A few preparatory works were completed, but then World War Two started and all efforts transferred to finishing the High Barnet branch instead. After 1945 London's priorities were different, and legislation to enforce an encircling Green Belt stopped work in its tracks. It was pointless to build a new railway if there were no houses to serve and no passengers to carry, so the extension was cancelled and the line still halts at Edgware.

Head into the 1920s housing estate north of Edgware station today and there are a few clues to what didn't quite happen. Most of the houses are typical Betjemanesque Tudorbethan semis, or similar, but a thin line of more modern housing stock has infilled along the line of the railway-to-be. Campbell Croft is thin and a bit exclusive, while Shelley Close is more mainstream with room for bungalows on one side of the road only. Stirling Avenue is fairly normal, as cul-de-sacs go, if rather more contoured than I'd expect a potential railway track to be. And then the invisible line hits the Edgware Way dual carriageway - which, if you look carefully, has a layby by a lone brick wall which was due to support the Northern line [photo]. But it never arrived. The Green Belt starts precisely here.

Beyond the A41, so long as you cross carefully, it's all fields. Damp autumnal grassland, uncultivated and meadowed, where thin fingers of the Edgwarebury Brook drain down. One small corner beyond the river has become Edgwarebury Park, while the remainder (as far as the M25, on a distant ridge) is an extensive nature reserve specked with scabious and sedge. Car boot sales are held here on Sundays, big ones, although the season's over now and the tyre tracks are gone. And amidst the grassland, between the hatchback sales pitches, there's an intermittent line of dilapidated brickwork. Welcome to Brockley Hill station.

Five brick piers are all that's left of the low viaduct which should have carried Northern line trains north to Bushey. Of these only one still has sufficient curvature to confirm that these were once arches - the rest have long since crumbled away [photo]. Each stumpy pillar is about ten foot off the ground, I'd guess, each colonised by vegatation, each standing alone in a very deliberate line. One's a flattened U-shape, so it's possible to can scramble up the pile of earth on the inside, then clamber up onto the top of the stonework for an aligned view. And they've all been graffitied, because Barnet's artists love an unsecured canvas, bringing a splash of colour to these islands of brown in a sea of green. [photo]

Check on an Ordnance Survey map to see a faint cutting running north alongside the dual carriageway, heading for Elstree South where there isn't a station either. Next up was London Transport's Aldenham works, which used to repair buses but is now a large industrial park, and finally Bushey Heath which is merely a roundabout. It would all have looked so very different, almost wall-to-wall urban sprawl, had the Northern line reached out this far. But instead Elstree still feels like a village, and the Edgwarebury Brook still runs through open fields, and residents in the new Barratt housing by the Brockley Hill roundabout have to walk ten minutes up the hill to Stanmore station instead. The tentacles of the London Underground, they only stretch so far, and some corners of London are best left well alone.
(If you haven't already seen it, Jay Foreman's video about the Northern Heights extension is detailed and ace)

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream