Six stations opened 50 years ago along the very first section of the Victoria line. Here's the last two.
Opened: 1st September 1968 Originally opened: 1861 Previously known as: Seven Sisters Road (Holloway) Interchange with: The Piccadilly line. Finsbury Park is also on the East Coast Main Line, but only suburban services stop. No matter, you can still get to Peterborough, Cambridge or, er, Brighton, thanks to new improved Thameslink services. Tile pattern: A pair of duelling pistols, by Tom Eckersley. These are supposed to reference historic duels which took place in Finsbury Park, but alas the proper duelling hotspot was Finsbury Fields three miles away in Clerkenwell. A similar misunderstanding in 1983 led to the Piccadilly line platforms being emblazoned with balloon mosaics, referencing London's first manned flight on Finsbury Fields, and all this would never have happened if Wikipedia had been around at the time. Never mind, they all look lovely and brighten the place up.
Architecture: Externally at least, the Victoria line's always been in thrall to the dominant mainline railway. The main entrance facing the bus station on Station Place got a major spruce-up a few years ago, including a sparkly canopy and some bold signage announcing where this is and what things are, but somehow it's still the wrong side of attractive. Environs: Most of the approaches involve passing under mammoth bridges in semi-darkness, the smell of improperly-released urine rarely too far away. The cycle lane on Stroud Green Road has an illuminated edge. Three local personages have been immortalised in rusty silhouette outside Pret, namely musician Jazzie B, health pioneer Florence Keen and suffragette Edith Garrud. The ticket office was closed when I visited because the shutters had jammed. At least there is still a ticket office. Entrances: The main entrance at Station Place swiftly degenerates into a long tunnel, off which unfriendly staircases descend to the platforms. The entrance on Seven Sisters Road is no wider, no shorter and no pleasanter. These entrances somehow remained ungated until 2015, but freeloading is now a thing of the past.
Closed entrances: The entrance on Wells Terrace closed permanently in 2016, much to the annoyance of everyone who approaches from the north, especially users of Finsbury Park's second bus station. They still arrive in regular pulses, but now face a lengthy hike round to the front of the station. Businesses on Wells Terrace have seen a collapse in footfall and income - some have repurposed and others have folded. You may be able to guess why... Nearby development: Heavens yes. The infidel project swallowing the northwestern flank of the station is called CityNorth, and will deliver 350 homes, barely 15% of them deemed affordable. The promotional brochure shows slappably-groomed incomers enjoying bespoke rooftop facilities, and a new cinema, yet fails to mention the adjacent tenpin bowling shangri-la. By 2020 a new step-free station entrance will have opened, funnelling passengers past bijou retail options that'll probably crush more local shops out of existence. For now, the development is at the Whopping Cranes and Hi-Vis-Multitudes stage of construction. Station layout: 3D diagram here
Stairs: Yes there are normal stairs, but for added atmosphere try to find one of the two 54-step spiral staircases which link up-top with down-below. These used to be interestingly-tiled but run-down, a problem which engineers have "solved" by slapping featureless white cladding over the top. Down below: Finsbury Park's interchange between the Victoria and Piccadilly lines is one of the most convenient on the tube network, with cross-passage connections both northbound and southbound. It was facilitated by stealing two platforms from the Northern City Line during construction work in the 60s. Viewed in cross-section, the two lines alternate PVPV. Something to visit nearby: Fonthill Road is a clothing and fashion mecca for lovers of affordable off-brand on-trend merchandise, from bridal gowns to little black numbers. Something else to visit nearby: Gillespie Park, via the tiny steps alongside the mosque (and a very long trackside walk). Factnugget: Finsbury Park is the only escalator-free station on the Victoria line. Some photos: Seven, here.
HIGHBURY & ISLINGTON
Opened: 1st September 1968 Originally opened: 1850 Previously known as: 'Highbury'/'Islington'/'Highbury or Islington' Interchange with: Two key sections of the Overground, formerly the North London Line and East London Line. Also the Northern City Line to/from Moorgate. Tile pattern: Islington's not well known for its castle, but that's because it was destroyed in the Peasants Revolt in 1381. Edward Bawden's illustration shows a castle on a hill, or a High Bury. Architecture: There are few good words to say about the current entrance, added in 1968, other than it's quite accessible. An additional bland gateline was recently added alongside, that for exit, the original for entrance. But across the road is a bit of a stunner, the preserved 1904 entrance used for access to the Northern City Line, and subsequently used to stash Victoria Line signalling equipment. It's currently very orange.
Nearby development: Just for a change, not much. But... tentative plans are afoot, at a very early stage, to reopen the 1904 entrance to improve circulation and add step-free access. Obviously that'd be excellent, except the rebuild would include redevelopment above and to each side, and if you can imagine the very ugliest monstrosity anyone could design whilst still technically retaining the original facade, this would be it. Platform numberings: These are all over the place. 1 and 2 are the Overground (via Dalston Junction). Alongside are 7 and 8 for the Overground (via Dalston Kingsland). Meanwhile, underground, 3 and 5 are for the Victoria line, and 4 and 6 for National Rail. Ticket hall: Even with the new entrance, and what looks like plenty of space, there's still a tension here with folk rushing all over. A recent niggly change blocks direct access to the Stratford-bound platform from the top of the escalators. But station staff have hit heritage gold with a small history display in a quiet corner over near platform 1.
Station layout: 3D diagram here Down below: A labyrinth of one-way tunnels (and one set of stairs) lead to the undergroundplatforms. It pays to be at the front of southbound trains, and in the rear carriage northbound. Step through from either Victoria line platform and you enter the long lost world of Network South East on the Northern City Line. Factnugget: The southbound Victoria line platform is actually the original northbound Northern City Line platform. Something to visit nearby: Why not come and see the massive roadworks for the removal of the Highbury Corner gyratory? By the end of next year the square-roundabout will have lost one of its sides and traffic will be two-way, and you'll be able to walk unhindered from the station to the central arboretum. In the meantime, plastic-barrier hell. Some photos: Seven, here. All the photos: Forty-one, here (or slideshow here).
That's all for now. I'll be back to pick up the story from King's Cross in December (which is convenient, because the other large railway project I expected to be busy writing about has been postponed).