London: Northern Line

[Needs the stations south of Tooting Bec, and various other parts too]

Tooting Bec

At Tooting Bec there’s not one station but two – there’s a little “satellite” with an underpass under the main road. This cute little building has three of the big coloured windows, and underground it’s a riot of the ceramic tiling which again the Northern Line is famous for. 

Main Tooting Bec Station

The “Satellite”

Loads of colour and geometry

It’s so beautiful I want to touch it!

Just along the road is Du Cane Court. Built in the 1930s, “everyone knows” it was constructed for Hitler and his team to live in when they invaded Britain. The story persists even today, though the reality is probably only that as an up-market block in the “modern” style it seemed very exotic to Londoners of the time: perhaps they even equated “modern” with “German” (many people did) and there’s certainly a strand of it that looked good in 1930s faschist architecture. But sadly there’s no evidence Eva Braun ever went off to buy curtains…

Du Cane Court – where Hitler would have lived

Bal Ham – “Gateway to the South”

Balham is just one more dull place on the railway, but it was made particularly famous by a spoof Holiday Documentary by the great Peter Sellers. The slogan has to be read in a consciously phoney American accent in the style of a filler piece at the movies…and indeed you can hear the whole thing here.

Apparently the slogan really was used by the railway company at one point, and looking at the map you can see Balham does indeed occupy a key point in the transport network at the crossing of a number of lines. I wouldn’t call it a gateway to the South, but it’s certainly a gateway to many destinations northwards in London. An obvious point to aim for if you were an invading band of Vikings…or indeed Germans. 

Balham Station

More rambly staircases and tunnels

That famous window, from inside

The round light fitting found in all these stations

Clapham South

Clapham South marks the end of the Morden extension, so it’s the last of these rather fine 1920s stations. Like Morden at the other end it has a big development attached to it, though these flats were here from the beginning.

Clapham South

Clapham Common

Clapham Common is the southernmost of the earlier generation of stations: dating from 1900 it sports a little dome, though most of the station is underground. At one time all the stations to Kennington had these domes, but nowadays only Clapham Common and Kennington have them. And this one looks like it may be a modern copy…

Clapham Common

The Dome

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the clientele gathered round the station…all these guys may have been just waiting for friends, but Clapham has a dodgy reputation and they did seem a bit purposefully idle for an early Saturday night. I hurried quickly on to Clapham North…

Northern Line 1 – Morden to Tooting Bec   Top   Colinspics Home   London: Northern Line 3 – Clapham North to Kennington

London: Northern Line 6 – Goodge Street to Euston

London: Northern Line 7 – Mornington Crescent

Goodge Street & Warren Street

Up the line are Goodge Street and Warren Street. Here we come to a land of businesses, doctors, professional institutions and London University, and at street level it’s all a bit dull. I can’t find anything remotely interesting to say about either station except to observe that one is red ceramic and the other is Portland Stone – so let’s move quickly on.

Goodge Street Station (closed for repairs!) 

Warren Street Station 


You’d think the Northern Line would cross the Circle Line at an obvious single point (or indeed at two: the earlier one was Embankment) – but if you look carefully at the map around Euston you’ll see they don’t connect despite the fact that the area is littered with stations. Even on the ground I got confused to the point where I photographed Euston Square station by accident…it’s not actually on the Northern Line! No wonder foreigners think we’re crazy.

Euston Square station’s in the middle of it all…

…but no mention of the Northern Line

Fight your way through to Euston and you find a place with at least some dignity. Like its neighbours St Pancras and Kings Cross, Euston was a mighty terminus in the age of the Victorian rail barons; like the other two it suffered in the 1960s, and of the three it came off worst. The original was a huge Victorian train shed fronted by a mighty classical arch, but this got flattened to make way for a bus station, boring modernist office blocks, and a dreadfully inadequate railway station.

Some of the old is still there…

…but it’s sadly compromised by all the buses

The original Euston Station

Not that unpleasant…until you consider what was there before

As with Centre Point I have to confess that I rather like the 60s black granite and stainless steel now its been cleaned up – it has a look of expensive minimalism – but I’m also sympathetic to the view that the demolition was the worst architectural crime of the 20th century. It led directly to the establishment of the Victorian Society as a movement to preserve our wonderful 19th century buildings… and nowadays we’re talking of a vast redevelopment of the whole area. There’s even a campaign to rebuild the Euston Arch!

North of Euston it’s the usual urban fabric, though it’s rather more pleasant than on the Piccadilly Line – thankfully there’s no prison here!

Euston Tower, outpost of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs

Prince of Wales Passage, looking rather precarious! 

London: Northern Line 7 – Mornington Crescent

London: Northern Line 8 – Camden Town to Golders Green

Mornington Crescent

The next tube station is not only a pleasure in its own right but also the home of a famous game. Mornington Crescent has been played for many years on the brilliant BBC Radio panel game I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

If you’ve forgotten how to play Mornington Crescent, I’d refer you to the show’s line that the rules would be “known to anyone who played the game as a child”. My family never actually played it – and strangely I’ve never found anyone else who did – but for others like me I’d refer you to another standard line…

“There cannot be anyone in the civilised world who does not already know the basic rules of Mornington Crescent, so we won’t insult you by repeating them here. Suffice to say, if you’ve temporarily forgotten them, or if you come from the uncivilised world (such as, for example, France) you can pick them up as you go along.”

Today there are even websites where you can play Mornington Crescent – but in case you’re still feeling a bit puzzled here’s a helpful link to the Wikipedia Article on Mornington Crescent

A very famous name 

Pleasant rhythm of colours on the Crescent 

Mornington Crescent is a fine example of the older type of Underground station, and it jolly well ought to be – it was closed for restoration through most of the 1990s. The work should have taken less than a year but it dragged on for many more, giving rise to the common belief that Mornington Crescent is actually home to a super-secret government department…

Classic ticket hall with lovely green tiles and old lighting 

Yet another mix of arches and square windows 

These blue lights are an added classic touch 

They matched the old and new colours perfectly… 

…though close-up you get an impression of the challenge 

Across the road is a classic 1930s Art Deco building: the Carreras Cigarette Factory, also known as greater London House. Black cats guard the entrance, the roofline throbs with rhythm, pseudo-Egyptian carving adorns the building frame; everywhere there’s colour, space, light and life.

Greater London House 

Detail of the decorated pillars 

Where to next? On a Saturday mainline stations are wild, so if I’d been playing Mornington Crescent I’d have moved on to Victoria. But I stuck with the Northern Line and found myself in Camden Town.