Tag Archives: Uxbridge

Wheel on the wingI could have rounded up all of this station’s treasures in one single entry, but that would have made for a very long read where too many delights jostled for too much attention. So this is the third time I’ve doffed a hat to Uxbridge, and the first in which I’ve stepped outside its walls to see if the exterior holds its own against the glittering interior.

It more than does.

Bridge of sighsWelcome to a Bridge of sighs.

The beautiful sculptures on the top are by Joseph Armitage, who also designed the National Trust oak leaves symbol and provided carvings for a number of the UK’s finest inter-war institutions, including the former Commercial Bank of Scotland in Glasgow.

In a literal sense, the sculptures are wings with wheels. But to me they represent something of the thrill and the wonder that you experience, unprompted, at the start of any long journey: sensations that bloom when you’re a child, but which surely linger inside you somewhere for the rest of your days.

Anything that also commemorates the progressive power of technology is fine with me. Those wheeled wings get extra marks for including leaf springs.

Then there’s the entrance itself, crowned by a glorious chunk of massive fontage:

Man of lettersI’m normally suspicious of a man of letters, but I’d make an exception for these.

Charles Holden and L H Bucknell designed the entire station, including the sleek and dashing entrance, through which characters from Dennis Potter’s Pennies from Heaven quite possibly passed on their way to their latest emotionally cathartic flashback or song-and-dance number.

And finally there is this, standing alone in front of the entrance, reaching into the sky, a beacon for the town and signpost to the city:

Perfect circleIt might be 15 miles west of Charing Cross, but Uxbridge station is one of London’s finest monuments.

Yes, another oneWelcome to the other end of the line.

The terminus at Uxbridge was conceived and designed to mirror that at Cockfosters, so it makes sense for me to salute them sequentially.

There are differences between the two, but not substantially. Uxbridge is slightly taller and longer than its crosstown cousin, but keeps the same overall shape and sensibility. Statistically it is four times busier than Cockfosters, but is still just as elegant and, despite the hubbub, just as atmospheric:

IlluminatingI know I’m a sappy simpleton, but I find the way these massed ranks of regal arches diminish and fade into the distance really rather special.

If you can forget the bustle and sidestep the people loitering not for a train, or to meet someone, but just for the sake of it, there’s a bewitching ambience to Uxbridge station.

The presence of stained glass, which I’ve already mentioned, makes the whole place feel slightly hallowed. Except nobody departs to another life, or a hole in the ground, from Uxbridge; the most they can hope for is a swift connection to Rayners Lane.

Go in peaceUnlike Cockfosters, this isn’t the one and only station building to have existed in this location – or to be precise, in and around this location.

The first incarnation of Uxbridge station was opened by the Metropolitan Railway in 1904, north of where it is now. The second and current incarnation dates from 1938. Regular readers will have no trouble guessing whose estimable hands were responsible for drawing up the blueprints.

Holden back the yearsDespite being dozens of miles and countless stations apart, Uxbridge and Cockfosters help remind you what the Underground is and always should be: one network, serving one London, whose similarities are greater and stronger than what many, especially London’s one newspaper, would often have you believe.

Colour me smittenI think this might be the only station on the Underground that has stained glass (though I’m more than happy to be proved wrong).

The three panels sit above the exit and are only visible to people leaving the station: a fitting location for what is essentially a translucent multi-coloured equivalent of a “Welcome to Uxbridge” slogan:

Which window shall we go through today?They were created by the Hungarian artist Ervin Bossányi, who emigrated to the UK in 1934: just four years before Uxbridge station was rebuilt in its present form to a design by Charles Holden.

During a hugely successful career in this country Bossányi would make stained glass for, among others, the University of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum and York Minster.

But the three designs he produced for Holden must count statistically as his most viewed – and perhaps simultaneously, like Oliver Hill’s bus station at Newbury Park and Eric Aumonier’s archer at East Finchley, his most under-appreciated, by virtue of their home being not an imperious seat of learning or popular tourist attraction but an ordinary railway terminus.

Of course I would argue that Uxbridge is anything but ordinary, and I’ll return to rave about some of its other stunning features another time.

For now I’ll merely sing the praises of this trio of handsome gems, which depict, from left to right: the arms of the old Middlesex County Council, an institution abolished by Tory minister Keith Joseph in the early 1960s; the arms of the Basset family, esteemed local landowners of centuries’ standing; and a historic emblem of Buckinghamshire.

And were there ever need for a more contemporary representation, may I suggest something to do with Press Gang, which was filmed in Uxbridge and which remains the finest children’s TV drama series ever made.