P.O. Box 63718, London, SW3 9AT

>>by Adrian Davies

Once upon a time . . .

Brompton Road station on a 1912 map

Brompton Road station on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (you do not need much imagination to see how the name was shortened first to the Piccadilly tube, then the Piccadilly line) opened on 15th December 1906. It was designed by the architect Leslie Green in the “arts and crafts” style, and situated between Knightsbridge and South Kensington, in a location convenient for the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Brompton Oratory, as well as the shops of the Brompton Road, but traffic levels were disappointing, and within a few years, a practice arose of running some trains through the station without stopping, to speed up the service.

Brompton Road station platform postcard
A train of the original Piccadilly line stock enters Piccadilly Circus station shortly after opening in 1906

Brompton Road station platform in the 1920s
Brompton Road station platform, 1920s
(c) TfL London Transport Museum

This practice also obtained at several other stations on the Piccadilly line, indeed it still does nowadays between Hammersmith and Acton Town, but for whatever reason, it stuck in the minds of Londoners in the case of Brompton Road, so much so that the words “Passing Brompton Road” (which the guard would call out at Knightsbridge or South Kensington to forewarn passengers that the train would not stop at the next station) became the title of a West End farce by Jevan Brandon-Thomas, starring one of the famous actresses of the time, Marie Tempest, which enjoyed a run of 174 performances at the Criterion, though the play’s success was attributed more to Miss Tempest’s fame that any merit in the script!

Passing Brompton Road
Click on the images for larger pictures of
(above) cover of 1920s play Passing Brompton Road
(below) an extract from the play
Passing Brompton Road

Bizarrely a second play centred on Brompton Road Station - Sailing By - has recently been produced, as you can read at the website of the Byfleet Players.

click here to view
The London Railway Record, Vol. 1, no. 13, October 1997,
“Recalling Brompton Road” by J. E. Connor
(4MB PDF file)

©Jim Connor, reproduced by permission

Brompton Road station in the 1920s
The entrance to Brompton Road Station in the 1920s

Brompton Road closed briefly in 1926 as a consequence of the General Strike, but re-opened after a few months by local demand (despite its supposed unpopularity). The following question was raised in the House of Commons by the MP for Kensington South, Sir William Davison, and answered by the Minister of Transport, Wilfrid Ashley (later Lord Mount Temple).

HC Deb 29 June 1926 vol 197 cc973-4 973

Sir WILLIAM DAVISON asked the Minister of Transport, whether his attention has been called to the closing of the Brompton Bond Tube Station; whether he is aware of the inconvenience which is being suffered in consequence by the trading and residential district in its immediate vicinity, and to persons wishing to go to Brompton Oratory and Brompton Parish Church, which adjoin the station; and whether, in view of its effect on London traffic, he will refer the matter to the Traffic Advisory Committee, with a view to the re-opening of the station at the earliest possible moment?

Colonel ASHLEY I understand from the railway company that certain stations on the railway, including the station to which my hon. Friend refers, are kept closed with the object of releasing a train from service, thus enabling them to economise in power during the present shortage of coal, and that the station in question will be re-opened as soon as circumstances permit.

By the early 1930s, its then owner, by then London Electric Railways (which became part of the London Passenger Transport Board on 1st July 1933) was looking at ways to speed up journey times on the Piccadilly tube, which was becoming more popular for long distance commuting. The extension from Finsbury Park (its original northerly terminus) to Cockfosters was in contemplation, while the Piccadilly was also expanding westwards from Hammersmith (its original westerly terminus), taking over some lines formerly operated by the District Railway.

The trains of those days could not accelerate away from stations so quickly as modern trains, so it was decided to close three of the less busy stations (Down Street, York Road and Brompton Road) to speed up the service for the benefit of longer distance passengers.

click map for full size image

Closure and afterlife

Down Street closed on 21st May 1932, York Road followed on 19th September 1932, but Brompton Road survived till Sunday 29th July 1934, when the rebuilding of Knightsbridge station was complete. Its new entrance in Hans Crescent opened on Monday 30th July 1934. The idea was that the new southerly entrance to Knightsbridge station was close enough to Brompton Road to serve much of Brompton Road’s catchment area, but that is a very debatable proposition, as anyone who has struggled up the pavement of the Brompton Road in a sea of shoppers and tourists can attest. Local residents, especially in the streets to the north of the Brompton Road (for whom neither South Kensington nor Knightsbridge stations are very convenient) would surely disagree with the suggestion that an entrance to Knightsbridge station in Hans Crescent is sufficient for their needs.

2010 photographs of York Road station, which closed in 1932, two years before Brompton Road

During the Second World War, the station saw use as the headquarters of London’s anti-aircraft defences, remaining in military hands long after advances in aviation had made “ack-ack” batteries obsolete as a defence against enemy bombers. Its present use is a legacy of its wartime past. (see J.E. Connor's article 'A Wartime Use for Brompton Road' in the London Railway Record, Vol. 4 No. 41, available here as a 5MB PDF)

The officers of 1st Anti-Aircraft Signals, photographed in November 1939 outside no. 2 Egerton Gardens, just off Brompton Road (not in the Brompton Road itself, as the caption misleadingly suggests). The view towards no. 2 Egerton Place is little changed more than seventy years later. I suspect that the officers were billeted in Egerton Gardens, just across the road from the disused station, as Brompton Road station was (I believe) the HQ of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Signals during the Second World War. I should be grateful for any further information from military historians with specialist knowledge of that period.
Pictured are Lt Col Hemsley M.B.E. (RCOS), Major Boyd Faulkner (RAMC) and, from what I can make out, Lt Wailen (RAMC). The soldier wearing glasses is Major J. H. Whittles (RAMC), whose family owned the album from which this photograph was taken.

A 1946 RAF aerial photo of the Brompton Road station area
click here to download a larger version of this photo (640KB)

Modern times...

A Way Out sign at Brompton Road Station photo taken in 1997
A Way Out sign at Brompton Road Station
photo taken in 1997

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