Underground railway station, 1933 by Charles Holden and Charles H James. Minor later alterations and addition of step-free access gantry in 2006-7.
Reason for Listing
Oakwood Underground station, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a bold and elegantly proportioned variant of the Sudbury Town 'box' prototype providing both an effective landmark and impressively grand interior space. Its large panels of glazing making it particularly evocative when lit at night
* Historic interest: one of the most highly regarded examples of Charles Holden's ground-breaking Modernist designs for the Piccadilly Line extensions of the early 1930s. These were of great importance for introducing rational modern design based on continental models to a wider public and for imposing a brand image to buildings and design when this was still novel. They were widely praised in the architectural press at the time and still remain influential today
* Intactness: one of the best preserved of Holden's Piccadilly Line stations, retaining notable features such as the passimeter, now rare, integral shop units and platform structures
Oakwood station was built as part of the second section of the northward extension of the Piccadilly Line to Cockfosters. This seven-mile extension beyond the original terminus of Finsbury Park, to serve the enlarging suburban areas in north Middlesex, was authorised by a parliamentary Act of 4 June 1930, and was overseen by Frank Pick (1878-1941), the visionary administrator of the Underground Group and Chief Executive of the London Transport Passenger Board (LPTB) from 1933. The first section of the extension, from Finsbury Park to Arnos Grove, which included the stations at Manor House, Turnpike Lane, Wood Green and Bounds Green, was opened on 19 September 1932. Southgate and Enfield West (now Oakwood) followed in March 1933, and the terminus at Cockfosters opened on 31 July 1933.
The overall design of Oakwood, like most of the stations on both the east and west extensions of the Piccadilly Line, was by Charles Henry Holden (1875-1960). Detailed designs were however, as at Bounds Green, by Charles H James (1893-1953) of James and Bywaters due to work pressure at Adams, Holden and Pearson. Holden had previously worked with James on the design of the Empire Marketing Board stand at an exhibition at Olympia in 1931. The tall rectangular booking hall, based on Holden's pioneering design at Sudbury Town, was a further refinement of the Holden style. This was noted at the time, The Architect and Building News in April 1933 stating that Oakwood was 'a definite advance on the rectangular type [of station], the principal difference being in the large marquise (or canopy) over the main entrance and the extensive double approach to the booking hall'. The station was listed at Grade II in 1971, changes to the booking hall were made in 1987 with the installation of the Underground Ticketing System (UTS) and renovations were carried out in 2006-7 when a gantry and shaft for a disabled lift down to the platform were added.
As it was built in an undeveloped location, considerable thought was given to the new station's name. It was initially referred to as 'East Barnet', but opened as 'Enfield West', the LPTB thinking that most people using it would be from Enfield. But Southgate Borough Council petitioned the LPTB to changed the name, proposing 'Merryhills' (a local stream), 'Oakwood Park' or 'Southgate North'. The LPTB thought these names confusing and refused to change the name on grounds of costs. But on 3 May 1934 it added the suffix 'Oakwood', and the reference to Enfield was dropped altogether on 1 September 1946, by which time the neighbourhood was sufficiently developed to have assumed its own identity. The booking hall originally had a plaque claiming that the station occupied 'the highest point in Europe in a direct line west of the Ural Mountains of Russia', a reference to the site being 300 feet above sea level. An intended bus garage and stand at Oakwood received planning permission but was never built.
Charles Holden was born in Bolton, son of a textile engineer and trained with CR Ashbee before joining the practice of H Percy Adams, a specialist in hospital design, with whom he entered into partnership in 1907. Before and during the First World War, Holden was not committed to any particular style, designing, for example, the Arts and Crafts-inspired Belgrave Hospital for Children in 1899-1901 and the mannerist British Medical Association (now Zimbabwe House) in 1906-8. After the war, he designed sixty-seven cemeteries for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission; these show the growing simplification of his work. By this time his practice was known as Adams, Holden, and Pearson, and in 1924 they began to be appointed as consultant architects on the London Underground. In the mid-1920s Holden designed façades for stations on the Northern Line extension from Clapham South to Morden and in the 1930s designed most of the new stations at either end of the Piccadilly Line, finally ending their association in the late 1940s on the completion of stations on the eastern extension of the Central Line. Pick and Holden had both been deeply influenced by a short tour of examples of new architecture on the Continent which they had undertaken in the summer of 1930, and Holden's subsequent designs emphasised functionality (with the booking hall as the dominant element of the new buildings) combined with balanced geometry and the use of modern materials, especially glass and reinforced concrete. After the Second World War, Holden devised schemes for the reconstruction of Canterbury and London. None was carried through faithfully, but Holden had, through 55 Broadway, Senate House, and the tube stations, already left a more enduring mark on London than any architect of his generation.
MATERIALS: reinforced concrete frame, clad in mixed Buckinghamshire and light-brown Welsh brick; flat concrete slab roofs with dentiled soffits.
PLAN: consists of two main elements. At street level is a high, rectangular booking hall, based on the Sudbury Town 'box', its large size determined by the width of the cutting beneath. This is set behind a low entrance way, incorporating a pair of shops either side of the main entrance, which extends to the rear of the booking hall to roof the steps to the platform. The platform element, set below the booking hall in a cutting, consists of concrete steps down to a single central platform roofed with cantilevered concrete canopies. A pylon, bearing the London Underground roundel with a circular seat at the base and concrete shelter over, stands in front of the station. This is included in the listing. A curved parade of shops extends on either side of the booking hall; these are not included in the listing.
EXTERIOR: the high booking hall has a flat concrete roof with over-hanging eaves with a ridged soffit set over a deep plain cornice. The brickwork infill is of multi-coloured Buckinghamshire bricks in English bond providing a diaper pattern. The front (west) and rear elevations each have five full-height Crittall steel windows with horizontal glazing bars with further windows set at the corners of the side elevations. Between these windows are London Underground roundels set in concrete surrounds, with a further roundel set in the central window bay of the front elevation. The booking hall is set behind a low entrance way flanked by a pair of shops which have bronze shop windows incorporating ventilation grilles. A broad pair of entrances either side of a central pier lead into the station, set behind a slightly upswept cantilevered canopy inset with lights. The brick work to this lower part of the building, again in English bond, is in 'No 2 light brown' Welsh pressed above a granite plinth. The lower level is further denoted by a broad eaves band, with a concrete fascia beneath, incorporating a green tiled band. The blue station name panel under the canopy is a replacement (it was originally green).
INTERIOR: the double entrance with its low coffered concrete ceiling leads into a vestibule beyond lined with black glazed brick pointed in white, with built-in benches and poster boards. A small shop projects both into the lobby and the main hall; it has a curved glass front in a painted surround with a curved fascia over (with modern light box) and a central timber and glass door. The shop is flanked by the tripartite entrances to the station: double doors in glazed surrounds, all with horizontal timber glazing bars and brass door furniture and kick plates. These were fitted soon after the station opened to reduce draughts from the original open entrances. The lobby has a plastered ceiling with round oculi skylights and short cylindrical light fittings designed by Charles Holden's office. The tiled floor is a renewal of the original.
The booking hall has a coffered ceiling of concrete beams, exposed brickwork and a concrete ring beam above ground-floor level. Above this the black glazed brickwork gives way to a lighter brown, both laid in English bond. The St James's tiled floor is a replacement. In the middle of the hall are a passimeter and a freestanding confectionery kiosk. The passimeter has a lower part of linoleum coated timber (overpainted), with metal-framed continuous glazing above including a ticket window with a moulded sill and two projecting box signs. The ticket window on the west side has been enlarged and a modern shutter installed. The confectionery kiosk with a metal sign reading 'MAXWELL' is largely of timber with poster boards (original and modern) in bronze frames and a steel shutter. This is believed to date from the 1950s and was scheduled for removal at the time of this description. There is a further news kiosk set into the east wall whilst the shopfront between the main entrances corresponds to its other façade in the lobby. The sympathetic UTS ticket suite installed in 1987 occupies the south wall, replacing the original telephone kiosks. An original blue station clock survives on the north wall, as do several bronze poster surrounds. Exit to the platform stair gallery is via a triple entrance in the east wall, the outer entrances having glazed timber double doors with the centre having a sliding metal grille. The concrete stair gallery has been altered with the addition of offices at either end, replacement floor tiles, and the creation, in 2006-7, of an L-shaped, glazed steel gantry at the east of the lobby, parallel with the staircase, which connects to a lift for disabled access on the platform. This is not of special interest.
PLATFORM: the steps to the single island platform are of concrete with stepped glazed clerestory lights complete with strongly horizontal Crittall metal glazing. The cantilevered concrete canopies (designed by Stanley Heaps of London Underground's in-house architectural office) have central rooflights. The piers are set in linked pairs reminiscent of those at Arnos Grove, with chamfered backs. Two of the central piers are divided to incorporate built-in seats with shallow glazed screens as windbreaks and a small poster board (originally containing a plaque with the coat of arms of Southgate Urban District Council), others have roundels and one has a poster board with green tiles, with a recess for automatic vending machines. Some of the original cylindrical platform light fittings, the same as those in the entrance lobby, survive. At the ends of the platforms are three concrete lamp standards rising from a concrete plinth containing a replacement central roundel flanked by two poster boards in moulded concrete with bronze surrounds. These have replacement T-bar light fittings vaguely reminiscent of the originals. Across the platforms are concrete walls for posters, with central and end piers containing further roundels. Green tile linings to the poster surrounds gives an indication of the colour scheme of black, grey, yellow and green that formerly decorated the station at platform level. Other features include surviving 'WAY OUT' signs with two feathers and original platform clocks.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.