The Cockfosters Extension 6: Southgate

Its difficult to write about Southgate station specially as so much has been extolled about the station and its unique design! So let’s cut to the chase and go where no-one has gone before ๐Ÿ™‚

The ‘Tesla Coil’ – the spire that gives the station much of its futurism.
Its been claimed the station’s tesla coil was the original inspiration for the Daleks’ stalk and eye. I think its just an assumption, its not borne by facts. A nice idea though ๐Ÿ™‚
As the tweet below shows, if one cuts away the entire station from the ground, the whole structure makes it almost an exact version of the original USS Enterprise. In addition to the Daleks, should Charles Holden be credited with having the original concept for the famous Star Trek space ship?

Essentially Southgate is a radical departure in terms of architecture sensibilities on the extension to Cockfosters. Its clearly an art deco building with aspirations of the future. The Guardian says “Hovering over the ground like an art-deco flying saucer, Southgate is the most futuristic of the many underground stations Charles Holden designed…”ย Indeed there may be a metaphor behind Southgate that I have not seen postulated anywhere else.
What do I mean by this? Let’s think about it for a second, the trains and platforms are in a tunnel, the station buildings are above ground (as per the tweet show above) and the extension itself was about the future. Hence the idea of Southgate station is perhaps of being one that flies above its trains and platforms. One reasonably can’t have a typical Holden design to convey that metaphor so this unique style was drawn up and thus we have a flying saucer at Southgate! Was Holden in fact thinking in this particular way when he designed the station? That’s one thing we’ll never know.

Above: A tweet that shows Southgate station looking like a…. shhhh. Say no more!
The station opened on 13 March 1933 along with Oakwood (then known as Enfield West.)

View of the station at dusk – this is midsummer and the time is about 9.15pm
Below: A rare picture of Southgate station under construction.
Embed from Getty Images
Southgate is the first of the tranche of single word station names on this part of the Piccadilly Line. (eg Southgate, Oakwood, Cockfosters.) All the other preceding stations since Finsbury Park have had double word names.
Beyond Arnos Grove the Piccadilly Line traverses Arnos park viaduct (a subject I shall examine in another article) before venturing onto a lengthy hillside section of line. The land here mainly falls to the west. Before long the line reaches the substantial cutting which forms the southern approach to the Southgate tunnels.

‘Driver’s eye view’ of the Southgate tunnel south portal with its radiator like contraption!
The line is on a upwards gradient and this continues right through the station and onto the Southgate viaduct.

Southgate station with rush hour arrivals.
At Southgate itself, the station platforms are basically similar to the others on the extension from Finsbury park, save that it is the more economical version as found at Bounds Green (and a style subsequently used at Wanstead and other tube stations.)
Several of the stations north of Finsbury Park have letter boxes in differing locations. The one at Southgate was clearly for the former train guard’s use as it is towards the rear of the platforms.

Post box for the train guards of old days!
Southgate is the only station on the entire tube that has its own set of tunnels. Nowhere else on the tube are there any tunnels that are so short (Kensal Green, Burroughs tunnel, Stratford-Leyton, Leicester Square-Covent Garden eat your hearts out!) As soon as the train enters the tunnel from the north its just a couple of carriages or so before it arrives in Southgate station!

Daylight can be seen from the westbound platform at Southgate.

The lower hall at Southgate, in much the same style as every other station on the line – with certain exceptions.
Like Bounds Green, Southgate only has two escalators with a fixed central staircase, an economic measure. They used to have three operational escalators each as originally built. The escalators at Southgate here are the most northernmost set on London’s entire tube system.

Southgate’s escalators. Built in 1991, vintage style panelling was used to give them a historic look. The detail on these goes right down to the original maker’s stamp from the 1930s as shown below:

Both the top and bottom end of the escalators sport a Waygood Otis symbol.

1991 poster showing the old style new escalators to be built.
A clock is featured in the station however its one similar to the self-winding clocks seen on much of the tube system. The obligatory modern style clock without numerals (as used on the Cockfosters extension) is in fact on the wall of the bus station next door.

The windows with clock above the escalator bank.
The passimeter (the ticket office) is unusual because it sports a circular roof. This clearly complements the circular interior and the one solitary support that holds the entire roof up. Arnos Grove’s own passimeter has a somewhat similar appearance except its a specially designed one whereas Southgate’s is standard.

The ticket office’s passimeter and roof support.

Heritage information and TfL award plaque (2008)

The western exit with one of the light towers (or pylons) visible. Note also the old style ceiling light shades.
There were once three station entrances. The west and north sides remain. That on the east has been removed.

A view by the spot where one of the entrances has been removed. Note the blue panelling – this was specially created for the station and thus separates it from the rest of the station’s environs, including the bus station and shopping parades.
Southgate is the last station on the Cockfosters extension to use the blue colour used right across the tube system for the station name boards. Very unusually both Oakwood and Cockfosters use black colours. There doesn’t seem to be anything to explain why this change in house style occurs at these last two stations.

The southern light tower with the ‘tesla coil’ in background.
The station has two light towers (or pylons) the only other station left to have any is Oakwood with just one.

Southgate has a notable bus station and interchange, a rarity designed by Charles Holden. More of this later.
Was Southgate designed wholly by Charles Holden? Or one of his assistants? I ask this because one of his assistants, Charles Hutton, designed Arnos Grove station, a radical departure from the brick box with a concrete lid concept in employing a fully circular structure compared to the other stations on the new line. I would think somehow Charles Holden was so emboldened by Hutton’s circular design that he developed the concept much further at Southgate.
Next: Southgate 2: Bus station, parades, viaduct.

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