viclinenewfi - The Victoria Line at Green Park

Green Park tube station is unusual that it has had two lots of Royal openings! The first – and possibly the more famous – was that for the Victoria Line in 1969. The second Royal event occurred almost exactly ten years later for the Jubilee Line. No surprise when some of the station’s most important neighbours (actually just across the park itself) happens to be those resident at Buckingham Palace or the other associated Royal residences nearby. As we will see later it was the presence of Buckingham Palace that dictated the eventual course of the Victoria Line towards its original southern terminus – but more of that later…

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The Queen arrives at Green Park station for her cab ride to Oxford Circus on 7th March 1969. Source: Twitter

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The Queen on a Victoria Line train for her cab ride to Oxford Circus. Source: Twitter

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Prince Charles at Green Park in 1979 for the opening of the Jubilee Line. Source: Independent

Problems with the building of the Victoria Line at Green Park

The station had previously been served only by the Piccadilly Line (and it in itself too was an upgrade for that line because the previous station at Dover Street was closed in favour of a better sited one at Green Park. Clearly an expensive upgrade was needed to accommodate the new Victoria Line and some of the work was achieved using the old Dover Street facility. But first in order to properly build the new line at Green Park, a main construction shaft was placed in the park itself just south of Piccadilly. This would be about where the present fountain is at the top end of the ramp from the lower station entrance directly into the park.

This section of the Victoria Line was a little bit of a problem because the palace happened to be the mid-way point between Green Park and Victoria, which meant no-one could really build right within full view of the palace itself. As a result, this section between Green Park and Palace Street, Victoria, turned out to be the longest tunnelled stretch on the Victoria Line within the central London area inside the Circle Line.

Its also of course the reason the Victoria Line takes a long curve round the east side of the Palace rather than directly underneath it. It seems the new line could in fact have gone directly underneath the palace, but it was said engineers were mindful of the possible vibrations that could be caused and as a result be felt inside the palace itself! They opted for the detour instead. As we will see even that was foiled because they had to establish a construction site almost right in front of the palace!

There are very few pictures depicting construction at Green Park and even less so for the surface works. Some of my readers might think I’ve suddenly dedicated this page as a homage to the Rolling Stones, but its not that! Rather its the fact their publicity shots indeed shows the exact location the main works at Green Park were sited.

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The Stone sat Green Park during a photo-shoot. The Victoria Line’s working shaft is behind those hoardings! Source: Eclectic Vibes

The image above does show the famous rock band in their early days during a publicity shoot in the park – but what is important is the hoardings surrounding the working shaft in Green Park itself for the Victoria Line can be seen in the background. Its thanks to photographs such as this we can see exactly where the works for the new tube was located and how far south from Piccadilly this works site actually extended.

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Another view of the Green Park tube site courtesy of the Stones! Clearly the hoardings extended almost to the east side of the park. Source: Twitter

One of the biggest problems with the construction of the Victoria Line south of the station was water. An unexpected large body of water bearing gravel was encountered in August 1964. On the 17th August the tunnels collapsed and the tunnelling shield and partially built tunnels were both flooded and filled with gravel as a result. Seven men working here fortunately escaped with their lives.

Green Park was closed in the immediate vicinity due to fears of subsidence. Much extra work had to be undertaken to dig the tunnels out, remove the gravel and repair the tunnelling shield and its associated equipment before the work could recommence. What it resulted in was an emergency works shaft (a makeshift hole rather) had to be dug in view of the palace (which we must remember was something the planners/contractors had originally not wanted to do.)

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An emergency shaft was built just 300 metres from the north east corner of Buckingham Palace and part of the running tunnels had to be dismantled to get to the stricken tunnel shield. Source: You Tube

From analysis of the details and maps the collapse took place about here as viewed on Google Streets and it explains why there is a much younger tree at this point compared to the others nearby.

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Despite the intent not to work within sight of the palace the flooding of the tunnels in 1964 forced the contractors to drill test boreholes to ascertain the extent of this water. Some of the Queens’ soldiers can be seen riding by in the distance! Source: You Tube

In conjunction with this emergency work several boreholes were drilled around the perimeter of Buckingham Palace (despite the intention no work would take place in front of it) in order to ascertain the extent of the water based gravel and what the line’s engineers would expect when they recommenced their progress.

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The tunnelling shield in Green Park station after having worked its way from Oxford Circus. It would continue to Victoria and its likely this which got caught up in the Green Park tunnel collapse: London’s Underground: The Story of the Tube

As well as the tunnel collapse, Green park was also the scene of a fire on 6 May 1965. It was caused by welding in the tunnels that set ablaze some timbering used to shore the works. Its said the timber had been creosoted and this made them considerably more flammable. More than ninety workers had to be evacuated.

This video describes the fire that took place at Green Park in 1965. I think 1966 must be a mistake. It does however show the entrance to the construction shaft and there are glimpses of the perimeter fencing that can be seen in the Stones’ publicity image above.

The next image shows Green Park’s ticket hall. Its possible this p[picture was taken just after the Jubilee Line had opened as Bond Street is listed on the machines. The ticket hall space is totally different now it has been enlarged. Clearly the three lines had their own set of ticket barriers (although there was probably space enough at the rear for passengers to attain the other lines if a mistake was made for example.)

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The Victoria Line ticket hall and barriers at Green Park, just ten years after the line opened. Note the old style automatic barriers! Source: Flickr

In terms of the station itself, the Green Park motifs are not the originals created by Unger – these had a light green background (presumably to represent the grass among the trees.) The current motifs have a white background – which I think is TfL’s own interpretation of Unger’s work. This denotes the view of Green Park from above as a parched piece of parkland dotted by a few occasional surviving trees – eg a dry and arid world caused by global warming.

Some of us will of course prefer the older Victoria Line backlit roundels. The only station to have any these days is Pimlico, but judging from this picture Green park had its backlit roundels until about fifteen years or so ago.

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Green Park station’s backlit tube roundel signs were still in use until about 2007. Source: Wikipedia

The Dover Street air shaft

There’s also another side to this story of how Dover Street station became Green Park station, and that is how the former station actually constitutes an important part of the Victoria Line.

A lot of people will no doubt understand that the Piccadilly Line once had a tube station at Dover Street and this was replaced by a new one at Green Park. Well that’s not quite true. The old Dover Street station is still in use – as Green Park station! The access to the station was reversed to the west side of the original station and that entailed the construction of a new escalator shaft which now connects to the main Jubilee/Piccadilly/Victoria ticket hall. This explains why the Piccadilly platforms are a distance eastwards towards Piccadilly Circus and why there is a long walk if one takes the interconnecting corridor from either the Jubilee or the Victoria Line to the Piccadilly.

What the changes to the old Dover Street station however meant was there was a far better station site that could be expanded quite easily, and the Victoria Line took advantage of this followed by the Jubilee Line, and the fact Green Park stood to the south side of the newer station site also helped in terms of the construction of both lines.

In terms of air shafts along this section, these were provided at Great Titchfield Street, Oxford Circus and in Victoria. In terms of an intermediate point between Oxford Circus and Victoria the station at Dover Street was utilised. It may however come as a surprise to some that the old Dover Street station is still in use – as Green Park station! It explains why the Piccadilly platforms are a distance eastwards towards Piccadilly Circus, and why there is a long walk if one takes the interconnecting corridor from the Jubilee to the Piccadilly.

The reason for the switch round was to provide a better facility at the new Green Park station which opened in 1933, including escalators. The station at Dover Street only had lifts to access the platforms. These continued to be used as air shafts for the Piccadilly and later the Victoria and Jubilee Lines.

Although the Dover Street facility is some distance away from the Victoria Line, it was near enough for an arrangement of connecting tunnels to be built from the Victoria Line to the old lift shafts to create an intermediate ventilation point here. This was the best arrangement rather than construct an entirely new shaft at Green park. Similarly additional air ventilation was provided at Oxford Circus using the old Bakerloo lift shafts.

However the ventilation link from the Victoria line to the Dover Street shaft is actually from Berkeley Street which is somewhat nearer to Dover Street than Green Park station. Unlike the other ventilation shafts which sit above the actual course of the Victoria Line itself, the Dover Street shaft is not really a mid point air shaft. What it ultimately means is instead of having a proper mid-point air shaft the Oxford Circus-Green Park section is unusually served by two sets of ventilation shafts at either end of this section rather than having a dedicated mid way point shaft.

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Axonometric of Green Park tube station, showing the air shaft for the Jubilee (marked F) which is also doubles as an emergency access point. That at Dover Street isn’t shown, probably because its not on a public accessible part of the station. Source: Axonomy

The Jubilee Line’s ventilation shaft was in fact built near the old Dover Street station but instead sited on the south side of Piccadilly instead between Park Place and Blue Ball Yard.

Next: Green Park to Victoria


The Victoria Line’s construction Euston to Victoria – other posts in the series:

A Victoria Line station’s belated 50th anniversary

Euston’s arch was demolished for a tube station!

Construction of Oxford Circus station 1962-69

Construction Of Oxford Circus Station 1962-69 #2

The Victoria Line at Green Park


This post was updated September 2020.

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