viclinenewfi - The Victoria Line at Green Park

Green Park tube station is unusual that it has had two lots of Royal openings! The first was for the Victoria Line in 1969 and the second almost exactly ten years later for the Jubilee Line. No surprise when some of the station’s most important neighbours (well just across the park itself actually) happens to be those at Buckingham Palace. As we will see later it was their presence that dictated the course of the Victoria Line between here and Victoria – that and the Royal opening are covered in another post.

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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. Its very hard to find anything that shows the works at Green Park – and some of my readers might think I’ve suddenly dedicated this page as a homage to the Rolling Stones, but its not that!

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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. And its thanks to photographs such as this we can see exactly where the works for the new tube was sited.

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.

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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

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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.

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. Source: 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

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

Green Park motifs are not original the ones created by Unger had a light green background (presumably to represent the grass among the trees) the current has a white background – which I think is TfL’s own interpretation of Unger’s work, denoting the view of Green park from above is one of a parched land dotted by a few occasional surviving trees – eg a dry and arid world caused by global warming.

The Dover Street air shaft

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.

The ventilation link from the Victoria line to the Dover Street shaft is from Berkeley Street. The Dover Street ventilation shaft, because of its distance from the line’s actual running tunnels, is therefore not really a mid point air shaft like most others on the Victoria Line.

It ultimately means is instead of having a proper mid-point air shaft the line from a point south of Warren Street to a point north of Victoria section is essentially served by two sets of shafts within the station areas at Green Park and Oxford Circus – 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. That at Dover Street isnt shown, probably because its not on a public accessible part of the station. Source: Axonomy

When the Jubilee Line was built an addition an additional air shaft for this was built near Dover Street but on the south side of Piccadilly instead between Park Place and Blue Ball Yard. This shaft, marked ‘F’ on the above diagram, facilitates the Jubilee Line.

Next: The section from Green Park to Victoria.

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