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The Dame,the Financier and the station that never was

I already knew of one of the protagonists of this story, but not the other and only recently learnt how their opposing views created an anomaly on the London Underground system. Let me start by introducing them.

Dame Henrietta Octavia Weston Barnett, was an English social reformer, educationist, and author. She and her husband, Samuel Augustus Barnett worked to establish the model Hampstead Garden Suburb in the early 20th century. In 1889 the activist couple acquired a weekend home at Spaniard's End in the Hampstead area of north-west London. The Barnetts became inspired by Ebenezer Howard and the model housing development movement. Henrietta had a vision of a garden community where all classes could live together in a light and airy environment, with beautifully designed housing and gardens, as well as protecting part of nearby Hampstead Heath which was owned by Eton College. As to why it needed protecting will follow shortly.

Charles Tyson Yerkes Jr. was an American financier. He played a part in developing mass-transit systems in Chicago and London. His modus operandi which he perfected in Chicago was to develop a transportation system, buy the land surrounding it's stations, build houses catering for the middle and upper classes and then encourage those residents to use his transportation system to travel into the city. In essence he would benefit from the sale of the properties and also the sale of season tickets to the regular commuters. However, he established himself as a bit rouge and his business methods were at times questionable. Having played a large part in financing the Chicago transport system he got wind of the fact that many licenses had been granted for rail systems in London, but the vast percentage had not been built through lack of finance. In 1900 he came to London on a fact finding tour and during a visit to the small village of Hampstead, which put him on a collision course with Dame Henrietta.

The third player in the story is the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway (CCE&HR) which by 1893 had developed a route between Charing Cross and Hampstead, but through lack of investment were not able to expand the network and were likely to loose the licenses granted to them if work was not started.

Through some very complex financial wheeling and dealing Yerkes established the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (UERCL) which took control of the CCE&HR and several other companies with the same problem of under investment. Obviously the development of the inner city areas would benefit Yerkes company with increased passenger numbers, but it appears that he was aiming for bigger things in the suburbs, his blueprint for developing residential areas that would also benefit his passenger numbers. During his visit to Hampstead and surrounding areas he concocted the plan to extend the CCE&HR by a further two stations northward. He identified two areas for these stations Golders Green

which at the time was no more than a collection of small houses with a population of around three hundred and North End

a very rural location sitting on the fringes of Hampstead Heath between Hampstead and Golders Green. The land was owned by Eton College and the area as outlined earlier was beginning to be populated by people with the same vision as Dame Henrietta, that of creating a garden suburb with model housing for all the classes.

On instructions from Yerkes the UERCL began test tunneling at Hampstead while the permissions and parliamentary bills were granted for the proposed extensions. The main tunneling started in 1903. The new stretch of line would sit some two hundred feet below the surface and emerge into the open just before Golders Green station. Surface buildings, design by Lesley Green were built on the two sites, but of the two North End was more modest in appearance.

So far, so good as far as the UERCL was concerned, but remember Yerkes wanted to develop the areas surrounding the stations with housing to increase passenger numbers. It appears that he had little trouble obtaining land around Golders Green and work started within a year of the tunnel extension.

North End however was a different matter. There had been opposition to the extension from the outset by Hampstead Council on environmental grounds, relating to the impact on trees growing on the heath, but these were allayed due to the depth of the extension and so the opposition was dropped. Hampstead Council and by the time the work had started the committee set up by Dame Henrietta to oversee the extension of Hampstead Heath in the area of North End eventually welcomed North End station as it would make access to the Heath easier for those wishing to use it. However when it emerged that Yerkes had approached Eton College with a view to buying the land for development, Dame Henrietta started to flex her political and social muscles.

It appears that Yerkes was making progress with Eton College regarding the sale of the Land around North End. There had been slight decent in the beginning when the development of houses was first broached, but Yerkes seems to have assuaged any fears by upping his offer and as 1904 dawned things looked like they were going to reach a successful conclusion. With tunneling progressing with no major problems the construction of North End station started. To highlight how quickly Yerkes wished to complete the transport project, probably with a view to developing the land, it was decided to build the station using the existing tunnel to bring building materials to the site, rather than the time consuming method of digging access shafts from the surface.

By the middle of the year the pedestrian tunnels and bridges were complete and Yerkes moved in to conclude the deal with Eton College. Unfortunately his reaction was never recorded as the college politely informed him that they had decided to terminate negotiations and had agreed a sale of the land to another buyer, lets just imagine that he was extremely cross.

While UERCL had been beavering away below the surface of North End Dame Henrietta was doing the same on the ground above their heads, staging several visits with the political and financial movers and shakers of the time. During these meetings she persuaded several people who had enough clout to put pressure on the gentleman from Eton to sever ties with the American developer.

It's a bit unclear who actually bought the land. Dame Henrietta may have bought it, she certainly went on to buy further parcels of land, which went on to become Hampstead Garden Suburbs, but as far as North End was concerned it could have been the Hampstead Heath Protection Fund Committee or a joint venture between the two.

By the time the news reached Yerkes the first of the surface access tunnels which was later to house the lift system were on the verge of commencing. Once all the toys had vacated the pram Yerkes called a halt to any further construction on the site and efforts were redoubled to finish the extension to Golders Green where development had already begun on the nearest housing estates.

And so North End station sat there as work was completed on the full extension and the first trains ran on the 22nd June 1907, running through the abandoned station. The platforms were never completed and only the lower passageways remained.. During the Second World War these were used to store secret archives with access only available from the cabs of passing service trains.

During the Cold War a shaft was dug down to the lower passageways and the abandoned station became part of the London Underground's civil defence preparations. As the tunnels were the deepest in the network it was an ideal site. The role of the control centre was to manage the emergency floodgates placed throughout the tube network at the start of the Second World War. During this period, the building at the top was disguised as an electricity substation through the appropriate signage.

The exits from the platform tunnels are now marked as emergency evacuation routes from the Underground system, and its function is now publicly acknowledged.

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