Celebrating 90 years of an iconic station

Jane Maggs from Southgate District Civic Voice on what makes the area’s tube station so special

Southgate Station as it looked soon after its opening in 1933
Southgate Station as it looked soon after its opening in 1933 (credit Southgate District Civic Voice archive)

On 13th March 1933, Southgate Station finally opened to passengers.

For the people who had watched it taking shape, it seemed like an extra-terrestrial craft had arrived to transform the small village of Southgate, which was even then still surrounded by fields, woods and farmland.

The Piccadilly Line originally terminated at Finsbury Park, but it soon became clear this was a mistake. The campaign to extend the line gathered pace after the First World War, until finally in December 1929 plans were submitted and, in 1930, work began.

The stations on the Piccadilly Line extension – including Arnos Grove, Oakwood and Cockfosters – were commissioned by Frank Pick and designed by Charles Holden. Together they promoted functional modernism for the new station designs, taking advantage of newly available materials.

Our station is built in the Streamline Moderne style using brick, reinforced concrete and glass. The circular building has a flat, projecting concrete roof and a raised central section that gives the illusion it is supported by the horizontal band of windows. The whole building is topped by a Tesla ball, set to be restored to its original gold in 2024.

In their planning, Pick and Holden carefully considered the activities taking place around stations in order to influence their urban design. As a result, at Southgate where the site was large enough, a bus lay-by wraps around the station. Travellers could quickly transition between modes of transport, and the station became a focal point in the town. As a further benefit to travellers, shop units were included.

As an echo of the cylindrical forms, it was proposed to include a small, round florist’s kiosk on the south-east lawn (corner of Crown Lane and High Street), which would be converted to a plant nursery and seating area, complete with sculpture. Sadly, this enhancement to the original plans never transpired.

Southgate Station is Grade 2*-listed, having retained many of its original features. This makes it special, as one of only five at this grade out of 272 stations on the underground network.

According to Enfield Gazette on 17th March, 1933: “The first passenger train left Enfield West [now Oakwood] at 5.40am and carried about eight passengers, while another half-dozen or so joined the train at Southgate Station.”

After travelling to Piccadilly Circus, the Gazette reporter returned to Southgate in time for breakfast! They wrote that the underground trains were the fastest in the world, averaging 25 miles-per-hour. The service initially provided 131 trains each weekday, with 98 on Sundays.

The coming of the tube made Southgate fully accessible, and the developers started moving in to complete its final transformation from village to suburb. The housebuilding started slowly, but by 1934 planning applications were being submitted and about 750 houses were due for completion by May 1935. This was just the beginning of Southgate’s transformation over the next 90 years.

So, what next for Southgate? The day the line opened passed quietly (apart from the intrepid Gazette reporter), so 90 years later Southgate District Civic Voice (SDCV) has teamed up with Transport for London and Enfield Council to mark the occasion.

On Sunday, 12th March, come along at 2.30pm to sing ‘happy birthday’ and ride on a vintage bus, investigate the station’s darker reaches and eat some cake!

A range of events to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Southgate Station are being held on Sunday 12th March. For more information:

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