Kingston’s Hidden Underground Station

The London Underground (also known as The Tube or The Underground) is the oldest underground railway in the world, the first section of which opened in 1863 on what are now the Circle & Hammersmith & City lines and part of the Metropolitan line. In 1890 it became the first to operate electric trains The whole network is commonly referred to by Londoners and in official publicity as the Tube, although that term originally applied only to the deep-level bored lines, along which run trains of a smaller and more circular cross-section, to distinguish them from the sub-surface “cut and cover” lines that were built first.

The earlier lines of the present London Underground network were built by various private companies. They became part of an integrated transport system in 1933 when the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) or London Transport was created.

In 1934 Ambitions plans to extend the network were produced including plans for the District Line to be extended to Kingston. After a Parliamentary act in early 1935 work began on the selected routes. Work in Kingston started shortly afterwards.

Around this time Bentalls was looking to relocate its Furniture Depository. 1936 was one of the most stimulating in Kingston's long history. Memories of the First World War were fading. The Great Depression of the late 20s and early 30s was over. To Kingston Council, it seemed the ideal time to embark on a new chapter that was bolder and more far-sighted than any that had gone before.

It involved altering most of the town beyond recognition to cater for the ever-increasing number of cars taking to the roads each month, and to ensure that Kingston continued to be Surrey's main shopping area. Many of these plans were put in motion. They included the widening of Wood Street (until then, only a few feet across); the replacement of Bristow's big building yard with modern shops and a new thoroughfare (Castle Street); the spanning of the famously picturesque "Watersplash", where the Hogsmill River crossed Brook Street, and alterations to parts of London Road and Clarence Street.

However, the factor that did most to launch 1936 in a mood of buoyant optimism was the announcement in January of that year that Bentalls had sold its large furniture depository in Canbury Park Road to the Hawker Company, and was about to replace it with a sumptuous new depository in Cromwell Road to be built over the new Underground and incorporating the station.

This was joyful news because Hawker, as Kingston's largest employer, was vital to the local economy. However, faced with massively increased orders from the Air Ministry and governments overseas, it had warned it might have to leave the Royal borough for larger premises elsewhere.

The new Bentall depository was the last great achievement by Leonard Bentall, the man who had trans-formed his family's drapery business into one of Europe's finest department stores.

He engaged Sir Aston Webb and Son, architects of Kingston Guildhall, to design a building that from the outside looked like a gleaming white Italian Renaissance palace, but inside boasted equipment that was years ahead of its time.

Unfortunately world events meant that the dream of an extended district line was shattered when budgets to London Transport were cut to be used elsewhere. The all but finished station and track were mothballed and closed and have rarely been viewed.

The Bentall Furniture depository became a local landmark and was much admired for its architecture.

But magnificent though it was - and is - by the 1980s it had outlived its purpose, and Bentalls were set to demolish it.

This sparked a public outcry, which resulted in the building winning permanent protection in 1989 as a listed monument of outstanding architectural merit.

Following discussions with the Historical London Underground Network the station will be opened for one morning as part of April’s ‘Love Your Tube’ month. To book please email. The Kingston Underground opening will be the launch to the month - open from 9.30am to noon on Tuesday 1st April.

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