The Twentieth Century Society has put forward for urgent spot listing Aldgate East Underground Station, including its entrances, ticket halls and platforms. A comprehensive refurbishment scheme is planned to start shortly and the Society has serious concerns that this might substantially diminish the character of this fine station, including the loss of original tiling.
London Underground has a poor track record with regard to the treatment of its historic stations, both listed and unlisted. Some stations of great architectural interest, including Charles Holden’s designs for the Piccadilly Line, such as Manor House, have been badly altered and lost some of their best elements. Most of the works have been carried out with little respect to the Underground’s architectural heritage. We are disappointed to learn that another interesting station is now under threat.
Aldgate East is a fine piece of 1930s design and an unusual example of construction and engineering. It is very well detailed overall. Many of its original elements have survived, including its tiling as well as furniture and fixings.
The entrances feature roundels that are understood to be unique, original bronze handrails and rare surviving signage. Even though the station does not have grand entrance buildings as such, the interior design of the four entrance areas and stairs leading down into the ticket halls is sophisticated, the curved walls successfully guiding the eye into the station. The north east entrance is integrated into the Grade II listed Passmore Edwards Library. The freestanding entrance structures on the west side are potentially threatened by redevelopment projects taking place in their immediate vicinity.
The ticket halls afford views over the platforms as they are open and located directly above the tracks. The original bronze clocks are still in place, supported by a slender column clad in glass mosaic.
The platforms show a number of remarkable and now rare elements; alcoves with integrated seating, vending alcoves, original tiling on walls and columns, and tiles designed by Harold Stabler featuring London transport symbols as well as London buildings and armorial bearings of the counties served by LPTB – Aldgate East being the station with probably the best, if incomplete set of Stabler tiles today.
The construction of Aldgate East Station was a major undertaking as the road running above it forms the roof of the station – the required engineering works were outstandingly difficult and were mastered with exceptional speed and skill.
After large scale refurbishment works at Swiss Cottage and St John’s Wood underground stations, Aldgate East is now unique with respect to its tiling and should be protected. We urge London Underground to await the listing decision and consult with the relevant heritage bodies over the scheme.
The Station opened in 1938 and was designed by the architects department of the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB), following guidelines drawn up by the practice of Adams, Holden and Pearson, with Charles Holden being the consultant architect at the time.
Cordula Zeidler, Caseworker, The Twentieth Century Society, 020 7250 3857, Cordula.zeidler(at)c20society.org.uk