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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Wood Green TfL substation, (Image: Google Maps)

In the early 1930s, as part of the Piccadilly Line extension, numbers 216 - 230 High Road in Wood Green were demolished to make way for a London Transport electricity substation to feed electricity into the tube line.

Before the 1930s, numbers 216 to 230 were shop-houses continuing the terrace that still stands today.

226-230 High Street, c1929. I assume from, the notice in Domestic Bazaar that this was shortly before demolition. (See next image showing that they were still trading in 1929).

Here is the Kelly Directories listing for 1929.

The substation, built across the sites of 216 - 226, was designed by renowned tube architect, Charles Holden. When it was built its equipment was of the most technically advanced type.

Control room in Wood Green substation, 1932 (Images : Transport for London)

HRH The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) posing in front of some machinery at Wood Green substation, 1933

I'm not completely clear on the current status of the building. Some of the original equipment is now on display in the London Transport Museum. I do not know how much of the original equipment, if anything, remains inside.  Apparently, the building is still in use as a traction substation serving the section of the line between Wood Green and Arnos Grove.

In fact, any information about the building is hard to come by. It's not labelled on any map (something I've just tried to rectify by adding it to to Open Street & Google Maps: though I think without success. I was hindered in OSM by being unable to allocate a category and Google just wouldn't let me save it as a new place). Neither can you find anything on the internet, bar a mention in a 2013 book about lost power stations. So it's all a bit of a mystery.

The tube station is a Grade II listed building. But the substation isn't referred to at any point in the listing. So I assume that it's not included. This most likely means that, for better or worse it's unprotected. 

Does anyone know anthing about its history or current/future use?

Late Edit (14 Nov 2021)

Just happened to notice this photo of a Bovril display in Farrants at number 226, c1905.

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I take it you mean this one. When I was digging round the other day, I learned that the tube lines are split into 'traction current sections'. Substations feed current to the rails for each section. The substation at Wood Green serves the section up to Arnos Grove. Apparently, the next section going south terminates at Manor House. So, I think there might be a traction substation there too. (I know, far more than I wanted to know too!).

I suppose the building you're asking about may well be that Manor House traction substation. The 1952 OS Map confirms that it's some sort of substation, but it doesn't say what type.

Makes sense!

A total guess, would be that this one is for the Victoria Line ? because Wodbury Down "ventilation?" looks like a 1960's building. There is a definate Piccadilly Line surface ventilation building Green Lanes/Colina Road now surrounded by other construction work. Finally I remember someone telling me about a large London Transport "Club & Bar" at Wood Green inside the station. Could this be the same building ? and is it linked to the public station somehow ?

Another Tube substation


Looks more elegant than Wood Green!

Thanks Ken. It looks ike some of the design may have been sacrificed in the execution. The drawing suggests a strip of windows at the top. But that doesn't appear to have been built, nor, judging from the available evidence, does the stepped appearance to the face of the building. 

A 1952 picture from Britain from Above suggest that little has changed since it was built. (Compare with Google bird's-eye view).

Here's another picture from Britain from Above showing Manor House at around the time the old pub was pulled down for the construction of the tube. A Victorian terrace still sits on the site of the substation.

Historic England agree with you, Ken.

We have now carefully considered the contents of your application. Unfortunately, the current circumstances of Wood Green Underground Traction Sub Station do not fall into any of the three categories used by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to prioritise designation resources on those sites that are most in need of protection. Those categories are:

  1. Threat: any candidate for designation demonstrably under serious threat of demolition or major alteration
  2. Strategic Priority: any candidate for designation of a type that is a strategic designation priority under the Historic England Action Plan, Historic England’s programme of strategic work. You can find a list of this year’s projects on our website
  3. Evident Significance: any building or site that possesses evident significance that makes it obviously worthy of inclusion on the National Heritage List for England

Historic England is therefore currently unable to take your application further. Should the situation change, particularly with regard to any specific threat to the building, you could submit a new application in the future.

There are other approaches to the protection of this building that you can take. Your local authority can advise you on the local designation options available, and you may wish to speak to your local Historic Environment Records Officer or conservation group for advice on such matters. Please click on the link below to download our 'Frequently Asked Questions' document for further information:

Please consult our website for more information at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation


Ta for letting me know, [ invents an emoticon for modest but smug, self-satisfied grin!]

I don't think the Wood Green substation merits listing, unless because of surviving interior design - but given that the original manual switching has long been replaced by automated/remotely controlled kit, all that would be left might be a few fancy bits of decor in a publically inaccessible structure. Better to remove a representative sample and reconstruct at the museum.  

This clumsy, incongruous building is no credit to the brilliance of Holden just down the road and elsewhere. Probably delegated the design to a work experience kid ;-)   

As a nipper I lived from 1942 until 1955 in Woodberry Grove, almost exactly across the road from the ‘tube’ sub-station.

We often saw the large doors opened and enormous transformers and other equipment being removed and installed. When the doors were opened there was a mysterious eerie violet glow, my dad, an electrician, told me it was from the mercury-arc rectifiers, which I could get a glimpse of occasionally.

All very exciting.

There is a large ventilation shaft at the rear of the building.

I see that the whole area has now had added perimeter fencing and security.

Next door 10 Woodberry Grove was (maybe still is?) owned by London Transport. My friends Chris lived there and also my parents friends, Jock and wife Jenny. Jock worked for LT and was a bus painter.

Thanks, Roy. Did the doors face the street, or were they on the west face of the building as the drawing at RIBA has them?

Good morning, Hugh, the equipment loading doors were facing the road. Though I think there may also have been a door(s) on the west side.

We used to get over the railings and before the area was concreted, as it is now, an ‘hang about’ – the area was very overgrown around the ventilation shaft.

I remember a lot of scattered junk around, possibly parts from refrigeration units from adjoining small factories.

Looking at Google Earth and using the Timeline option gives a good idea of the expansion of the facility.

Thanks Roy. The 2008 version of Street View makes it very clear where the doors were and you can see the addition to the eastern side. It also suggests that there probably wasn't a large opening on the west face.



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