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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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Interesting, looking at Google Maps the front entrance appears to being bricked up in mid-2008, and windows are open. Also interesting that there are no planning or building control records in the Council records...

Thanks, Eugene. I hadn't realised it had been bricked up that recently. 

I'm not trained in either architecture or the history of our built environment. So, I can't give a professional opinion as to how this building would be valued as a piece of our architectural heritage.

Given the eminence of the architect, I thought it worth putting in the hands of the experts. Accordingly, I have submitted a listing application to Historic England. They may see it as being of little value. Or, they may have detailed records that aren't available online which show that it is in fact included in the listing for the tube station. Either way, I didn't want a potentially listable building to be at risk because I couldn't be bothered to spend 15 minutes filling in a form. 

Here's a link to a sharper-resolution image of part of the control room, in which you can read what the plaques at the top of each equipment bank are. There's a human occupant too - wearing plus fours! It's a Getty Images picture, hence the link rather than pasting it here. My two books on the Piccadilly line fail to mention the substation.

It's rather like the control room at a BBC transmitting station in the 60s but we did have more comfortable chairs :-)

Well done on digging that one up, Gordon. Not surprised that the books failed to mention it. It seems to be par for the course: hence the title.

Your two books?

Barry Carpenter: Piccadilly Line Extension - The Diamond Anniversary; Piccadilly Line (East Area), 1992. A 32 page pamphlet, perhaps self-published, concentrating on the first decade of the extension.

Desmond Croome: The Piccadilly Line; Capital Transport, 1998. Mentions the Prince of Wales' visit in 1933 to Wood Green station and substation (which ties in with your photograph), but that's all it says, I missed the word first time round.

Thanks (when you wrote "my two books", I thought you meant you'd written two books!)

I'll leave that to you Hugh - but then I reckon you've written quite a few books worth by now, just not in that physical format!

Love the art-deco design and practicality of the ceiling lamp. The room rather reminds me of the test desk section of a Strowger telephone exchange. I suspect that the handles on the desk are for ringing other controllers up or down the line, the telephones themselves have blank plates instead of dials.

Really fascinating.  Thanks everyone.

While we’re on the topic, does anyone know what the large TfL building on Woodberry Grove (North) is? It has close proximity to Manor House tube but the building itself and its surroundings are very mysterious and anonymous…



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