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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Gillespie Road Station was opened on December 15, 1906 as part of what was then, at nine miles long, the longest underground railway in London. In 1913, the Woolwich Arsenal club moved north of the river to their new Highbury Park stadium. Before long, the signage on the Gillespie Road station platforms was adapted to read "Alight here for Woolwich Arsenal Ground"

Nonetheless, the history suggests that until changes were made in 1932, Gillespie Road quickly came to be considered as a rather superfluous station. In his Piccadilly Line book*, Mike Horne relates that from late 1909, in an attempt to speed up peak hours services, "skip-stop trains" were introduced which alternately omitted Gillespie Road and three other Stations. Almost 20 years later, when the Piccadilly Line extension was being planned, rolling stock requirements were calculated on the assumption that Gillespie Road and six other stations would be closed as part of the drive to improve speeds. Amongst this number were York Road and Down Street and Brompton Road which were all closed. The others survived. Gillespie Road not inly survived, it was was improved.

After taking on the management of the football club in 1925 and achieving very successful seasons in 1930 and 1931, Club Manager Herbert Chapman pressed for the tube to be renamed 'Arsenal'. Whilst TfL archives contain no record of how he succeeded in his campaign, the timing was fortuitous since it came as the Piccadilly Line was being extended. It is interesting to note that station names on the new extension were somewhat in flux; Duckett's Green became Turnpike Lane and Lordship Lane, Wood Green. Not only did Chapman succeed in getting the station renamed, the huge increase of passengers using Gillespie Road station on match days led to the decision to improve the station infrastructure with the expansion of the street level facilities.

A newly enlarged station was renamed as 'Arsenal (Highbury Hill)' on October 31st 1932. Commenting on the renaming three days before the station opened, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported. "It is said to be the first time that a station, underground or other, has been named after a football club. It is also the first time that a railway company has transferred the name of a principal Government establishment (the Woolwich Arsenal) to a station seven or eight miles away in another county". The station remains the only tube station to have been named after a football club.

With the departure of Arsenal to its new Emirates stadium, there is currently a campaign to revert the station to its original name.

Advertisement from December 1906

Press photo portraying the change of name, published 5 November 1932

*Horne, Mike, The Piccadilly Tube: A history of the first 100 years. Capital Transport Publishing, 2007. Sadly Mr Horne's very thorough text doesn't cover the renaming or enlargement of Gillespie Road Station.

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Albums: Historical Images of Finsbury Park Town

Comment by Eileen Penn on October 27, 2023 at 8:51

Such a shame that they covered up this beautiful facade.......

Comment by Peter on October 28, 2023 at 8:44

Is it the station that is now called Arsenal?

Comment by Hugh on October 28, 2023 at 11:58

Hi Peter, Easy to miss, but did you notice the caption below the picture?

Comment by John Shulver on November 6, 2023 at 13:31

I wonder how the owners of those 2 neighbouring properties felt having that squeezed in between them ??  Can imagine their values were severely dented.    Were properties demolished to build that or was it a road down there ?

Comment by Hugh on November 6, 2023 at 18:04

Three houses were demolished. By the time of the 1955 OS map, the houses remaining either side were numbered 138 and 144, suggesting that only 140 and 142 were demolished, but a comparison with the 1895 OS Town Plan shows that three were definitely demolished. There were 32 houses in 1895 and 29 in 195. I assume there must have been a renumbering at some point.

Comment by Gordon T on November 6, 2023 at 19:33

Two houses were demolished for the original Leslie Green style 1904 station in the photograph (the only one-arch station of his I think (no 'infill' retail was possible unlike Holloway Road or Caledonian Road or many others).

Then one more, to the right, when the station was extended in the early 30's to deal with the much greater traffic on match days (an extra passage was excavated, not that that's visible).

Comment by Hugh on November 6, 2023 at 23:45

Thanks for filling in some detail, Gordon. I don't suppose you found out about the numbering jiggery-pokery?

Comment by Eileen Penn on November 7, 2023 at 9:55

Love the old tube map, look at those fares!!!

Comment by Hugh on November 7, 2023 at 10:24

The Measuring Worth website offers the following  for how much fourpence in 1932 is worth at today’s values. The answers from this website always frustrate me, because the range is so wide, but I can understand that a good answer to the question of converting values could never be a simple one:

If you want to compare the value of a £0 0s 4d Income or Wealth , in 1932 there are four choices. In 2021 the relative:

  • real wage or real wealth value of that income or wealth is £1.26
  • labour earnings of that income or wealth is £3.50
  • relative income value of that income or wealth is £6.34
  • relative output value of that income or wealth is £9.22
Comment by Eileen Penn on November 7, 2023 at 10:52

Wow!  I see what you mean about the wide range.....

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