Highbury and Islington station could soon be better a new additional entrance, if plans to redevelop a long empty site owned by TfL go ahead. Or more accurately, an entrance that was in use until the 1960s could be brought back into use once again.

To explain how the station ended up with a disused entrance, it’s worth looking back at a slightly complex history about the area.

The site of the current station was originally opened as a grand impressive building in 1850 for what is today the London Overground line.

Sadly that was torn down in the 1960s when the Victoria line was dug and the current rather utilitarian structure erected. However, there’s a third railway at the station, the Northern City line out of Moorgate, and that opened a totally separate station on the other side of the road in 1904.

When the Victoria line opened in 1968, they closed the Northern City line entrance, and it’s been closed ever since.

But it’s not unused — for it houses signalling equipment for the Victoria line which was added by Metronet as part of the upgrade for the new generation of tube trains in 2007.

As revealed in TfL’s papers, they are now working with Murphy Group for a revamp of the disused entrance to create a new ticket hall with lifts to the Victoria and Northern City lines.

The addition of lifts would make the station fully accessible – at the moment accessibility is only available to the London Overground lines, not the two deep tunnel services.

However, the Islington Gazette reports that details about the redevelopment plans themselves are scant.

A small image of the proposed redevelopment suggests that the existing disused entrance would be incorporated into a wider redevelopment, with the new ticket hall being built beside it, in the site currently occupied by The Garage nightclub.

A final thought that may affect the redevelopment is that the station is currently split between two operators, TfL (Overground and Victoria line) and Govia Thameslink Railway operating the Northern City line.

The recent Gibbs Report into Southern Rail suggested that there may be an option to transfer the Northern Metro option to TfL — which would result in the station having one management, and that would usually smooth the process of any redevelopment.


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  1. Chris M says:

    The demolition of the old NLL building at Highbury is up there with the worst of the architectural vandalism that decade wrought.

    • Dan says:

      Google image search seem to show that the original station was very heavily damaged due to bombing during the war and remained a pale shell of its former self with many of its gothic features removed, including one of the turret features, presumably as they had been damaged beyond repair. The demolition in the 60’s was pretty justified at the time I think, they’d never have poured the money into restoring that much of it.

    • BlissedOut says:

      It does pretty sad post WW2 in these 2 shots https://www.flickr.com/photos/36959568@N02/8058030195

    • steve says:

      I suspect the demolition was a precursor of the construction of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Cross_Route to allow a flyover across Highbury Corner. Likewise, Canonbury station was demolished and replaced with a low rise building.

    • george says:

      I weep for the old NLL station, but there’s a memorial plaque opposite to the victims of the V1 that wrecked it.

  2. I use Highbury and Islington several times a week as I live just down the road.

    At times it is a nightmare.

    The development is logical, as TfL and Islington Council are sorting out the road and pedestrian network, which will ease getting to the current station.

    The Great Northern Metro should go to TfL, especially as it is going to get new trains and a much-increased frequency, with a step-free link to Crossrail at Moorgate.

    If this station is not updated with a second entrance, all the new passengers using it as an interchange are going to make it one of the busest stations on the Underground.

    It is a monument to the blinkered thinking thinking and penny-pinching, that turned London Transport’s vision of a well-designed line into a half-cocked project.

    But at least they must have got some things right, as Dear Old Vicky keeps on giving.

    • QRB says:

      The Northern City line should’ve gone to TfL before the stock was ordered. The ones in build now aren’t really fit for purpose on a Metro route like this – need something more like the Crossrail trains

  3. ap says:

    Look carefully next time you use Highbury & Islington and you will see a small slice of the original North London building, I think just to the left of the current entrance.

  4. Colin Mansell says:

    Firstly, thank you for your excellent weekly digest which I always look forward to. As a founder member of the North London Railway Historical Society, may I take the opportunity to put the record straight on the illustration of Highbury & Islington station, which was not the original station and was in fact opened in 1871.

    Islington station was indeed opened in 1850 for the then East and West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway, which thankfully became the North London Railway in 1853. The NLR went from strength to strength, opening the City Extension to Broad Street in 1865 and then embarking upon a widening scheme, incorporating six grand new stations in Italianate style.

    The architect chosen to design these stations was the very talented Edwin Henry Horne, then only in his early twenties. The stations were Bow, Hackney, Barnsbury, Canonbury, Camden Road and Highbury & Islington. The latter was the last to open and was the largest and grandest of Horne’s stations. It was built on the site of the original station, of which there are no known images, unfortunately. Horne developed his Italianate style and incorporated Victorian Gothic features and an impressive Mansard Roof with four clock towers. It incorporated a north wing containing shops and a south wing which was the Cock Tavern.

    The station did suffer from bomb damage in WW2 but it was the neglect by BR in the following twenty years that sealed its fate. That neglect extended to all the stations on the line as well as the services themselves.

    We are fortunate to still be able to admire Horne’s station designs, in that Camden Road still exists, operated by London Overground and the only one still in use as a station; Hackney also still stands and is in use as a restaurant and music venue.

    Anyone wishing to learn more about the North London Railway can visit the website at http://www.nlrhs.org.uk

  5. Richard Dowden says:

    Thank you Colin Mansell for the historical details. Very interesting. It is good news that the back entrance onto Highbury Fields could now be reopened. I was told that the electric engines that drive the escalators are in the lift shafts. Is this true? Could they be moved?

    Most important of all how can we contribute to a discussion about a new imaginative design for the main station and indeed the reconfiguration of Highbury Corner that at least contains echoes of its Victorian past?

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