South Ealing Station
By Paul Fitzmaurice, 12 April 2012
When waiting at South Ealing station do you sometimes wonder why it is so close to Northfields station? In fact at less than 300 yards between platforms they are the two closest over-ground stations on the whole tube network. How this came to be is a rather familiar tale of the resultant compromise between bureaucratic bungling and local protests.
South Ealing station first opened in 1883 when the Metropolitan District line was built from Acton to Hounslow. At that time there was no stop at Northfields and the trains’ next stop would be Boston Road (now Boston Manor). The Northfields district then was just a rather muddy lane passing through market gardens and it was not until 1908 that a small halt was built at Northfields to serve what had become a rapidly growing residential area. This station was on the other side of the road bridge from where it is now with platforms facing westwards so there was more of a distance between the two stations.
The coming of the Piccadilly line in 1932 was a very major undertaking involving additional tracks adjacent to the District Line with the consequent rebuilding of road bridges and stations. In particular the building of the train depot immediately west of Northfields necessitated the station platforms being moved so they faced towards South Ealing.
No one in planning the stations had seemed to be too concerned that the two stations were so close until in 1930 the Underground senior management paid a site visit and were dismayed to see what had happened. They therefore proposed that South Ealing station should be closed and a new station built nearer Acton where the Ascott Avenue road bridge is and which could serve the newly built council estate south of the railway. Local residents and in particular the South Ealing Road shopkeepers were very upset at this proposal. To pacify people London Underground built a nearer entrance to Northfields station in Weymouth Avenue - a rather curious affair with a ticket office and a long elevated walkway to the Northfields platforms, part of the remains of which can still be seen today.
In the meantime the original South Ealing station had been demolished to enable the widening of the tracks and a temporary station entrance had been built on the opposite south side of the railway line. Because of funding difficulties building the new station had to be put into abeyance. When London Underground in 1935 conducted a survey they found that most people preferred their station to be nearer where they shopped than where they lived. In addition far more passengers were now found to be using South Ealing because Brentford FC had been promoted to the first division of the football league – halcyon days!
With the war intervening, the temporary station took on the status of a permanent station. The photo shows the station in the 1950s and will no doubt familiar to most of us as it wasn’t until 1988 that a ‘proper’ permanent station was built - back on the other side of the line where the 1883 station originally stood. South Ealing had never had a Charles Holden designed station like the other 1930s Piccadilly Line stations which are now listed and considered classics of modern design. However, as if in acknowledgment of this the new station is brick built with a small Holden style tower.