Bull & Bush (originally to be named North End, but more recently given the nickname Bull & Bush by London Underground Staff) is unique on this site in having the distinction of being a closed Underground station that never even opened! Originally planned to be the deepest station on the whole Underground network at 200 feet below ground level, problems with planning due to the proposed surface station being built in a conserved area and the fact that the surface level wasn't highly populated meant that the station was abandoned effectively before it was even built.
Relative depth of Bull & Bush's location
Looking out of the train window between Hampstead & Golders Green, it can be seen that little building work has been done apart from the widening of the tube tunnel. There appears to be a partially built south bound platform and no cladding on the walls. Some subsurface tunnels were built before work was abandoned and if you look really carefully, a staircase can be seen leading up from the "platform" area.
The Old Bull And Bush, the pub which derived the station's unofficial name
The station's nickname is derived from The Old Bull And Bush pub, located a quarter of a mile away from the location's surface entrance. This is the same Bull and Bush, popularised in a music hall song of the 1920s called "Down at the Old Bull and Bush" sung by Florrie Forde.
Bull & Bush has had its uses over the years; during the 1950s, it was rumoured to be London Transport's potential emergency headquarters in the event of a nuclear detonation in or near London and at around this time, access to the station from the surface in the form of a spiral staircase was finally provided. Later, it is believed to have become one of the control centres for the Underground's floodgate system, which could be triggered to operate in the event of a tunnel breach under the Thames. If there were a breach at City (the deepest section of the Central Line), it would take 4 minutes for un-stopped water to reach Holborn...
The location again saw action when an experimental sound reducing tunnel lining installed along the south bound running tunnel had to be removed as it was made from asbestos!
Signs on the gate and on the building's door indicate that the site is also a designated emergency exit point for the Underground network.
Surface building, located on the corner of North End and Wildwood Terrace
Site Visit - April 2002As mentioned previously, Bull & Bush was never completed and never had a surface building or access until the 1950s, so when I approached the white blockhouse building that now serves as the entrance, it didn't feel I was entering anything to do with the Underground!
Having opened the door, we trooped into the rather bland looking interior and attempted to close the door. I say "attempt" - I rather foolishly just pulled the door closed and started to walk away. Within seconds, a train could be heard passing on the tracks below us and with this the door was flung open with the incredible pressure of the draft from below (my ears popped with the sudden pressure differential)! Although two of us attempted to close the door, we had to wait until the draft subsided before we were eventually able to close it!
Entering Bull & Bush
After the door was firmly secured, we found ourselves in a small landing with some signs in front of us including a map of the location and another informing that there were 197 steps in front of us. I wasn't too worried about the way down, but that sounded a long way back up...
As we started our climb down it was obvious this wasn't a standard Underground emergency staircase. The majority of the emergency staircases on Underground stations are located in circular shafts and therefore the most convenient construction would be a spiral staircase. This was a narrow rectangular staircase, more like the emergency stair well of a building.
The rectangular staircase
After walking down a few flights of steps, we came across a doorway. When this was opened it revealed some machinery, which I was informed was a motor for a now disused lift that was installed in the 1950s, when this shaft was sunk.
Down a few more flights of steps and we came across another door which revealed the doorway to the lift itself. Under no circumstances were we able to use this lift -it hadn't be serviced for a very long time!
The disused lift and its machinery
This second doorway also opened into a new section of the shaft. This shaft was quite obviously a circular shaft and could be seen extending all the way down to track level. The stairwell now shared this circular shaft with the lift (which was bricked off for its entire length). The stairs were now steel frame steps and were no longer confined to the narrow concrete walls we had previously seen. We proceeded to walk all the way down to track level.
The metal staircase down to track level
At the bottom of this shaft, there was a short corridor leading to a short flight of steps. This marked the start of the original tunnelling that was created around 1907 in anticipation of the location being eventually made into a station.
The bottom of the shaft and the stairway down to the original station tunnels
The tunnels were now of standard passenger tunnel size and we crossed a bridge over the northbound Northern Line tracks and walked down another staircase, we found ourselves standing at track level in the area which would have served as a T-junction between the two platforms.
A bridge over the Northern Line and the stairway down to platform level
At this point however, the platform/track way area had been bricked on both sides. To our left was a dead end, save a small hole in the wall where what would have become the north bound platform could be seen - but was completely empty. No platform was ever built and today it is an empty shell.
Turning to our right, a small doorway opened into a small washroom and toilet! I'll spare the detail of photographs - needless to say the toilet hadn't been cleaned for a long time and was rather smelly!
Moving on from this area led us out onto the southbound platform area. Here, the area between the "platform" and tracks had been partitioned off for safety. Track engineers used this area to store various pieces of equipment that were necessary for the repair and maintenance of the railway.
The south bound Northern Line platform area.
A little way down this area, a second entrance could be seen which led to a crossover area. The crossover passageway also had another stairwell running up into the darkness. This would have become another passageway to the lifts should they have been constructed. In this case, the passage led back over the Northern Line to the location of the shaft we'd walked down - but not quite... it terminated in a dead end beneath the floor level of the shaft.
Almost all of the early Yerkees lift-operated stations had openings both sides of the lifts. One would serve as an entrance and the other as an exit. Sometimes, both passages would converge into a single passage down to the platform. More often or not however, there would be two separate passageways down to the platform. This arrangement can still be observed in many of the lift operated stations on the network, such as Mornington Crescent, or Goodge Street.
A south bound train zooms past
While we were there, relatively few trains were heard. This is because it was a Sunday, and the Underground run fewer trains on Sundays.
Having gone as far as we could, it was time to head back for the stair well and climb the 197 steps back to the surface. This arduous task was made easier by some humorous signs written in yellow on the wall such as "Almost there" and "You've made it!"
Last Modified: April 23rd 2002
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Surface photographs taken November 26th, 2001.
Subterranean photographs taken April 14th, 2002.
Down At The Old Bull & Bush sheet music cover kindly provided by Bill Clark. Visit Bill's web site for more information about recordings that still survive from this era. You can also find out more information about Florrie Forde here
All material on this page is © 2001,2002 Hywel Williams unless otherwise noted.
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