#152: New Barnet 29/11/2022

New Barnet Station

The station opened in 1850 as Barnet, one of the original stations on the line out of London to Peterborough. However, to open the station, the Great Northern Railway company had to buy up the surrounding farm and estate land, much of which was subsequently, and quickly, sold to the British Land Company. 

The station was renamed New Barnet in 1884 and rebuilt to its current shape in 1896, with a new station entrance and ticket hall opening in 1989. Further comfort and safety modernisation features were completed in 2005.

Since 2014, trains operated by Great Northern (out of Moorgate) and Thameslink (out of Kings Cross) have stopped here. Because of Thameslink, I am here today as this is the furthest station out of London I can travel to, the next station being Potters Bar. But the station’s livery still reflects the previous train operating company’s colours, First Capital Connect, with its blue and yellow colours prominently displayed.

Electrification of the line happened in 1976, and the image below shows how this was undertaken. Regular vertical steel posts are concreted into the ground from which the arms that suspend the power lines are attached. This method is a speedy and easy way to install overhead electrical lines, and it’s an approach I’ve seen installed on many lines over my years of travelling and commuting. They might not look attractive, particularly out in the countryside, but the simplicity of installation does mean services can continue to run with minimal disruption.

The station has recently benefited from another makeover. This time, as part of a reuse scheme inspired by a local florist Ursula Stone from The Flower Bank. In conjunction with Pinewood Studios, artificial flowers used in a recent set have been used and remodelled into planters and hanging baskets along the platform.

New Barnet

The station opening acted as a catalyst for house development, with the Great Northern railway line defining New Barnet to the east and the Northern Line Underground railway to the west. The main parade of shops is along East Barnet Road on the opposite side of the Great Northern railway line.

Development started along Lyonsdown Road, named after one of the estates that sold its land to the railway company during the station’s construction. New Barnet Road, now renamed Station Road, also saw significant development, and a walk along here shows off the grandeur of late 19th century and early 20th century house building. Some have, inevitably, been converted into offices or flats/apartments, but thankfully the property owners have kept the original facades.

There are some new buildings along Station Road, and the one that caught my eye was Comer House – described by its developer, the Comer Group, as a seven-story block of 50 apartments and office space. Its design is out of character with the surrounding properties and looks out of place, which is probably why its shape struck me. Architecturally, the large number of small windows dominates the facade, which may have been a limiting factor during its construction. But I’ll let you decide whether you like it or not.

As I continue to walk westerly along Station Road, I have a sense of deja vu. The curve of the road and the style of low-rise apartment blocks have an eerie sense of familiarity. But I can’t quite recall why, until I pass the fire station and emerge onto the junction of Barnet Hill and Pricklers Hill. In front of me is a familiar sight from my first visit to High Barnet almost three years ago. The magnificent art deco Everyman cinema dominates the junction.

The cinema has stood here since it opened in 1935. Built initially for County Cinemas, it was taken over by Odeon Cinemas during its construction and awarded a Grade II listed status in 1989. There’s a typical suburban London parade of shops across the road. You know the style; shops on the ground floor with flats above. Access to the flats is sometimes via a side stairwell or, in this case, a front entrance. Now gated, as is the demand for security, but the photo below suggests this entrance is unused, or if it is, the residents above care little for the entrance’s maintenance. I had some unusual glances from passing shoppers as I took this photo, but my thought was more about why they cared less for their surroundings.

As I head back to the station, I journey along Gloucester Road, tree-lined and blessed with attractive detached properties. I learned that many roads are named after the Battle of Barnet: this was the final battle in the War of Roses, fought between the House of York and the House of Lancaster, which took place nearby. Look at a map and see if you can recognise the road names.

The Rivers of London

This heading isn’t a veiled plug for the books by Ben Aaronovitch, although I would highly recommend them as they are a brilliant series of magical detective sleuthing tales. It is instead a heading to capture the fact that London is crisscrossed with rivers and brooks that are often missed, lost, ignored or hidden.

I suspect the most famous is the River Fleet, once synonymous with the newspaper industry. The open river would have run through the heart of London, but it’s now a culverted trickle that flows into the Thames under Blackfriars Bridge.

As London grew and the demand for dwellings pushed into the countryside, the land was at a premium, and the suburbs emerged. Consequently, some of London’s rivers were covered over and lost. Some would appear a little later downstream through a park or field, and the Shirebourne Brook is one such waterway.

The Shirebourne emerges north of Barnet in the King George’s Fields in Hadley. If you follow it on Google maps, it disappears where Bosworth Road meets Burnside Close. But if you follow a line to the Victoria Recreation Grounds in New Barnet, it reemerges from its culvert under a bridge. Sadly, the bridge has been unimaginatively decorated by local graffiti artists.

Historians believe The Shirebourne once marked the historical boundary between Hertfordshire and Middlesex. And from here, the brook travels east until it joins Pymmes Brook as it weaves east and then south, joining the River Lea at Ferry Lane. Regular readers will have encountered Pymmes Brook before during my visits to Cockfosters, Meridian Water and most recently, Tottenham Hale.

Making my day

The weather had been gloomy, cold and damp, and I admit my spirits were a little low during my visit. But as I lined up the shot above of the First Capital Connect colours, I was invited to take a photo of a student who had just finished his day’s studies at the nearby Bodens College of Performing Arts.

But wait, he was joined by three friends who also wanted to get in on the act. Who was I to pass up such an invitation? Thank you for stopping momentarily as you rushed to catch your train. I regret that I can’t remember your names as you reeled them off and hurried up the stairs. So if you are reading this or have a friend who knows who you are, please get in touch so I can give you proper credit. As who knows, you may be the rising star of the future – good luck with your studies.

New Barnet Station

This photo is of New Barnet Station, seen from the overhead footbridge headed toward the island platforms 2 and 3. Thameslink trains (the subject of today’s visit) and Great Northern Railways trains have stopped here since 2014. But before that, First Capital Connect served it, which would explain the station’s current yellow and blue livery.

But this shot, taken in black and white, with a bit of enhancement, portrays the station’s roofline and platform light symmetry. It’s a functional station, but not one that offers much cheer on a cold winter’s night as you wait for the train. I think the rustic look of the roof’s wood-slatted gable end helps the character of this shot, and the roofline leads your eye down the station and into the distance.

  • Location: New Barnet Railway Station
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 29th November 2022, 1:51 PM
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture -f/5; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 46mm; Film Speed – ISO800

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