Finsbury Park termini

Page last updated 6 February 2013
 
London in microcosm - a detailed look at the changing terminal workings at Finsbury Park over the years.  This north London station has been a transport hub since Victorian times and its narrow streets and low bridge have added complexity to its bus services.  It also hosted no fewer than 4 red RF routes.
 
The Great Divide.  The low bridge at Finsbury Park Station over Stroud Green Road effectively divides services from the north-west from the rest of the network.  Wells Terrace is under the bridge to the left, Station Place is to the left of the foreground.  It should be pointed out that the 233 never ran under the bridge - RF486 in March 2005 has finished its run over the 233 and heads home.  It is a few yards behind the location of RF433 in this mid-60s shot outside the Majestic Ballroom (John Hinson collection).
Photo © Peter Osborn
 
Buses have terminated at the following locations at Finsbury Park:
 
We have pieced together information from a wide range of sources for this item, but it is likely that there are errors and omissions - as ever, comments and corrections welcome.
 
First, an introduction to the area.
 
The railway station
 
The main entrance to Finsbury Park Station as it is today, with the Station Place Bus Station.  The old Majestic Ballroom survives in the background.
Photo © Kake Pugh
 
Finsbury Park Station is on the east coast main line and opened in 1861, then being called Seven Sisters Road.  A branch line to Edgware, with platforms either side of the main line, opened in 1867 and closed in 1970 (the pre-war plan to extend the Northern Line from Moorgate along this line to Highgate having been abandoned).  Incidentally, an 1873 branch of this line, from Highgate to Alexandra Palace, passed under Muswell Hill by the weak bridge that caused much expense to London Transport, requiring the 212 to be single-deck operated.  The unused superstructure erected for the Northern Heights project dominated Station Place for years until demolished in 1972.
 
The main line was joined by the Underground in 1904 when the Northern Line shuttle from Moorgate opened.  The Piccadilly Line opened between Finsbury Park and Hammersmith in 1906 and was extended northwards in 1932, prior to which the resulting transport bottle-neck would have provided major traffic to the buses.  The underground Northern Line terminus closed in 1964 and some parts of it were used for the Victoria Line, which opened in 1968.  The former Northern Line from Moorgate was later rebuilt with an above-ground junction, opening as a British Rail line in 1976. 
 
The railway line crosses both Seven Sisters Road and Stroud Green Road, the latter over a low bridge (12'9").  Perhaps for this reason, services from the Stroud Green direction have generally terminated west of the railway, with only a limited service joining east and west (and none since 1982). 
 
The main entrance to the station is on the east side of the line, in Station Place (formerly Station Road).  Additional entrances are sited in Wells Terrace, on the Stroud Green side of the station, and on Seven Sisters Road.
 
Coal
 

RF453 on the 212 stand under the Smallwood's (or was it Smart's?) Coal Yard bridge in 1954.  The 233 used the first (more distant) stand.

Photo © DF Parker, John Hinson collection

 
Before moving on to the bus services themselves, it is worth recalling the dominance of coal as a heating fuel in London's homes until the 50s and 60s - the first Clean Air Act was passed in 1956 after the severe 5-day smog of 1952 (the Mayor of London's 2002 report on air quality, precursor to the controversial London Low Emission Zone, had as its cover a striking picture of an RTW in the 1952 smog).  It was only later that solid fuel generally gave way to gas- or electric-fired central heating. 
 
There was a substantial infrastructure required to transport the coal that was used in London's homes and businesses.  It was primarily carried by rail to local depots, with coal yards (such as the one in Muswell Hill) dotting the city.  One such was adjacent to Finsbury Park Station alongside Clifton Terrace, served by a branch line that crossed Wells Terrace.  This line closed in the 1960s and the bridge was removed in 1970.  See the 1954 OS map here.
 
Buses, trams and trolleybuses
Details of bus workings are summarised below, separately for each of the separate termini.  Trams and trolleybuses are outside the scope of this site, but it is worth noting that the LCC horse trams (electrified in 1908) and the MET trams (electrified in 1904) served Finsbury Park from the south-west and north-east respectively, but were not connected until 1912.  LCC had a depot opposite the end of Blackhorse Road.  Trams were replaced by trolleybuses in 1938-9, and routes 521, 621, 627, 629, 653, 659 and 679 used Seven Sisters Road. Some of these used the turning loop at Finsbury Park and the stand in Coleridge Road for short workings. 
 

Maps of terminal workings

Click for a larger version

1919

1934

1947

1971

Map base © Streetmap.co.uk

 

Station Place
 
Hackney's RTL1499 runs up Mare Street, which it shares with a desirable Triumph twin, towards Finsbury Park Stn.
Photo © Paul Redmond
 
Whilst the majority of bus routes serving Finsbury Park run through along Seven Sisters Road, some services have always terminated in front of the station in Station Place, where there is now a new bus station.  These have included Blackstock Road routes 4/4A (introduced 1912 to Elephant & Castle), 106/106A (to Poplar from 1915) and later the 141A/179/179A group, plus periodic use by Seven Sisters Road routes, including the 42 (before the war, when it used to run beyond Aldgate via Clapton and Stamford Hill), 39, 168A, 253A and 276.  The increasing congestion at Station Place led to the introduction of alternative termini between the wars.  However, in more recent years, other routes have worked from Station Place, including N19 from 1989 and 153 from 1992.
 

The workings from Blackstock Road were originally direct to Seven Sisters Road, then clockwise into Station Place.  This changed in March 1926 to approach via Rock Street and St Thomas's Road.

 

In early days, Station Place was also used by services from the north-west.  Introduced in 1914, route 111 to Muswell Hill (which became the 212) ran under the Stroud Green Road bridge to Seven Sisters Road and looped into Station Place (then Station Road) to terminate.  This changed in 1919 when the terminal working became Stroud Green Road, Wells Terrace, Fonthill Road, Seven Sisters Road, Station Road (stand), Stroud Green Road.  Perhaps the change was to enable inbound passengers to alight and access the station via the Wells Terrace entrance, but in 1922 the former working was re-introduced, at the same time as the introduction of route 110 (later 210).  The 111 was single-deck operated due to a weak bridge on Muswell Hill, but in 1921 the General were fined for operating double-deckers on the route.  These would have been open-top, and probably used Fonthill Road in both directions to avoid the low Stroud Green Road bridge (as had double-deck routes from Central London to Stroud Green, between replacing horse buses in 1911 and withdrawal in 1920).  In February 1926, the Wells Terrace terminus became operational and from the following month the 110 and 111 no longer passed under the railway.
 
Holloway's RT2686 heads up Rosebery Avenue, bound for Finsbury Park Plimsoll Road.
Photo © Paul Redmond
 
Two routes operated by Enfield garage ran from Seven Sisters Road under the bridge to terminate at Stroud Green.  The 201 was introduced in 1927 and withdrawn south of Turnpike Lane in 1933.  Independent Redburn's route 538 (later 238) was taken over by the General in 1926, received LT Scooters in 1931 and was withdrawn in 1938, at which point the 236 (already single-deck) was extended to Stroud Green.  This remained the only route to link the two halves of Finsbury Park until its withdrawal from this section in 1982.
 
Rock Street
 
Havelock Motors was one of the independents that operated on the 263 (later 236) in the 1920s.  Dodson-bodied Dennis 2½-ton YO8392 shows the destination 'Finsbury Park Empire'.
Photo David Ruddom collection
 
In 1926, alongside other changes to Station Place workings, came the use of Rock Street as a terminus itself because Station Place was becoming too busy.  Independent route 550 to Islington was introduced in January 1926, working from Rock Street.  This route lasted until April 1930, when it was taken over by the General and replaced by the 273 to Roehampton (itself renumbered 73C in 1934).  The 273 terminus moved to Plimsoll Road in (or by) November 1930.  New route 263 (which became the 236) from Leyton to London Fields was extended at the end of 1926 to Finsbury Park Rock Street, where only one bus was permitted to stand.   In March 1927, the 19 group was extended from Highbury Barn to Finsbury Park Rock Street.  Both also moved to the Plimsoll Road stand when it came into use. 
 
At the junction of Rock Street and St Thomas's Road stood the Empire Theatre (which later on featured stars such as Tony Hancock and Cliff Richard & the Drifters).  This was the named destination for some services, including some independent operators on the 263.
 
 
Plimsoll Road
 
This splendid view of Plimsoll Road from the John Boylett collection shows that even in 1958, there were conflicts between car parking and buses.  Two TDs on the 236 and an RTL on the 19 lay over in the road, the further two beyond the end of Prah Road but standing close to a canteen trailer installed on a vacant plot.  The permanent canteen, located just in front of TD110,  opened later that year.
Photo © John Boylett at SCT61.
 
On (or by) 19 November 1930, the terminus for the 19 group (including the short-lived summer Sunday 119 to Kenley or Croydon Airport) and the 263 (renumbered 236 in 1934) was moved to a stand at the Plimsoll Hotel in Plimsoll Road.  The stand was accessed 'via Prah Road' after setting down in Rock Street, and buses returned to service via St Thomas's Road and Seven Sisters Road.  Passengers were carried to the stand.  The 273 (renumbered 73C in 1934) also used Plimsoll Road from 1930 until its withdrawal in October 1935.
 
It is unclear from the records, but from photographs it appears the inbound routing was originally Prah Road, Romilly Road, Ambler Road, whereas (as shown by the RF photo below) this became Prah Road direct to the central part of Plimsoll Road, perhaps because the stand was moved to outside the new canteen.  Whilst official working was always via Rock Street, it is reported that certain journeys accessed Plimsoll Road direct via Monsell Road.  Does anyone know whether this occurred only if buses were empty?
 
In addition to being a stand, Plimsoll Road was also provided with a canteen, probably from 1953.   Initially this was the trailer, shown in the photo of the TD, but later on a small permanent canteen was opened on the south side of the road at its west end.  The location was the crew-change point for Tottenham crews on the 236 (see Pat Spencer's Memories).  The 236 crews were joined in the canteen by the Holloway (J) workings of route 19, but not all of Battersea's, most of which reportedly turned at Highbury Barn (where there was also a mobile canteen) and changed crews at the garage.  From 1969 to 1971, the Battersea workings on the 19 were replaced by the 19A, which ran to Plimsoll Road.
 
Whilst the later stand was officially on the left (south) side of Plimsoll Road, buses frequently spilled onto the offside.  Here RF433 has run in in snowy weather and been abandoned for the warmth of the canteen.  Students of London architecture might like to compare this view of the building behind the bus with today's view on Google Streetview.
Photo © Jim Blake, John Hinson collection
 
The Sundays-only 106A (but not the weekday 106, which continued to use the station) changed its terminus from Station Place to Plimsoll Road in 1964.  When replaced by the 106 in 1971, the route used a different terminus on Sunday from during the week. 
 
This stand continued in use until about 1984, when a new bus station and canteen were built in Station Place. 
 
 
Wells Terrace
 

Muswell Hill-based Green Line 6Q6 Q229 on the 210 heads for the Wells Terrace stand, past West Green's Q142 on the 233 stand nearest to the Stroud Green Road bridge, 25 Jun 52.  Neither bus survived the introduction of RFs.

Photo © Alan Cross, John Hinson Collection

 

On the north side of the railway, the destination has always been given as 'Finsbury Park Wells Terrace'.  This belies a series of changes over the years in the terminal workings, which needed to combine access to the station with stand space for several very frequent routes.
 
The first Wells Terrace stand came into use in February 1926, when the 154 (later 233) was introduced.  At first, the 154 turned right from Stroud Green Road to terminate along Wells Terrace, and on departure passed under the coal-siding bridge and turned right into Clifton Terrace, right into Lennox Road and left back onto Stroud Green Road.  It was joined in Wells Terrace in March, when the 110 (later 210) and 111 (later 212) ceased using Station Place.  These routes, however, worked the other way round the loop, so as to terminate in Wells Terrace facing Stroud Green Road.  In July, the 154 working was reversed to work similarly.  In December 1930, all routes were reversed, so that they terminated on the station side of Wells Terrace.
 

In 1947, the stand arrangements in Wells Terrace were changed again, presumably as the road had become too congested.  The 210 stand was moved forward to the south end of the road, so that on departure buses turned into Fonthill Road then Lennox Road.  The 233 stand was nearest Stroud Green Road and the 212 was under the rail bridge.  These stands feature in many of the photographs of the period.

 

RF434 was new when photographed on the 233 in Wells Terrace - note the absence of a horizontal rail across the passenger windscreen.

Photo © JH Aston, Peter Gomm collection

 

Contrary to some suggestions, the coal-siding bridge did not preclude the use of double-deckers; the coal yard branch line left the main line south of the station and had time to climb to a sufficient height.  In 1955, double-deck working was introduced on short journeys of the 233, and in 1960 the whole of the 212 was double-decked.  John Hambley's London Transport Buses 1960 has a picture on page 27 of two RTs in the road at Finsbury Park under the coal-siding bridge.  (There is a nice picture of a Scooter on the 212 in front of the bridge here.)

 

On a number of occasions in the 1950s (apparently for extended periods, and certainly including early 1958), while there were road works or other disruption in either Wells Terrace or Stroud Green Road, all terminal workings were reversed to anti-clockwise and dolly stops were used for stands in Clifton Terrace.  Buses arrived from Lennox Road into Clifton Terrace and departed via Wells Terrace, Fonthill Road and Lennox Road (with some rogue drivers carrying on up Fonthill Road to Tollington Park).

 

The anti-clockwise working, but exiting via Wells Terrace, became permanent in June 1961.  The 210, 233 and 212 Express laid over at two stops in Clifton Rise, with the 212 Express nearer to Wells Terrace; the 210s stood on the 212 Express stand off-peak and behind the 233 in peak hours.   The 212 Express and 233 boarded on stand, whilst the 210 boarded in Wells Terrace closest to Stroud Green Road.  The 212 stood and boarded in Wells Terrace (Stuart Perry notes that the high-frequency 212 had very short layovers).  Note that the boarding for 212 and 212 Express was some distance apart, so you couldn't queue for both. 

 

Two faces of the 233 in May 1958.  RF486 waits on the temporary stand in Clifton Terrace in front of RTL1430, which is on the short working to Alexandra Park.

Photo © RA Golds, Peter Osborn collection

 

Following this reversal of working, there is a note in the March 1963 Central Road Services Traffic Committee minutes that, following accidents arising from passengers crossing Wells Terrace to reach Clifton Terrace, the Traffic Commissioners had ruled that passengers may board only in Wells Terrace after the buses have come off the stand in Clifton Terrace, although how this avoids the problem isn't clear as they still had to cross Wells Terrace.  However, a proposal for a petrol station [unspecified, but perhaps on the corner of Stroud Green Road and Wells Terrace?] meant that the Wells Terrace stop would have to be moved and the boarding point move back to Clifton Terrace. There was therefore a proposal to reverse the working again, i.e. back to clockwise, but with passengers still boarding in Clifton Terrace, now on the offside, so creating a new risk. The Committee therefore decided to explore the possibility of acquiring disused railway land in Clifton Terrace. 

 

The upshot of this discussion appears to have been the new bus station that opened in Wells Terrace in 1974, after the coal-siding bridge had been removed in 1970.  This allowed all Stroud Green Road services to terminate here, namely the 210, W2 (which replaced the 212 Express as far as Alexandra Park), W3 (which replaced the 233) and W7 (which replaced the 212).  Meanwhile, for a brief period during the removal of the coal-siding bridge, services were diverted from Clifton Terrace, right into Wells Terrace then Fonthill Road and Lennox Road back into Stroud Green Road.

 

Part of the redevelopment of the coal yard involved the building of Morris Place, joining Clifton Terrace with Stroud Green Road.  In 1982, inbound journeys to Wells Terrace were rerouted to use Morris Place instead of Lennox Road.  The Wells Street bus station was rebuilt in the mid-2000s, requiring temporary use of Lennox Road (inbound) and Morris Place (terminus and outbound).

 

Postscript

The minutes of the Traffic Committee in 1964 describe the replacement bus service required to cover the closure of the Drayton Park to Finsbury Park section of the Northern City Line during the Victoria Line construction. They calculate that 27 OMO coaches are required for a 2 minute service in the peaks, but haven't a hope of finding them or (more critically) the crews (this being a period of acute staff shortage at LT), so they agree to put the contract out.  The working described is Wells Terrace (west end, pick up), Fonthill Road, Isleden Road, Tollington Road, Hornsey Road, Benwell Road, Bryantwood Road (stand at east end), Drayton Park, Gillespie Road, St Thomas Road, Station Place, Stroud Green Road, Lennox Road, Clifton Terrace, right into Wells Terrace to stand (which must have got quite crowded).  The operation was worked with hired coaches, which were (not surprisingly) much less used than the trains and soon reduced to 7 vehicles - does anyone have any pictures or further pictures?