Underground railway station. Built 1906 by the Underground Electric Railways Co of London Ltd (UERL) under Charles Tyson Yerkes, serving the Great Northern Piccadilly & Brompton Railway (GNP&BR), later the Piccadilly Line. Designed by Leslie Green.
The office block above the station is not of special interest and does not form part of this listing.
Reasons for Designation
Covent Garden Underground Station is designated for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a good example of a station designed by Leslie Green to serve the GNP&BR, later the Piccadilly Line, retaining original tiled signage
* Historic interest: the Yerkes group of stations designed by Leslie Green illustrate a remarkable phase in the development of the capital's transport system, with the pioneering use of a strong and consistent corporate image; the characteristic ox-blood faience façades are instantly recognisable and count among the most iconic of London building types
The GNP&BR was one of three tube lines opened 1906-7 by the Underground Electric Railways Co of London Ltd (UERL). The City & South London Railway - the world's first deep tube line - had opened in 1890 from the City to Stockwell, and although a flurry of proposals for further routes ensued, further progress was hampered by lack of capital until the Central London Railway (later the Central Line) opened in 1900. In 1901-2 the American transport entrepreneur, Charles Tyson Yerkes, acquired four dormant companies: the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway; the Brompton & Piccadilly Circus Railway and the Great Northern & Strand Railway, which were merged as the GNP&BR, and the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway; the three were incorporated into the UERL. Yerkes died in 1905 before the tube lines were completed. The GNP&BR, or 'Piccadilly Railway' or 'Tube', opened on 15 December 1906, running from the Great Northern & City Line terminus at Finsbury Park to the District Railway station at Hammersmith, with 16 intermediate stations, increased to 19 in 1907, when a spur to Strand (Aldwych) was also added. In 1910 the three combined UERL tubes were formally merged as the London Electric Railway (LER) and the GNP&BR became the Piccadilly Line.
Leslie Green (1875-1908) was appointed Architect to the UERL in 1903 and designed 40 stations for the company in a distinctive Edwardian Baroque house style clad in ox-blood faience. They followed a standardised design and plan adapted to the site. Interiors comprised a ground-floor ticket hall with lifts, a spiral stair down to lower corridors, and further stairs down to the platforms which were usually parallel. The upper storey housed lift machinery and office space. Ticket halls featured deep-green tiling with a stylised acanthus leaf or pomegranate frieze, and ticket windows in aedicular surrounds; few of these features now survive. Stairs, corridors and platforms were faced in glazed tiles with directional signage, produced by various tile manufacturers, each station with its unique colour scheme. Green suffered ill health and his contract with UERL terminated at the end of 1907. He died the following year at the age of 33.
MATERIALS: Steel frame clad in brick, faced in ox-blood red faience produced by the Leeds Fireclay Co Ltd.
EXTERIOR: The station occupies a corner site at the junction of Long Acre and James Street and has two elevations. 2 storeys high. N elevation to Long Acre has 3 arcaded bays terminating in a half-bay at the W. The central bay was the original station entrance. The end half-bay has an entrance, provided to serve a future building over the station. The slightly longer E elevation has 3 main bays with alternate half bays; the exit is in the central bay. All other bays were shops. Upper storeys have keyed semi-circular arches with egg-and-dart decoration and cartouches between the springers of the arcaded bays, and a modillion cornice. The half-bays and apex bay have a rectangular window in a shouldered architrave. Windows are all modern replacements. Both elevations have a frieze bearing the station name (partly restored) in raised grey lettering on a white background dating from c1910, and a blue tile UNDERGROUND sign above the Long Acre entrance, also an early feature dating from post-1908 rebranding. The office block above the station is not of special interest and does not form part of this listing.
INTERIOR: Ticket hall has been entirely modernised, with tiling replicated to the 1906 pattern, and retains no original features. The spiral stair retains original tiling in deep orange, yellow and white. The tiling to the lower passageways and platforms was replicated in 2009, apart from the platform soffit banding.