Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Dollis Hill

This is the 21st station on the Jubilee Line that I've visited and the 160th out of 272 stations on the underground system that I have now photographed and posted. Like the previous few stations it has an island platform with a 1930s style waiting room but it lacks the character of the previous station at Willesden Green.

It only services the Jubilee Line although the Metropolitan line passes through the station on the outer rail lines. It is thought the unusual name of the station is derived from a 16th century local family with the name Dalley.
Flower beds on the platform give it a more attractive look.


Stairs at the end of the platform lead down to the ground level giving you a choice of  two exits. The tube line seems to split Dollis Hill into two distinct areas. To the left takes you through quiet wide streets of semi-detached houses leading you uphill to Gladstone Park. The other exit takes you out onto narrower streets of terraced housing. The passageway between the exits is decorated with illustrated panels.

The panels were designed by the artist, Amanda Duncan, who won a competition organised by London Underground Limited in 1995. The information board next to the panels explains that the inspiration for the panels comes from a group of words: the passage of time, travel, maps, endurance, destinations, underground and overground, the heavens and the earth, change and constancy. 


'The development of the area is traced through the use of land maps incorporating those of the 16th century through to the 20th century. These are juxtaposed with the notion of relative constancy of the stars revealed through an artist's interpretation of classical star maps.'

I decided to take the exit to the right first.

There are a few shops opposite the station but not enough to call it a shopping parade. I followed the road uphill to Gladstone Park and the top of Dollis Hill. The park had the usual facilities of playground, outdoor gym, basketball and tennis courts. 

From the top of the hill you have good views of London. I could see the distinctive triangular spire of the Shard at London Bridge and in the other direction was the arch of Wembley Stadium.

In 1800 this area was completely rural with woods and farmland. The farms around Willesden were known for their hay, grown for the horses of London and dairy farms  producing milk. By 1818 the Finch family bought up land which became the Dollis Hill estate. one of the largest estates in the area. In 1825 the family replaced one of their farmhouses with Dollis Hill House which they rented out to Lord Tweedmouth. From 1881 Lord and Lady Aberdeen (daughter of Lord Tweedmouth) used the property as a Summer residence. The Aberdeens were old friends of William Gladstone who loved coming to Dollis Hill House and used it as a retreat from 1882 to 1896 just two years before he died. 
For much of this time he was the Prime Minister. He liked to rest in a hammock beneath the trees and take a dip in the pond.   In 1900, Willesden Council acquired Dollis Hill House and 96 acres of surrounding land as a park for the increasing population. The park was opened in 1901 and named in honour of William Gladstone who died in 1898. The house was used as a hospital during the First World War and then a convalescent home for ex servicemen until 1923. From 1974 until 1989 it was used as a catering college.

The house was then closed as it needed major roof and other repairs. following two fires in 1995 and 96. It was finally demolished in 2012 leaving these remains.
This used to be the stables for Dollis Hill House but now it is a cafe.

From the park I could see an interesting building rising above the other buildings. 

The building turned out to be of great historical interest although there is nothing outside to indicate what discoveries were made here. It used  to be the Post Office Research Centre, which moved here in 1921. Specially equipped laboratories researched everything from cable testing to new signalling methods. Its engineers developed the trans Atlantic telephone cable and built the world's first programmable electronic computer, Colossus. The computer was designed by Tommy Flowers, to solve a mathematical problem posed by the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. Alun Turing contributed to the design of the computer. The Colossi computers played a major role in shortening the length of the Second World War by helping to break the German Coded messages during 1943-45. ERNIE (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment) was also developed here to be used for the government's premium bond lottery.

In a bomb proof basement of one of the outer buildings, Winston Churchill held two war cabinet meetings here instead of the War Office in Downing Street.

In 1975 the Research Station moved from Dollis Hill to Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. The buildings were sold and converted into luxury flats with the adjoining land used to build a housing estate. 

I walked back down the hill on Parkside past the Jewish school. The school occupies the site of the former Dollis Hill synagogue. The Jewish community moved from the East End of London to these more affluent suburbs in the 1920s. The building is an interesting design and until I saw the sign I didn't realise this was a school. There are two main window shapes, hexagonal and inverted arch. The  hexagonal ones are stained glass windows whereas the other ones are plain glass.  The architect, Sir Owen Williams, wanted to use Jewish religious symbolism in the window design with the hexagon suggesting the Star of David and the inverted arch based on the seven candle menorah.

At the bottom of the hill was Cricklewood library/cafe. Sadly not open until much later in the day.

I could now see what looked like a large Victorian chimney and wandered through a few streets until the mystery was solved when I came across this Thames Water pumping station shrouded in scaffolding. Built in 1905 so not really Victorian but almost. The pumping station was built to provide water from the River Thames to London's outer suburbs. The water was pumped up from the river and stored in reservoirs. The pumping station was coal fired until the 1950s and the 135ft (41m) tall chimney was used to discharge smoke. By the late 1950s the station had converted to electric power and the chimney became obsolete.
 The chimney is now used as a mobile phone mast.

Not far from the pumping station was this one time evangelical church which is now an Ethiopian Orthodox church.

At the bottom of the hill is this Polish church. It would seem that this is a very multi cultural area.

I returned to the station and walked through it to the other exit to see the other half of Dollis Hill. 

The exit took me out onto a street of terraced houses with a colourful mural on the wall.

Somehow the streets looked dirtier with much heavier traffic. I wandered down a couple of side roads and then followed a sign to the Jewish Cemetery. 

 The visitors centre was closed. I tried to find my way into the main cemetery but I obviously walked the wrong way round and after half an hour gave up on that idea.

I could see into the cemetery through the railings and it looked quite large.

Smart new university building plus the  bus garage and the fire station were the only places  I could find so I decided to call it a day and go home.


  1. The curved art deco waiting room dates back to the 1930s, yes. But the glass bricks allow the light to flood in and the customers to look out. I still am a huge Deco fan :)

  2. It seems less populated here than in your other subway station posts. A little more space and a little less construction.

  3. Thanks for for writing the post again. It would be terrible to have a missing station in your excellent record. The area sounds rather uninteresting, which might be a good thing for locals.

  4. Another interesting tour. There's a variety of ethnicities involved with the area and all seem to have gotten along. Somehow I don't expect this kind of diversity in a European city, but I am sure that's due to my ignorance.

  5. You did well to make a tour out of what is a quite boring area. Again the station is good, with well tended plants.

  6. Another amazing post of yours. It seems more open than other areas, almost farmlike but interesting places in the history of computing, a big Jewish cemetery. London and the surrounding area is very big and complex.

  7. I always think it is so interesting the way Cities (real ones) can change from one block to the next. sometimes they aren't as clearly divided as this part of yours was. I enjoyed this "walk" and am amazed at all that happened there, especially the history and discoveries at that research center! I'd never heard of the Dollis Hill neighborhood and am writing it here simply so that maybe I will remember the name!

  8. Really interesting symbolic windows on the school. I think it must be nice to live in a building with so much history as the postal research building. Surprised there is no plaque.

  9. Interesting story about Dollis House, sad that it couldn't have been kept as a museum.


Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.