Bethnal Green tube station

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Bethnal Green London Underground
Bethnal Green stn southwest entrance.JPG
Southwestern entrance
Bethnal Green is located in Greater London
Bethnal Green
Bethnal Green
Location of Bethnal Green in Greater London
Location Bethnal Green
Local authority Tower Hamlets
Managed by London Underground
Number of platforms 2
Fare zone 2
London Underground annual entry and exit
2011 Increase 15.09 million[1]
2012 Decrease 15.06 million[1]
2013 Increase 15.27 million[1]
2014 Increase 16.08 million[1]
Railway companies
Original company London Passenger Transport Board
Key dates
4 December 1946 Station opened
Other information
Lists of stations
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Bethnal Green is a station on the Central line of the London Underground in Bethnal Green, East London. It lies between Liverpool Street and Mile End stations, and in Travelcard Zone 2. The station was opened as part of the long planned Central line eastern extension on 4 December 1946; before that it was used as an air-raid shelter. On 3 March 1943, 173 people were killed in a crush while attempting to enter the shelter.

The station is an example of the "New Works Programme 1935 - 1940" style adopted by London Transport for its new tube stations. Extensive use is made of pale yellow tiling, originally manufactured by Poole Pottery. This has been replicated during the 2007 modernisation although several panels of original tiling were retained on the platforms. The finishes include relief tiles, showing symbols of London and the area served by the London Passenger Transport Board, designed by Harold Stabler. The station entrances, all in the form of subway access staircases to the subterranean ticket hall, all show the design influences of Charles Holden, the consulting architect for London Transport at this time.

Wartime disaster

Construction of the Central line's eastern extension was started in the 1930s, and the tunnels were largely complete at the outbreak of the Second World War although rails were not laid. The facilities at Bethnal Green were requisitioned in 1940 at the onset of the first Blitz and administration was assigned to the local authority, the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green, under the supervision of the 'Regional Commissioners', the generic name for London civil defence. Heavy air raids began in October and thousands of people took shelter there, often remaining overnight. However, usage of the shelter dwindled in 1941 as the Luftwaffe was redirected away from London and against the Soviet Union. A relative lull occurred although the number of shelterers rose again when retaliatory bombing in response to Royal Air Force raids was expected.

This was the case on 3 March 1943, after British media reported a heavy RAF raid on Berlin on the night of 1 March. The air-raid Civil Defence siren sounded at 8:17 pm, triggering a heavy but orderly flow of people down the blacked-out staircase from the street. A middle-aged woman and a child fell over, three steps up from the base and others fell around her, tangled in an immovable mass which grew, as they struggled, to nearly 300 people. Some managed to get free but 173, most of them women and children, were crushed and asphyxiated. Some 60 others were taken to hospital. News of the disaster was withheld for 36 hours and reporting of what had happened was censored, giving rise to allegations of a cover-up. At the end of the war, the Minister of Home Security, Herbert Morrison, quoted from a secret report to the effect that there had been a panic, caused by the discharge of anti-aircraft rockets. But other authorities who looked into what had happened disagreed; the Shoreditch Coroner, Mr W R H Heddy,[2] said that there was "nothing to suggest any stampede or panic or anything of the kind"; Mr Justice Singleton, summarising his decision in Baker v Bethnal Green Corporation, an action for damages by a bereaved widow,[3] said "there was nothing in the way of rushing or surging" on the staircase; the Master of the Rolls, Lord Greene, reviewing the lower court's judgement[4] said "it was perfectly well known .. that there had been no panic". Lord Greene also rebuked the Ministry for getting the case to be held in secret.

The Baker lawsuit was followed by other claims, resulting in a total payout of nearly £60,000, the last of which was made in the early 1950s. The secret official report, by a Metropolitan magistrate, Laurence Rivers Dunne, acknowledged that Bethnal Green Council had warned London Civil Defence, in 1941, that the staircase needed a crush barrier to slow down the crowds, but was told that would be a waste of money.[5]

View from southwestern entrance towards St. John's

It was not until 50 years after the disaster that a discreet commemorative plaque was erected at the site.

The crush at Bethnal Green is thought to have been the largest single loss of civilian life in the UK in World War II and the largest loss of life in a single incident on the London Underground network. The largest number killed by a single wartime bomb was 68 at Balham, though there were many more British civilians killed in single bombing raids.[6]

The "Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust" was established in 2007 to create a memorial to those who died in the disaster. Planning permission has been granted for a memorial in the form of a bronze staircase with 173 points of light, designed by local architects Harry Patticas and Jens Borstlemann.[7]

'TUBE' Art Installation

In November 2013 sound artist Kim Zip [8] created an installation [9] commemorating the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster. The work was backed by London's Whitechapel Gallery and promoted as part of the organisation's 'First Thursdays' [10] initiative for popular art.

'TUBE' [11] exhibited over a period of four weeks in the belfry of Sir John Soane's St John on Bethnal Green Church. St Johns overlooks the site of the tragedy and was commandeered as a temporary mortuary on the night of 3 March 1943.

Derailment on the Central line

On 5 July 2007, a Central line train was derailed when it hit a roll of fire blanket which had been blown out of a cross passage between the two tunnels by the strong cross winds.[12]

London Fire Brigade sent 14 fire engines to the scene, including four urban search and rescue vehicles.


London Buses routes 8, 106, 254, 309, 388, D3 and D6 and night routes N8 and N253, and National Express Coaches route A9 serve the station.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Multi-year station entry-and-exit figures" (XLS). London Underground station passenger usage data. Transport for London. April 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Nat. Archives MEPO 2/1942
  3. The Times, 19 July 1944
  4. The Times, 9 December 1944
  5. Nat.Archives PREM 4/40/15
  6. "Bethnal Green Tube disaster marked 70 years on". BBC News. 3 March 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-03-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "The Appeal". Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust. Archived from the original on 2008-03-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Bomb Everyone". Bomb Everyone website. 1 January 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Remembrance art marks Bethnal Green's 1943 air-raid shelter disaster". East London Advertiser. 4 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Whitechapel Gallery's First Thursdays". Whitechapel Gallery. 31 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Kim Zip Presents TUBE on Soundcloud". Soundcloud. 1 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Rail Accident Report - Derailment of a London Underground Central Line train near Mile End station 5 July 2007 (PDF). Department of Transport - Rail Accident Investigation Branch. January 2008. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2014-01-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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