Sloane Square Underground Station

Sloane Square was one of London’s first underground stations constructed for the Metropolitan and District Line in 1868.

When the trains were powered by steam the engines used a special filtering system to stop the smoke overwhelming passengers, train drivers and guards.

It has a fascinating and dramatic history.

It was opened on Christmas Eve and was cherished for being one of the oldest and best known stations on London Transport’s railways.

All of the rebuilding for March/April 1940 with up escalators to replace steps said to have been the inspiration for John Buchan’s novel 39 Steps was destroyed by a huge Luftwaffe bomb with a downward direct blast claiming scores of lives on 12th November 1940.

Everything was pancaked and the station and line lost its lovely domed roof which has never been rebuilt.

What did survive was the metal bridge conduit carrying the Westbourne River over the lines in a fascinating pumping system directing the river water up, over and down with outflow to the River Thames nearby.

It’s a remarkable achievement on the part of what was the London Passenger Transport Board that the station was patched up and reopened in a matter of weeks.

The third Sloane Square underground station was completed by 1951 for the Festival of Britain.

This restored the up escalators and the ‘Hole In The Wall’ pub which remained open on the West platform until 1996.

In 2023, UK TV’s series Secrets of the London Underground (Episode 1 of Season 3) presented by Railway historian Tim Dunn and Siddy Holloway from the London Transport Museum included a 15 minute feature on the history of Sloane Square underground station with coverage of the Hole In The Wall pub aspect by the Daily Mail .

The Sloane Square sequence is in the last quarter with what appears to be short black and white film footage of the salvage operation in November 1940. Pioneer soldiers in helmets are shovelling rubble from one of the platforms.

Sloane Square Underground station featured in maps of Sloane Square in 1900, 1913 and 1951. The 1913 map tracks the route underground in the direction of South Kensington.

The Royal Court Hotel, now called the Sloane Court Hotel, was where the author of Chelsea Concerto, Frances Faviell, had been socialising on 12th November 1940 when the bomb descended onto the station.

It was also popular because of its well-constructed, thick-walled basement which provided the ideal form of shelter during air-raids.

Everyone in the hotel hardly heard or felt the bomb’s impact which had been only a few yards away.

It was even difficult to hear the cries for help from those trapped.

The Hotel would be used to give first aid to survivors.

Sloane Court Hotel, previously known as The Royal Court Hotel. Image taken in 2023 by Tim Crook.

The bombing of Sloane Square underground station 12th November 1940

It was a busy Tuesday evening and the tailing off of the Rush Hour, but with the changeover for shifts on the London buses and tube trains and stations. This was why the LPTB canteen on the station platform was busy.

Jo Oakman first heard the Luftwaffe planes overhead around 6.27 p.m., the cacophony of air raid sirens wailing followed by anti-aircraft guns.

She said it was a lovely night for trouble because of the clear moon, and bombs started dropping heavily on London between eight and ten o’clock in the late evening.

At Post Don in Glebe Place the Air Raid Wardens were told ‘One heavy at Sloane Square’ and they were dispatched to help in the digging out of survivors in the underground station.

Jo was told the station had been hit with a big high explosive which struck the station directly with a train just leaving the platform for South Kensington. The rear two carriages had been destroyed.

By 7.20 on the Wednesday morning when the all clear sirens sounded it was not possible to determine the number of dead in the train and on the platforms.

There was a huge rescue and salvage operation with a death toll by 11a.m. of at least 30 and 50 people wounded. Two fires had broken out- one of them intense from a shattered gas main.

Some of the wounded had been taken to South Kensington station in the damaged train because there was a first aid station based there.

The medical aid post at South Kensington Underground Station in the autumn of 1940 which took care of some of the injured from the bombing at Sloane Square. Image: War Illustrated, 1940.

Jo was astonished at the extent of the destruction. The whole of the station which had only just been rebuilt had collapsed onto the line and she thought the mess looked hopeless.

Nothing of the station structure had survived and was recognisable apart from a few iron uprights.

All the windows of the adjoining Court Theatre (later to become famous as the Royal Court Theatre), nearby Willetts auctioneer building, and a pub had been broken with piles of glass on the pavements and tarmac of Sloane Square, though the spectacular modernist glass fronted Peter Jones department store appeared unscathed.

How Sloane Square looked prior to the bombing- images taken circa 1938 and an advertisement for William Willett auctioneers who occupied an entire building in their name.

It seemed the force of the high explosive blast had been directed down into the station and its platform and tunnel- so much so that the underground train had been propelled well into the direction of South Kensington.

By Friday morning, the casualty list at Sloane Square had reached 37 with 68 injured and the salvage teams had still not reached the site of the canteen.

The Royal Engineers were dealing with a delayed action bomb that had fallen on the Royal Hospital grounds nearby.

Frances Faviell had been having dinner with her husband Richard in the Royal Court Hotel only a few yards away from Sloane Square Station on the night of the disaster.

They knew the hotel’s flamboyant managing director, Auguste Wild, very well having stayed there when returning from work abroad.

Mr Wild was a popular and charismatic figure in Chelsea, much appreciated for his bright and entertaining conversation.

He had added an ‘American Bar’ to the interior of the hotel, and called himself Auguste Wild Bey on account of the title ‘Bey’ being conveyed upon him by the Khedive in Egypt when some years before he was one of the most famous hoteliers in Cairo.

When in Cairo, kings and queens, great statesmen, and famous soldiers dined at his hotel including Lord Kitchener whom he described as a ‘charming man socially who as a diner knew exactly what he wanted.’

Advertisements for the Royal Court Hotel promoting 120 rooms with hot and cold water, phone and central heating before the war, with radios added after the war, and extolling its excellent French cuisine, and ‘Court American Bar.’ Auguste presented himself as ‘A. Wild Bey- late of Continental, Savoy and Mena House, Cairo.’ He also owned and managed the Highcliffe Hotel in Bournemouth.

The Royal Court Hotel would reinvent its fashion and celebrity status during the 1960s when The Beatles stayed there for several weeks in February 1962 and a year later they used the building for a photographic promotion.

The hotel was the location for the first meeting between Paul McCartney and his future girlfriend, the actress Jane Asher, during an interview for the Radio Times in April 1963.

Nearly 23 years earlier on Tuesday 12th November 1940 the novelist Frances Faviell saw her husband off at the station entrance as he was going to work in Whitehall that night and she walked home to their flat in Cheyne Place.

Frances remembered feeling a terrific thud or earthquake sensation in the ground. That was the moment when the bomb struck.

Very soon after, she received a phone call from Sloane 9191. That was the Royal Court Hotel.

She was being asked to return there immediately because it had become a temporary first aid post tending to the injured and along with neighbouring houses had also become a temporary mortuary.

When she got to the square she was confronted by the jets of flame from broken and ignited gas mains, glass and rubble strewn across Sloane Square, and the station itself was no more.

It had become a pit of destruction.

Mr Wild and the hotel staff provided blankets, rugs, towels and table napkins for the injured.

The Royal Court Hotel had become a makeshift hospital and triage centre with receptionists May O’Holloran and Louise Watson, manager Guy Osborne Lion, and the other staff including secretary Gertrude Kirkwood, telephone operators Ivy Sutton, Edith Taylor, and the kitchen staff, Chef Louis Jacquemin and trainee cook Fritz Israel Cahn all doing what they could to help.

The hotel also provided a small and formidable army of chambermaids- Florence White, known as ‘Minnie’, Ellen Brennan, Beatrice West, Emily Elcox, and Ethel Frost to work as temporary nurses and to hold the hands of survivors.

The 20 year old commis waiter Albert Emin from France was pirouetting from person to person with trays of water, tea, coffee and brandy, and the hotel page, 17 year old Alexander Finlayson, helped receive and assist the stretcher bearer units and ambulances.

Frances remembered the ghastliness of the damage to human beings.

This challenged identification with bodies having to be literally put together.

She talked of thirty-eight stretchers of reassembled human flesh by the following Saturday.

Most of those killed had been in the canteen- fourteen men, one conductress, and two attendants. She said the body of the conductress had virtually disintegrated.

Many dustbins had been needed to retrieve what she described as a holocaust of human flesh and two gallons of disinfectant had to be used.

Frances claimed that by the Saturday she had been told seventeen people were still unacccounted for.

Dr. Frederick Arthur Phillips who had attended to Mildred Castillo after her miraculous rescue in Bramerton Street in September was in charge of the mobile medical unit.

He had worked as a medic during the Spanish Civil War and his experiences of improvising amid the chaos and distress of blast injuries proved invaluable.

The challenge was tending to people covered in blood and dirt and doing everything possible to prevent infection.

Dr. Phillips worked with his wife, who was a nurse on the unit.

He would receive an MBE for his leadership of the mobile emergency medical unit during the Blitz, though his heroics and dedication did not stop the police prosecuting him for driving his car with no lights on New Year’s Eve 1943 near his flat in Lowndes Square Knightsbridge.

The Marlborough Street Magistrate fined him ten shillings.

The London Transport Museum has preserved a portfolio of images which record the destruction and devastation in November 1940 and also visually depicts the history and changes in the station’s architecture.

July to December 1907. ‘Sloane Square Underground station exterior, District line. The original 1868 building has been partly obscured by a roof level station name hoarding and the c.1900 addition of shop units extending across the forecourt to meet the pavement of Sloane Street. Shop units flanking the entrance are occupied by Tom Hill and Redman & Co.’

1st June 1923 ‘The Royal Court Hotel and Restaurant, on the north side of Sloane Square, also showing a bare corner of the Square, where a greengrocer’s horse and cart are waiting. To the left of the hotel, which takes up nearly the whole block, there is a branch of the Westminster Bank, directly opposite the much larger branch on the other side of the Square.’

29th March 1940. ‘Sloane Square Underground station, District and Circle lines. View of the refurbished platforms taken from the westbound platform looking towards the west. Newly installed escalators can be seen on both platforms. The arched glass roof is clearly visible. The walls are largely obscured by advertisements. Both the escalators and the roof were destroyed in the air raid in November 1940.’

The escalators from the platform to the street and new ticket hall were opened to the public at the end of March 1940 and they were the first escalators to be built by London Transport in an open station. They were 50 feet long rising 25 feet and sparing passengers a climb of 31 steps. There has never been any room to build down escalators, but the new steps were constructed so that they made the downward strides easier for travellers.

2nd April 1940. ‘Circulating area in the booking hall at Sloane Square station, Metropolitan District Railway (now District and Circle lines) All of this would be destroyed by the bomb on 12th November 1940. William Hedley George, the booking clerk on duty that night would lose his life here.

13th November 1940 . ‘Air raid damage at Sloane Square Underground station, District line. High angle view, showing the damage caused to the arched roof of the station; the pile of rubble on the extreme right marks the site of the station building. A number of rescue workers can be seen in the shot.’

13th November 1940. ‘Air raid damage at Sloane Square Underground station. Workmen are clearing the tracks of rubble, and loading it into the ballast wagon seen on the left. The platform in the foreground is still littered with debris. The remains of the recently-installed escalators can be seen, midground left and foreground right.’

13th November 1940. ‘Air raid damage at Sloane Square Underground station. This view shows all that remained of the station building after it was hit by a bomb “which killed 79 people”; only short sections of wall have survived. A number of men are at work in the rubble. The building on the right has also suffered damage.

The London Transport Museum gives the total number of people killed as 79. This does not tally with official records where the total figure of civilian and military deaths is 39. The UK TV Secrets of the Underground programme offered a figure of 42 deaths.

It has always been accepted there may have been some victims whose identities will never be known because of the extent of the bomb’s destructive force.

Chelsea Borough Council mortuary records cite four sets of remains from the Sloane Square incident which were beyond recognition and had no identifying features. Three were gendered as male. They were all interred at Morden Cemetery.

13th November 1940. ‘Air raid damage at Sloane Square station. Three-quarter side view of the badly damaged driver’s cab of a District line train which was standing in the station platform when it was hit by a bomb; A large chunk of masonry from the tunnel roof has fallen onto the track, foreground right.

May 1951. ‘Sloane Square Underground Station, District line after reconstruction. The new station, built in time for the Festival of Britain and replacing the one bombed during the war, is a one storey rectangular building not yet built upon. People walk past the station, maps are seen either side of the entrance, and a roundel above.’

1955. Sloane Square Underground Station with Royal Court Theatre. Third building still single storey. An office block would be added above it during the 1960s. London Metropolitan Archives.

1955. Sloane Square Underground Station exterior view from Sloane Gardens. London Metropolitan Archives.

Irene Haslewood is another woman witness and diarist who wrote of the grim task confronting the ARP services at Sloane Square.

Irene came onto the scene two days after the disaster on the Thursday and Friday of that week.

By this time it had been decided a 2,000 lb bomb had carved Sloane Square station out of existence, and incredibly leaving the blocks of flats on either side hardly damaged at all.

10.15 p.m. was the time of blast on the Tuesday night. The big underground canteen was kept open day and night for bus drivers and Irene reported utter carnage which beggared description.

Her stretcher bearer and ARP colleagues who had been first on the scene said most of the victims had been stripped of all their clothing by the force of the blast.

They described to her how they had to work under the terrible spectacle of ‘two stark and mutilated bodies of young girls hung high up in the twisted steel girders – trapped by their feet hanging head downwards.’

It took several days to release them. The body parts were initially collected in dust pans and were so numerous she reported that in the end they never found out how many dead were collected.

The question arose about what to do with unrecognisable parts. Irene said rather than being sent to the mortuary some would be disposed of in the refuse system at Durham’s Wharf. This observation is very much open to question.

She said many of the victims had been found with the right arm across their eyes. She and her colleagues concluded they must have heard the bomb coming down and exploding before death overtook them.

She said it was a nonsense myth that you would survive the bomb you hear coming your way.

Only parachute mines can’t be heard before detonation, as they float down under their parachutes in a sinister and stealthy silence and could be described as the true stalkers of death in the London Blitz.

These three remarkable and brave Chelsea Blitz women chroniclers- Oakman, Faviell and Haslewood- never spared their readers the macabre reality of the death and destruction they witnessed and experienced.

And what they went through did have a psychological impact which was shared with many if not all their ARP and civil defence compatriots.

Irene described breaking down completely in paroxysms of sobbing and despair one night and needing a day at home to recover from the shock and burden of unbearable flashback and memories.

The rescue at Sloane Square from November 12th 1940 was a joint operation between ARP civilian defence services and LPTB’s engineering and building divisions.

Some stills from archive film of British Army Pioneers helping to clear the debris at the Sloane Square underground station bombing. It is possible to see that the metal bridge over the tracks crrying the Westbourne River is still intact and the ‘Sloane Square’ sign is clearly visible on the West bound platform.

LPTB welder Bill Kempson was awarded a British Empire Medal for bravery when using steel cutting equipment to rescue victims trapped underneath heavy debris containing metal girders and rubble.

There was a huge risk of collapsing brickwork falling on top of him as he cut through large quantities of steel girders which pinned down many of the injured. He was well-known for his first aid work throughout a career in London Transport lasting until 1971 when he retired at the age of 72.

LPTB had the station back working again within a fortnight of the bombing. The elegant long rounded roof seen in the aerial photograph in the late 1920s would never be rebuilt and to the present day the station platforms remain open air.

Modern views of Sloane Square Underground Station 2022 and 2023 by Tim Crook

Casualties of the Luftwaffe bombing 12th November 1940

The recorded victims presented here may not represent the total number of people who died.

36 civilians are named and commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and a further three servicemen have been recorded as dying in the incident.

This total of 39 does not square and match with contemporary and past reports of the total number of people who died.

The high number of casualties employed by the London Passenger Transport Board, working on buses and the London Underground is due to the fact they were in an LPTB canteen on the westward bound platform of the station at the time of the bombing.

Sadly the nature of the explosion caused catastrophic damage to building and human beings.

It has always been possible that there may have been individuals travelling through the station whose obliteration and missing status from that time, whether recorded or not, has defied identification.

Civilian victims

Henry Herbert Waller, a 33 year old bus driver for the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) of 2 Crofton Road, Peckham, Southwark, Camberwell, London, England, married to Kathleen A Waller. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

George James Cooper, a 40 year old omnibus driver employed by the LPTB. Husband of F. K. Cooper, of 126 Glenesk Road, Eltham, Woolwich, Kent. Died at Sloane Square Station.

James Patrick Dingnan, a 32 year old labourer employed by the LPTB of 40 Farm Lane, Fulham. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

William Hedley George, a 35 year old booking clerk employed by the LPTB. Son of Lottie George, of 5 Meadowbank Gardens, Hounslow, Middlesex, and of the late William George; husband of Daisy Primrose George, of 23 Burnham Gardens, Bath Road, Hounslow. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Henry Gordon Houston, a 30 year old inspector employed by the LPTB.  Son of William John Anderson Houston, and Nora Beatrice Mary Houston, of 45 Tolworth Rise, Tolworth, Surrey; husband of K. M. Houston, of 32 Grimwood Road, Twickenham, Middlesex. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Albert Edward Patterson, a 39 year old railway guard for LPTB and a member of the Home Guard. Son of Mr. and Mrs. F Patterson, of 13 Greencourt Gardens, Edgware, Middlesex; husband of Violet Elizabeth Patterson, of 104 Cuckoo Avenue, Hanwell, Middlesex. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

Arthur Richardson, a 36 year old porter employed by the LPTB of 7 Old Compton Street, Soho. Injured 12 November 1940, at Sloane Square Station; died at St. Luke’s Hospital.  

Silvester George Rogers, a 61 year old motorman employed by the LPTB. Husband of Frances Rogers, of 7 Belsize Avenue, West Ealing. Died at Sloane Square Station.    

Walter William Saunders, a 32 year old bus driver working for the LPTB.  Son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Saunders, of 86 Poole’s Park, Finsbury Park, Middlesex; husband of Hilda Saunders, of 9 Nutbrook Street, Peckham. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

George G Walkling, a 35 year old railway guard working for the LPTB. Husband of Iden Frances Walkling, of 42 Mirabel Road, Fulham. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Frederick Victor Adams,  a 30 year old omnibus inspector working for the LPTB.  Son of Albert and Rosina Jane Adams, of 15 Fairfax Road, Bedford Park, Chiswick, Middlesex. Died at Sloane Square Station.

William Charles Bullock, a 34 year old fitter working for the LPTB.  Husband of Doris E. Bullock, of 47 Lamont Road. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

William Henry Chamberlain, 35 years old and husband of W. Chamberlain, of 53 Stockwell Green, Stockwell. Died at Sloane Square.

George Henry Albert Daniels, a 33 year old bus conductor working for the LPTB. Husband of Ivy Winifred Daniels, of 284 Bexley Lane, Sidcup, Kent. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

Edith Rosa Duce, a 53 year old private secretary to the Managing Director of Random Express Newspaper Ltd.   She was living at 4B Pont Street and died at Sloane Square Station.  

Vincent Alfred Lock, a 43 year old railway guard working for the LPTB.  Husband of E. A. Lock, of 87 Merton Road, Southfields. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

Robert George Head, a 29 year old railway guard working for the LPTB.  Son of Robert H. and Edith Head, of 5 Lilac Gardens, South Ealing; husband of Violet Ruby Head, of 53 Chestnut Grove, South Ealing. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Edward John Jenning, a 56 year old heavy lorry driver working for the LPTB.  Son of Edward J. Jenning, of 52 Star Road, West Kensington. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

Ernest Walter Peachey, a 48 year old motorman working for the LPTB.  Husband of E. M. Peachey, of 4 Wingrove Road, Hammersmith. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Elizabeth Ann Pitt, a 26 year old canteen assistant working for the LPTB.  Daughter of Charles Henry and Catherine Pitt, of 14 St. George’s Drive. Died at Sloane Square Station.          

Alfred Reynolds, a 46 year old labourer in the LPTB building department. Husband of E. Reynolds, of 22 Sands End Lane, Fulham. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Norman Henry Thompson, a 31 year old labourer in the LPTB building department. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, of Devonport, Plymouth, Devon; husband of Mary Elisabeth Thompson, of 84 Trinity Road, Upper Tooting. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Clifford Charles Tilbery, a 27 year old inspector working for the LPTB.   He was also a Special Constable with the Metropolitan Police. Son of Charles Bunc Tilbery, and Grace Tilbery, of 31 Westow Street, Upper Norwood; husband of Phyllis M. Tilbery, of 90 Cowley Road, Mortlake, Surrey. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Leonard Albert Birch, a 46 year old fitter and driver working with the LPTB. He had been a King’s Corporal in the British Army. Son of George Samuel and Elizabeth Birch, of 33 Holly Road, Chiswick, Middlesex; husband of Ada Mary Birch, of 241 Acton Lane, Middlesex. Died at Sloane Square Station. 

Fred F. Box, a 58 year old electrical engineer working in the signals department of the LPTB of 9 Barley Lane, Goodmayes, Essex. Son of Charles and Mary Anne Box, of 15 Pembroke Square, Kensington; husband of Freda May Box. Died at Sloane Square Station. 

Ambrose John George Dance, a 34 year old bus driver working for the LPTB.  Son of J. and E. Dance, of Blacknest, Sunninghill, Ascot, Berkshire; husband of Letty E. V. Dance, of 141 Conisborough Crescent, Catford. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

Ernest Fox, a 40 year old bus driver working for the LPTB.  Serving in the Home Guard. Husband of Minnie Fox, of 17 Westbury Avenue, Southall, Middlesex. Died at Sloane Square Station.  

Ada Sophie Henderson, a 29 year old canteen charge hand. Daughter of Sophie Henderson, of 15 Boyson Road, Walworth. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Florence Audrey Boreham, a 32 year old bus conductress working for the LPTB. Daughter of the late Joseph and Frances Lynham; wife of C. Boreham, of 122 Stockwell Road, Brixton. Died at Sloane Square Station.  She was also pregnant.

James John Cook, a 37 year old omnibus driver working for the LPTB.  Husband of Mary Ann Cook, of 133 Shaldon Drive, Morden, Surrey. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Charles Griffin, a 39 year old motorman working for the LPTB.   Husband of B. R. Griffin, of 35 Fernhurst Road, Fulham. Died at Sloane Square Station. 

Frederick Thomas Knight, a 48 year old advertisement fixer working for the LPTB.  Husband of B. Knight, of 52 Malva Road, Wandsworth. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Albert Henry Russell, a 55 year old motorman working for the LPTB.  Husband of Lily Mary Harding, of 17 Clairvale Road, Hounslow, Middlesex. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Benjamin Hawes, a 46 year old railway guard working for the LPTB.  Son of Harry and Mary Hawes, of 22 Antrobus Road, Chiswick; husband of Rose Hawes, of 155 Old Oak Common Lane. Died at Sloane Square Station.

Charles Thomas Hinchcliffe, a 29 year old bus conductor working for the LPTB. Son of Edith Hinchcliffe, of 28 Chubworthy Street, New Cross, Deptford; husband of Constance Ella Hinchcliffe, of 32 Ightham Road, Erith, Kent. Died at Sloane Square Station.

James George Heber Loveday, a 50 year old motorman working for the LPTB.  Son of Mrs. E. Loveday, of 58 Archel Road, Fulham, husband of E. F. Loveday, of 11 Sheringham Avenue, Woodlawn Park, Whitton, Twickenham, Middlesex. Died at Sloane Square Station.     

36 named in relation to Sloane Square Station.   LPTB stands for London Passenger Transport Board, which was later shortened to be known as ‘London Transport.’  

Servicemen killed at Sloane Square

Michael Robert MacIntyre of the Royal Engineers. (Sapper) 22 years old of 33 Walpole Street SW3.

Bernard Alexander Tisdale, of the RAF (civilian occupation- shipbroker’s clerk) who was 18 years old and living at 36 Chesterfield Road, Chiswick.  

Nathan Abrahams, a private in the army serving in the Pioneer Corps. He was 35 years old and living at Hyde Park Barracks.

Peter Pan dies

Another connection between the Royal Court Hotel and Sloane Square Station is in the tragic fate of Peter Llewelyn Davies who had been the inspiration for J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. On 5th April 1960 he was staying in the hotel prior to moving to Gibraltar.

But after drinking in the American Bar he went to Sloane Square station and died falling beneath a moving train.

He and his wife, the Hon. Margaret Leslie née Hore-Ruthven had only recently given up their home at Cadogan Court.

Peter Llewelyn Davies was one of five brothers who, after their parents died, became wards of Sir James Barrie.

The legend holds that he and the dramatist first met in Kensington Gardens at the beginning of the 20th century on the spot now marked by the Peter Pan statue.

Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens by George Frampton in 1912. Image by Chmee2 CC BY-SA 3.0 2013.

He was in his late 60s by the time of his death and was a leading London publisher, chairman of his own firm, and grandson of George du Maurier.

His life story is explored in the books Captivated : J.M. Barrie, Daphne Du Maurier and the dark side of Neverland by Piers Dudgeon (2009) and J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys by Andrew Birkin (2003).

More memories of Sloane Square underground station

Sloane Square was the first destination for hundreds of Chelsea schoolchildren evacuated on 1st September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. An escorting teacher told a local reporter: ‘They have not been informed of their actual destination, but they have been told that they are going to the country or the seaside for a holiday, and they are looking forward to it.’

In 1967, 19 year old typist Patricia Brighton of Cadogan Gardens learned that it was an offence to allow a dog to walk on the moving escalator.

This is because her Alsatian got trapped in one at Sloane Square. The Magistrate John Aubrey-Fletcher at Marlborough Street fined her £5 saying ‘I wouldn’t like to release a dog, especially an Alsatian with its paw caught in the escalator. I’d keep well away from it.’

It seems London Transport staff saved the day after hearing the dog yelping, releasing its bloodied paw and taking it to an RSPCA hospital.

When Miss Brighton was asked why she hadn’t carried him up the stairs, she replied ‘The dog is too heavy to carry in my arms.” Some might say she had a very good point.

In October 1955 a young man survived a quite extraordinary ordeal.

He was coming down the stairs to get to a train arriving on the Westbound platform.

But to save time he tried to slide down the banisters, overbalanced and fell onto the roof of the carriage of the departing tube train which was already in motion.

In a state of shock he sensibly lay down flat and was carried through the tunnel to South Kensington Station.

He was so terrified he could not call for help there, but went on through the tunnels to Gloucester Road Station where he injured his hip while trying to jump down onto the platform in front of astonished underground staff.

He was taken to St George’s Hospital in Hyde Park Corner for a check-up and then discharged.

A contemporary satellite view of Sloane Square Underground station. The green coloured conduit carrying the River Westbourne can be seen crossing the tracks.

Images used in slideshow at top of posting

  1. Sloane Square underground station RBKC postcard, Hume Swaine 1897 Artist and Engraver.
  2. Sloane Square underground station after bombing 12th November 1940. Image from Home Front HMSO 1942.
  3. Aerial image of Sloane Square underground station and Sloane Square late 1920s. Taken from a low flying plane before the construction of the new Peter Jones glass-fronted department store between 1934-6.
  4. Sloane Square underground station temporary construction in corrugated iron after bombing. Image from Evening News booklet titled ‘When Hitler Came This Way’ published 1946.
  5. Sloane Square underground station June 2022. Image by Tim Crook.
  6. Sloane Square underground station as it looked before redevelopment completed in March 1940. Image from Evening News booklet titled ‘When Hitler Came This Way’ published in 1946.

Special thanks to Karen White and Chris Pain whose families lived in Chelsea during World War Two, and Malachy John McCauley, also brought up in Chelsea, who have very kindly encouraged and assisted my research. Special thanks to Marja Giejgo for editorial assistance. Research and archive facilities from Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council library services, The Imperial War Museum and National Archives at Kew.

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