Stockwell Bus Garage
Lansdowne Way, Stockwell, London SW8, UK
Alfred Edward Beer
June 1950 - 1953, opened 2nd April 1952
ICE reference number
photo Jane Joyce
Post-war steel scarcity prompted an inventive use of reinforced concrete at Stockwell Bus Garage. The building’s arched roof vaults soar over a vast clear floor area — reputedly the largest in Europe at the time — designed to house 200 buses. Now Grade II* listed, the garage is still in use as a bus depot.
Buses replaced trams in London after 1952, and in preparation for the changeover many tram depots were converted into bus garages. The London Transport Executive also built several new depots, including Stockwell Bus Garage.
The formerly residential area to the south east of the junction of Lansdowne Way and Binfield Road in Stockwell had been destroyed in the wartime air raids of 1940-1. It presented an ideal site for the new garage, as it is only a short distance north west of Stockwell London Underground station and close to main north-south trunk roads (now the A3, A203 and A3036).
The garage was designed by architect Adie, Button & Partners in association with Thomas Bilbow, London Transport Executive's own architect. The structural engineer was Alfred Edward Beer and the lighting design carried out by J.H. Coombs & Partners.
A post-war shortage of structural steel influenced the decision to use concrete in the design. The principal requirement was for a covered parking space to house 200 buses. A rectangular clear floor area of 6,814 sq m was achieved by constructing the clear-span roof as a series of reinforced concrete ribs and vaults.
The 120m long roof structure is composed of 10 transverse arched ribs 660mm wide, 2.1m deep at the crown and 3.2m at the haunches, and spanning 59.1m. The crown soffits are 11.9m above floor level and arch springings have 4.9m headroom. Owing to the narrowness of the ribs, the main reinforcement was butt welded rather than lapped (joints staggered to minimise faulty welding).
Each rib forms a two-hinged rigid frame with its end columns, which are wider at the top than at the base in the plane of the arch — 1.8m wide at floor level. The frames were cast in situ, using prefabricated formwork and centring. Casting was done in four stages: columns up to springing level, springing plus 7.6m of arch, 15.2m of arch and the final 9.1m central section.
Nine reinforced concrete arched cantilever vaults 100mm thick span 12.8m between the ribs. Glazed roof lights 4.3m wide and 42.7m long, with openable louvres, are let into the centre of each vault. Transverse arched ribs run at 3m centres beneath the gabled glazing.
To absorb any out of balance thrust from live loads, the two end frames of the roof are stabilised with a 2.4m wide reinforced concrete box on the arch rib. It is formed by a 457mm thick external member with 305mm thick slabs top and bottom connecting it to the rib.
The columns are hinged below floor level and sit on pile caps above groups of eight or nine piles driven into London clay. The horizontal thrust is taken up by 38mm diameter bars coated in bitumen and concrete encased between the pile caps.
At springing level, a longitudinal tie links all four sides of the building. It consists of a 1.2m wide H-section reinforced concrete beam, which conceals the 229mm diameter cast iron rainwater pipe, 152mm sprinkler main and other services. The main entrance doors are also hung from this ring beam.
The Lansdowne Way (north) elevation has large double folding doors to the central and end bays, for bus access. The other six bays are glazed with 20 vertical lights. The brick gable end walls are glazed above the ring beam with 84 vertical lights. Below the beam, the Binfield Road (west) gable has double folding doors to the south side and the east gable 14 metal-framed square windows.
The bus garage is heated by a low-pressure hot water system, thermostatically controlled to suit the outside temperature. Movement lighting for the whole floor area is provided by continuous series of 2.4m long 75W tubular fluorescent lamps along the arch of the main ribs, 22 lamps per run.
Behind (south of) the main garage are smaller buildings housing facilities for staff as well as bus refuelling, inspection, servicing, repair and cleaning. Engine fumes from the vehicles are exhausted to the outside by underground pipework and fans. Some of the buildings are of brick and others are reinforced concrete frame construction.
On 2nd April 1952, Stockwell Bus Garage was opened and brought partially into use. It was completed and became fully operational in 1953.
In March 1988, the garage was Grade II* listed. Though not normally accessible to the public, an open day was held on Saturday 21st June 2014.
Architect: Adie Button & Partners
In association with: Thomas Bilbow (London Transport Exec.)
Supervising engineer (heating/ventilation): H. Carter (London Transport Exec.)
Contractor: Wilson Lovatt & Sons Ltd
Lighting contractor: Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company
"Stockwell Bus Garage", The Engineer, pp.557-559, 30th October 1953