Holden designed many of the London Underground stations during the 1920s and 1930s
His first major commission was Morden Station which features white Portland Stone as with many of his designs. His early designs were influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, but after the First World War became simplified and modernist.
Having already designed the façade to the Grade II listed Belgrave Hospital for Children in Kennington, Holden won the architectural competition to design the Bristol Central Library in 1902, which is Grade I listed. In 1906 he won the competition to design Zimbabwe House, the Grade II* listed building that was the Headquarters for the British Medical Association.
In 1920, Holden was promoted to be the fourth principal architect at the Imperial War Graves Commission (now known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission),where his work included memorials to the New Zealand missing dead at Messines Ridge British Cemetery, and the Buttes New British Cemetery at Zonnebeke. In 1922 Holden designed the War Memorial Gateway for Clifton College in Bristol. It was shortly after this that Holden began to work with London Transport.
Lord Beveridge presented his views on each architect to the selection group, and made his preference for Holden clear. He described the designs as:
admirable both outside and inside… My general impression is that on line and proportion he is an absolutely safe and inspiring guide. (UofL archives: ULL CF 1/31/168-2703 file 583.1)
The Court unanimously decided to appoint Charles Holden the architect of Senate House, or, as Holden described it:
In the year 1931 the University Court and Senate made their important decision committing me to a life sentence with hard labour.
(RIBA Journal, 9 May 1938).