Category Archives: London Transport

Highgate Station – A Hidden London Tour

The London Transport Museum run a series of excellent tours under the title of Hidden London. Up until a couple of weeks ago I had been on all these tours with the exception of the “Highgate Wilderness Walkabout”, so I was really pleased to complete the set and take the Northern Line up to Highgate Station on a Friday afternoon at the beginning of September.

Unlike the majority of Hidden London tours, this one is above ground and explores the old Highgate high level station. I have wanted to visit this station for some time after finding some postcards of Highgate Station which show a large station and tunnels in a valley adjacent to the Archway Road.

The high level Highgate Station is above the underground station of the same name on the Northern Line. The high level station (which I will call Highgate Station from now on) was opened on the 22nd August 1867 by the Great Northern Railway on a new line that ran from Finsbury Park up to Edgware, High Barnet and Alexandra Palace.

The following postcard shows a view of the station from the south. Archway Road is on the left. The view of the station is not as originally built when the platforms were along the side of the tracks. The main central platform was added soon after.

Highgate Station

This postcard shows the station as first built with the two side platforms.

Highgate Station

Another view of the station which shows how quickly trees had grown on the embankments surrounding the station.

Highgate Station

A postcard showing the platform and through the tunnel.

Highgate Station

The description at the bottom of the postcard regarding the foliage perfectly describes the station environment today.

When Highgate Station was built, much of the area further out from central London was still countryside. There is a report of the opening of the station in the Illustrated Times on the 26th October 1867. This includes the following description of the surrounding countryside and the benefits that the new line will bring:

“The beautiful country around Finchley, Hendon, Mill-hill, Edgware and Stanmore, has hitherto been practically a remote and inaccessible region. One or two vehicular enormities in the shape of ‘busses’ and the ‘carriers cart’, with its incurable jog-trot have literally been the only means of transit for passengers, goods and parcels between London and a large, healthy, and populous district within five to twelve miles of the Bank! Now, however, smart, roomy carriages, lighted with gas, and ‘tooled’ into the City in less than half the time formerly occupied, will no doubt, draw out the travelling capacities of our secluded friends; while the household requisites and numerous articles of merchandise necessary to the existence of a modern civilised community will be scattered by a beneficent goods-train in rich profusion over a district contented till lately, with the mere beauties of nature.”

Strange to hear Finchley being described as a “remote and inaccessible region” !

The opening of Highgate Station must also have had a very positive impact on the price of property in the area (the result of the construction of new transport lines still visible today, for example along the route of Crossrail). Adverts for property in newspapers in the years after the opening of the station mention “near the recently opened Highgate Station”.

The map below from the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Greater London Atlas shows the position of the station (circled in red). Follow the tracks to the left, through the tunnel (dotted line) and the tracks run on to East Finchley along with another set of tracks which run to Alexandra Palace (top right) having passed through stations at Cranley Gardens and Muswell Hill.)

Highgate Station

The following photo dated 1938 from the Britain from Above collection just shows the entrance to the northern tunnels from Highgate Station, at the very bottom of the photo. Follow the direction of the tunnels higher up the photo and slightly to the right and you can see where the tunnels emerge with two lines of track running up to East Finchley. The branch to Alexandra Palace can also just be seen. The photo therefore gives a good idea of the length of the tunnels.

Highgate Station

During the 1930s there were plans to significantly expand the railways serving the northern reaches of London. The Northern Line would be extended from Archway Station and a new deep level station at Highgate would connect to the high level station to form a major junction.

Work was progressing well, when in 1936 Charles Brand & Son Ltd started the construction of new tunnels extending from Highgate deep level station up to ground level just south of East Finchley station where the tunnels would emerge on either side of the high level tracks.

The tunneling work was helped as a new rotary excavator was used in addition to the normal tunneling shields. The rotary excavator was claimed to dig 170 feet  of tunnels per week, roughly twice as fast as the traditional shield method.

An inspection of the works was held for journalists in early 1938 and at the following luncheon the intentions were made clear for the volume of traffic at the combined high and low level Highgate station which would be served by 35 trains per hour at peak times, with 14 serving the high level platforms and 21 the low level platforms.

The start of the war in 1939 slowed down work on electrifying the northern routes, extension of the Northern Line and integrating the high and low level stations at Highgate. The original high level station buildings were demolished and a new central platform with reinforced concrete canopies were built, including a stairway leading down to the new Highgate Northern Line ticket hall. The central platforms dating from this time are still in place today.

The deep level station opened to traffic in 1941.

After the war, the lack of finance, along with a reduction in passenger numbers conspired against any further electrification or expansion of the northern rail lines and whilst the Northern Line was not at risk, traffic through the High Level station was such that routes through the station gradually closed, with the last passenger train running through Highgate high level station to Alexandra Palace in July 1954.

The line continued in use for a few years to carry freight, however the tracks were removed between Highgate and Alexandra Palace in 1958 and along the rest of the route in 1971.

The stations at Cranley Gardens and Muswell Hill on the Alexandra Palace line were demolished and today nothing remains of these station buildings, however the Parkland Walk now follows sections of the route of the railway line from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace.

The station has remained ever since, with the tracks and embankments being gradually reclaimed by nature

Time to take the tour. The station is reached from the curved footpath descending from Wood Lane which was one of the original entrances to the station as shown in the postcards.

This is the view along the platform looking towards the northern tunnels.

Highgate Station

From the same platform looking towards the southern tunnels. The concrete canopy is from the 1941 reconstruction of the high level platforms.

Highgate Station

At the end of the platforms looking at the northern tunnels.

Highgate Station

These photos show how this once busy station in the centre of north London and adjacent to the busy Archway Road has been reclaimed by nature.

Highgate Station

This stairway was also part of the 1941 reconstruction of the station and led down to the ticket hall for the deep level station below.

Highgate Station

The walk to the southern tunnels feels like a walk through some woods, such is the level of tree growth. Recent rainfall had also turned the pathway into a muddy track which further enhanced the sense of a walk in the country rather than in central Highgate.

Looking back from the southern tunnels to the station in the distance.

Highgate Station

The southern tunnels.

Highgate Station

A redundant litter box.

Highgate Station

The two southern tunnel entrances.

Highgate Station

Whilst it is possible to walk in the tunnels, they are closed off to protect the six different species of bats that now call these tunnels home.

Highgate Station

A final look along the central station platform.

Highgate Station

This was a fascinating glimpse of a station that was once intended to be a significant transport hub in north London and now forms a very natural and overgrown valley next to the Archway Road.

As usual, the guides and staff from the London Transport Museum were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Having completed the current set of tours, I can only hope that there are plans to open up a few more locations in the future.

The Hidden London page on the London Transport Museum web site details the tours as they are available.

alondoninheritance.com

Down Street Station

This year has been a good year for exploring disused underground tunnels. The London Transport Museum and the British Postal Museum have arranged a number of tours throughout the year, and last Thursday I took my last tour of the year, to the disused London Underground Station at Down Street.

You could argue that once you have seen one old underground tunnel, you have seen them all, however each location is unique and they have their own story to tell of London’s development and recent history. Down Street is no exception and held a critical role in the running of the country’s transport network during the last war.

Down Street station is, as the name suggests, in Down Street which runs from Piccadilly to Hertford Street.

The station opened on the 15th March 1907 on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway (part of today’s Piccadilly line), between the stations at Green Park (or as it was called Dover Street) and Hyde Park Corner.

The station however did not meet expectations on passenger numbers for a number of reasons. Green Park and Hyde Park stations were very close by, the station was in a side street rather than on Piccadilly, and the residents of this affluent area tended to have their own private transport rather than use the Underground.

As a result of the station’s limited use, it closed on the 21st May 1932.

The street level station in Down Street as it is today:

Down Street 28

The exterior design of the station was by Leslie Green who was responsible for a number of other stations on the underground. The design and tiling were used on many other stations and clearly marks out the previous function of the building.

Entrance to the platform level today is via the emergency stairs. An original World War 2 sign at the top of the stairs hints at the use of the station during the last war.

Down Street 1

Looking down the stairs:

Down Street 26

Prior to the start of the last war, committees were formed to coordinate key elements of the country’s war effort. One of these was the Railway Executive Committee (REC) and they were in need of a location which would protect the staff and their telephone communication systems.

The role of the REC was to coordinate and manage the wartime operation of the railway companies and the London transport system.

The REC had representatives from each of the rail companies and the London Passenger Transport Board along with telephone communications with each of these organisations. The REC would coordinate the essential movement of troop trains, ammunitions and equipment, raw materials and other goods critical to the war effort, and manage the impact of enemy bombing on the rail network

At the bottom of the stairs, more signs hinting at the previous use of the station.

Down Street 2

Looking back at the bottom of the stairs. The sign on the wall indicates the depth below ground, with the height of the shaft being 22.22 meters.

Down Street 3

The tunnels were converted to provide accommodation for the REC by both London Transport and the London Midland & Scottish Railway.

London Transport were responsible for structural changes and the Railway Company fitted out the tunnels so they were suitable to provide office and living accommodation for the staff of the REC.

Many of the tunnels were plastered or boarded over, partition walls installed and furnished using stock from both the above ground office of the REC and from Railway Hotels, so the quality of furnishing was reasonably high.

This is the tunnel that held the committee room of the Railway Executive Committee. Originally the tunnel walls were boarded and partition walls installed with doors providing entry and exit to the rest of the tunnels. The white tape on the floor marks the position of the board room table.

Down Street 9

One of the side tunnels was converted to provide bathroom facilities for those who would work a shift of several days below ground. The remains of these still exist, although the decay of the past 70 years is clearly evident. These facilities are in individual alcoves along the side of one of the tunnels. It was fascinating to peer into these as they are in almost total darkness. I had to use flash for these photos.

Down Street 4

Bath in the photo above and sink in the photo below.

Down Street 5

Double sink unit. Really good that the historic value of these facilities has been recognised with signs warning not to remove or damage these objects.

Down Street 6

An original water heater.

Down Street 7

Photo showing how the tunnels were partitioned to provide a narrow walkway past the facilities installed in the tunnel on the right.

Down Street 8

As well as the Railway Executive Committee, Down Street also provided accommodation for Winston Churchill at the height of the Blitz.

The original facilities in Whitehall and the Cabinet War Rooms were not considered strong enough to withstand a direct hit by high explosive bombs and whilst new facilities were being constructed, Churchill needed a secure central London location and Down Street provided this service from October to December 1940.

Despite the amount of change needed to accommodate the REC for the duration of the war, much of the original station signage remains:

Down Street 10

To support the work of the REC, communications were needed with the rest of the country’s railway systems. For the time, an advanced telephone system was installed for this purpose and some of this switching equipment still remains:

Down Street 11

Another view of one of the tunnels showing how they were partitioned with narrow walkways providing access across the complex:

Down Street 12

As well as washing and sleeping facilities, the occupants of Down Street also needed to be fed. The station had a kitchen capable of feeding the 40 staff based on site plus any visitors.

Down Street 13

The Piccadilly line still passes through the station. As part of the construction work to make the station suitable for the REC, a wall was built along the length of the platform edge. This still remains with occasional entrances through to the section of the tunnel with the train tracks.

The noise of passing underground trains echoed throughout much of the station. It must have been difficult to work, and to sleep for those off shift during the time when trains would still be running.

Down Street 14

Stairs up to the tunnels which connect with the lifts bringing passengers to and from ground level.

Down Street 15

Some of the original station signage remains behind later paint, plaster and the accumulated dirt of many decades. Later signage helps with orientation in the tunnels.

Down Street 16

An alcove built during the war to accommodate additional communications equipment:

Down Street 17

Station tunnel:Down Street 18

More original signage:

Down Street 21

Curving tunnels always fascinate. What is around the corner?

Down Street 22

Here is the original lift shaft. Lifts were installed during the original station construction. As part of the work to ready the station for occupancy by the REC, a thick concrete cap was installed to ensure that the impact of any surface bombing could not reach the platform levels through the lift shaft.

Down Street 19

The REC continued to use Down Street until the end of 1947. Since then, there have been no other occupants of the station. Many of the partitions were removed to allow various elements of underground signalling and communications to be installed, but the rest of the REC facilities have been left in slow decay.

The main use of Down Street has been to provide ventilation to the Piccadilly Line which is the role the lift shaft provides today.

Looking up the lift shaft:

Down Street 20

These holes in the wall at the bottom of the lift shaft provided the entrance from the platforms tunnels to the lifts.

Down Street 23

The facilities in Down Street were designed not only to provide protection from explosive bombing, but could also be sealed against gas attack with air filtration equipment providing breathable air for the REC staff. An original wartime door.

Down Street 24

Back up to the surface and heading towards the street:

Down Street 27

Down Street is a fascinating station. It only served the Piccadilly Line for a short period of time, but then played a key role in the war, maintaining the efficient coordination and running of the country’s railways.

The London Transport Museum is performing an excellent service in opening up these old stations with well run tours and very knowledgeable guides.  The tour of Down Street is highly recommended to see the remains of the station’s wartime use.

If you do visit Down Street, near by is Shepherd Market. Also well worth a visit which I covered here.

alondoninheritance.com

A 1943 View Of A Redeveloped London

In 1943, although the end of the last war was still two years away,  the thoughts of the London County Council were focussed on the post war reconstruction of the city.

London had yet to suffer the barrage of V1 and V2 weapons, but in 1943 the London County Council published the County of London Plan, a far reaching set of proposals for the post-war development of the city.

I find the many plans for London that have been published fascinating to read. They show the challenges of trying to forecast the needs of a city such as London for decades to come. They provide a snapshot of the city at the time, and they demonstrate that time after time, development of London has reverted to ad-hoc rather than grandiose, city wide schemes.

In the forward to the plan, Lord Latham the Leader of the London County Council wrote:

“This is a plan for London. A plan for one of the greatest cities the world has ever known; for the capital of an Empire; for the meeting place of a Commonwealth of Nations. Those who study the Plan may be critical, but they cannot be indifferent.

Our London has much that is lovely and gracious. I do not know that any city can rival its parks and gardens, its squares and terraces. but year by year as the nineteenth and twentieth centuries grew more and more absorbed in first gaining and then holding material prosperity, these spaces were over-laid, and a tide of mean, ugly, unplanned building rose in every London borough and flooded outward over the fields of Middlesex, Surrey, Essex, Kent.

Athens was the glory of Greece, Rome the great capital of a great Empire, a magnet to all travellers. Paris holds the hearts of civilised people all over the world. Russia is passionately proud of Moscow and Leningrad; but the name we have for London is the Great Wen.

It need not be so. Had our seventeenth century forefathers had the faith to follow Wren, not just the history of London, but perhaps the history of the world might have been different.

Faith, however was wanting. It must not be wanting again – no more in our civic, than in our national life. We can have the London we want; the London that people will come from the four corners of the world to see; if only we determine that we will have it; and that no weakness or indifference shall prevent it.”

The 1943 plan provides plenty of detailed analysis of London at the time, with some graphical presentation using techniques I have not seen in any earlier London planning documents.

The following diagram from the report provides a Social and Functional Analysis of London. This divides London into individual communities, identifies the main functions of the central areas, shows town halls, man shopping centres and open spaces.

The City is surrounded by an area of “Mixed General Business and Industry”. Press (Fleet Street) and Law (the Royal Courts of Justice) provide the main interface between the City and the West End, which also contains the University and Government areas of the city.

The darker brown communities are those with a higher proportion of obsolescent properties. (click on any of the following maps to enlarge)

Social and Functional Map 1

The plan placed considerable importance on community structure within London:

“The social group structure of London is of the utmost importance in the life of the capital. Community grouping helps in no small measure towards the inculcation of local pride, it facilitates control and organisation, and is the means of resolving what would otherwise be interminable aggregations of housing. London is too big to be regarded as a single unit. If approached in this way its problems appear overwhelming and almost insoluble.

The proposal is to emphasise the identity of the existing communities, to increase their degree of segregation, and where necessary to reorganise them as separate and definite entities. The aim would be to provide each community with its own schools, public buildings, shops, open spaces etc. At the same time care would be taken to ensure segregation of the communities was not taken far enough to endanger the sense of interdependence on the adjoining communities or on London as a whole.”

The following map shows a more traditional view of the Communities and Open Spaces within the Greater London area.

Communities and Open Space 1

The plan identifies a number of issues that divide communities, chief among them the way that railways, mainly on the south of the river have divided local communities with railway viaducts acting as a wall between parts of the same community.

The plan used the following photo of the railway viaducts on the approach to Cannon Street Station and down to Waterloo to illustrate the impact. The report, as with a number of other proposals for the post war development of London, placed considerable importance on moving the over ground railways into tunnels to remove viaducts, bring communities together and to remove rail bridges, such as the one shown leading into Cannon Street Station, from across the Thames.

The Southbank 2

The first sentence in the section on Roads is remarkable, remember this was written in 1943, not 2015:

“The need for improved traffic facilities in and around London has become so acute, that unless drastic measures are taken to relieve a large number of the thoroughfares, crossings and junctions of their present congestion, there will be a grave danger that the whole traffic system, will, before long, be slowed to an intolerable degree.”

The plan also emphasises the dangers resulting from traffic on London roads with in 1937 a total of 57,718 accidents in the Greater London area that involved personal injury.

At the time of planning, the ratio of cars to population was one to twenty two. The plan expects a considerable increase in car usage after the war, stating that the war has “made a vast number of people for the first time mechanically minded, and has given a great impetus to the production of motor vehicles.”

Parking this number of cars was also expected to be a problem. The plan includes the provision of underground car parks and that legislation should be passed that enforces the provision of car parking facilities for all buildings of a certain size.

A new ring road was planned for fast moving traffic.  This is shown as the B Ring Road in the following map. Circling the central area of London and with a tunnel under the Thames running from the Isle of Dogs to Deptford. Roads radiating out from the B Ring Road would allow traffic circulating around London to quickly leave to, or arrive from the rest of the country.

Road Plan 1

The plan also identifies the “cumulative effect of street furniture on the appearance of London and on the convenience of pedestrians and vehicular traffic is very considerable” and recommends the formation of a Panel to provide a degree of control over street furniture, with a preference for embellishing streets with tree-planting and green-swards. With the level of street furniture on the streets today, perhaps a Panel to control this would have been a good outcome.

The provision of more open space was seen as a key component of the future development of London with the standardised provision of space for Londoners.

At the time the plan was written there was a considerable variation in the amount of open space available to Londoners in different boroughs, for example the inhabitants of Woolwich benefited from the availability of 6 acres per 1,000 inhabitants, whilst for those of Shoreditch the amount of open space available was 0.1 acres per 1,000 inhabitants.

The provision of 4 acres of open space for every 1,000 inhabitants across London was adopted as a key strategy for future development.

Examples of how open space could be made available to the public included the use of Holland Park, the grounds of the Hurlingham Club and the Bishops Palace Grounds in Fulham.

Indeed at Hurlingham, after the war, the London County Council made a compulsory purchase of the polo grounds to build the Hurlingham Park recreation grounds, along with the Sullivan Court flats and a school, leaving the Hurlingham Club with the 42 acres retained today.

The plan also states that “The difficulty of finding alternative housing accommodation for people displaced when open spaces are provided in built up areas, has been partly removed through the destruction of many houses by bombing.” I am not sure what the view of those who had lost their homes through bombing would have been, that there was a plan to replace their homes with open space.

The following Open Space Plan shows the proposed new public open space in dark green:

Open Space Plan 1

The 1943 plan presents a fascinating view of the industrialisation of London.

The East End of London and the London Docks were well known industrial areas, however every London borough had a significant amount of factories and industrial employment. The report includes a summary of industry for every London borough. I have shown a sample below to indicate the range of factory numbers, employment levels and types of industry across some of the London boroughs.

Borough Principal industries according to numbers employed Size of Factories Factory numbers in 1938 Factory employees in 1938
Bermondsey Food, engineering, and chemicals, including tanneries Each of the principal industries has a large number of factories 711 31,058
Bethnal Green Furniture and clothing Furniture factories very small, clothing small with a few large premises 1,746 15,945
Finsbury Clothing, printing and engineering, though appreciable numbers are employed in all other industries Mostly medium to small, though each industry has a number of large factories and the average size if bigger than in Bethnal Green, Shoreditch or Stepney 2,523 66,556
Islington Engineering, clothing, furniture and miscellaneous (principally builders’ yards, cardboard boxes and laundries) Mostly small, though engineering, furniture and miscellaneous each has a number of medium sized factories 1,998 35,649
Stepney Clothing, food (including breweries and tobacco) and engineering Mostly small (especially clothing) but each industry has a number of large factories 3,270 58,073
Westminster Clothing, printing and engineering, though appreciable numbers are employed in all other industries Mostly small (especially clothing), but each industry has several large factories 4,414 46,528

The plan identifies a trend of decentralisation which had already being happening for a number of decades with the gradual migration of industry from central to outer London and also identifies the improvement in transport facilities as enabling industry to move away from the main residential areas.

Even in 1943 the report identifies the importance of the new industrial estates at Slough, Park Royal, along the Great West Road etc. as the future home for more of London’s industry.

What the plan does not identify is how the Docks would change over the coming decades. The expectation was that the London Docks would continue to provide a key role in both London and the Nation’s global trade.

The following map shows the proposed approach for how industry would be located across the Greater London area. Note the concentration of industrial areas around the Docks and along the Thames.

Industrial Proposals 1

In addition to planning at the Greater London level, the 1943 report also focussed on a number of specific areas that had suffered extensive bomb damage and were therefore important redevelopment locations.

An example is the redevelopment of Bermondsey. The following plan shows the proposed post-war reconstruction of Bermondsey:

Bermondsey 1

The plan for Bermondsey illustrates how the 1943 plan proposed:

  • replacing the long runs of railway viaducts with underground rail tunnels thereby avoiding the way the viaducts divided communities
  • a considerable increase in the amount of public open space
  • wide through roads to carry traffic efficiently across London
  • reduced housing density

How far these plans were actually implemented after the war can be judged by comparison with the following 2015 map of Bermondsey. The railway viaducts still remain, cutting across the borough, and the street layout remains largely unchanged. Southward Park provides a large amount of open space, however there is not the amount proposed in 1943 and the large park planned to run adjacent to the Old Kent Road was not constructed.

New Bermondsey Map 1

Another focus for significant redevelopment was the South Bank. Starting from Westminster Bridge and County Hall at the right of the following picture, the plans consisted of:

  • a Youth centre to the left of County Hall
  • a new road bridge across the Thames leading to Charing Cross to replace the rail bridge after the railways had been diverted underground
  • a Theatre between Charing Cross and Waterloo Bridges (which did get built in the form of the Royal Festival Hall)
  • Government offices running to…..
  • a new bridge – Temple Bridge – across the Thames from the South Bank to Temple Station, in exactly the same place as the proposed Garden Bridge
  • offices then running to Blackfriars Bridge
  • followed by office and flats leading up to a landscaped area around Southwark Cathedral
  • with public gardens running the length of the Thames embankment

The South Bank 1

When reading the plan I was really surprised to find that in 1943 there were proposals for a bridge across the river at Temple. Although this would have been more functional than the proposed Garden Bridge, it would still have blocked some of the view from Waterloo Bridge and the South Bank across to St. Paul’s and the City.

The following picture is an artist impression from the 1943 report of the proposed new Charing Cross road bridge:

Charing Cross Bridge 1

The 1943 report places considerable importance on the need for housing after the war, claiming that “Of the many aspects of London’s future in so far as replanning is concerned, that of housing must claim first attention.” and that “The provision of new housing accommodation will be a most urgent task to be tackled immediately after the war.” Some things do not change, although in 1943 the plans for housing in central London were very much the provision of affordable housing for Londoners rather than the endless development of luxury apartments we see today.

The 1943 plan proposes a comprehensive housing plan to address the need to improve the housing conditions for Londoners as well as providing the number needed.

The following photo from the 1943 plan shows some of the building commenced prior to the war. This is the White City Housing Estate, Hammersmith. Construction started in 1936 and was suspended in 1939. The plan states that when work recommences, the estate will cover an area of 52 acres and comprise 49, 5 storey blocks with accommodation for 11,000 people.

The White City Stadium can be seen on the left of the photo. Completed in 1908 for the Summer Olympics of the same year, the stadium was demolished in 1985 following which the BBC occupied the site. The BBC are now gradually vacating the site so it will be interesting to see what happens with this significant site in the future. (There is plaque on one of the BBC White City buildings at the point of the finishing line of the 1908 track)

White City 1

The 1943 plan recommends the development of housing estates and uses the Roehampton Cottage Estate in Wandsworth as an example of the type of estate that should be built, including the preservation of trees which “adds greatly to the attractive lay-out”

Roehampton 1The 1943 plan also makes recommendations for greater architectural control and uses the following view of Oxford Street as an example of “the chaos of individual and uncoordinated street development” 

Architectural Control 1

The plan recommends “that Panels of architects and planners might be set up to assist the planning authority in the application of a control for street design, similar to those already in operation in other countries, notably in America and Scandinavia. Cornice and first floor levels, as well as the facing materials used, should be more strictly controlled so as to give a sense of continuity and orderliness to the street”. 

The 1943 plan is a fascinating read, not only covering London at the time, but also how London could be today if these plans had of been adopted in full. I have only been able to scratch the surface of the report in this week’s post.

Reading the plan it is clear that some issues do not change, for example housing and traffic congestion.

The plan also highlights the difficulty in planning for the future. There is only a very limited reference to “Aerodromes”, beginning with “All the portents indicate that, after the war, there will be a very considerable expansion in air transport for passengers and, perhaps, for freight. Any plan for the future of London must have close regard for these eventualities.”

The plan does seem to rule out the construction of a large airport within the central London area as this would be “inimical to the interests and comfort of large sections of the population to embark on a scheme of this kind” The post war development of Heathrow was not considered in 1943.

In many ways I am pleased that many of the plans for the large scale redevelopment proposed in the 1943 plan did not take place. As with Wren’s plans for the City after the Great Fire, London tends to avoid large scale planning and seems to evolve in a haphazard manner which contributes much to the attraction of the city, although I feel that this is now under threat with the rows of identical towers that seem to be London’s future.

alondoninheritance.com

 

The Hidden Tunnels Of Charing Cross Underground Station

Charing Cross is a busy underground station on the Northern and Bakerloo lines. Over recent weeks, the excellent London Transport Museum have been running one of their occasional tours of the transport infrastructure below ground and last Saturday I took their Charing Cross Station tour to see the original Jubilee Line platforms along with the tunnels used for station construction and those providing today’s ventilation of the system.

There is so much infrastructure beneath the streets of London and it is fascinating to understand how this supports the London of today, as well as how the development of London is reflected by what is beneath.

The first part of the tour covered the now disused Jubilee Line platforms.

In 1971 construction started on a new underground line which was to have been called the Fleet Line, initially running from Stanmore to Charing Cross, the Fleet name was used due to the expected extension of the line from Charing Cross, along the route of Fleet Street through to stations in the City, including Fenchurch Street and Canon Street.

The planned name was changed to Jubilee Line to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. The change of name was one of the pledges made by the Conservatives as part of their 1977 GLC election manifesto.

The new Jubilee Line, running from Stanmore to Charing Cross opened in 1979.

Plans for major redevelopment and building across the old London docklands resulted in a change of route for the Jubilee Line extension. The significant developments at Canary Wharf and surroundings and the large number of people who would need to travel out to these areas required additional transport capacity as the area was not served by the underground railway.

The planned Jubilee Line extension was therefore re-routed from Green Park station to take a new route  to Westminster, then along the south of the river, up to Canary Wharf and finally Stratford.

This left Charing Cross at the end of a short spur from Green Park, now bypassed by the new extension of the Jubilee Line, and as a result, the station closed in 1999, with the Jubilee Line then taking the route we see today.

The platforms and their associated access tunnels, escalators etc. are still in excellent condition and are used for occasional operational purposes as well as a film set with several recent films including Skyfall and Paddington being filmed here, along with episodes of the TV series Spooks.

One of the old Jubilee Line platforms at Charing Cross. Still in excellent condition and with live tracks allowing Jubilee Line trains to be routed in from Green Park if needed:

Charing Cross 1As well as running on to join the main Jubilee Line outside off Green Park, the overrun of the old Jubilee Line heads towards Aldwych, nearly reaching the old Piccadilly Line station at Aldwych (now closed, which I visited here). There is sufficient length in the overrun to park two trains and the tunnel stops about 100m short of Aldwych.

The above photo is looking in the direction of the run off tunnel and Aldwych.

The opposite end of the platform looking towards Green Park:

Charing Cross 22

Sign showing the original routing of the Jubilee Line, when it ran from Green Park to terminate at Charing Cross:

Charing Cross 20The top of the escalators and stairs leading down to the platforms. These were used in one of the underground chase scenes in Skyfall:

Charing Cross 3The next part of the tour were the tunnels used as part of the construction of the original Jubilee Line and station at Charing Cross.  These are entered from the working passageways and it is always fascinating to see what is behind the many doors along passenger walkways.

Inside the start of one of the construction tunnels looking back at the doors to the passenger walkway:

Charing Cross 4This tunnel was used to remove the spoil dug from the station and Jubilee Line. The tunnel runs from Charing Cross station, then under Trafalgar Square passing under the fountain on the right as you look towards the National Portrait Gallery. It now terminates roughly under the 4th plinth at the far corner of Trafalgar Square from Charing Cross. It did run further to where the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery is now located. It was here that a shaft to the surface allowed the construction spoil to be removed.

Looking down the tunnel, running under Trafalgar Square:

Charing Cross 25

At the far end of the tunnel, roughly under the area of the 4th plinth. The end is now blocked, but this ran onto the shaft that allowed spoil to be removed to the surface.

Charing Cross 8At the very end of the tunnel:

Charing Cross 27

A small side tunnel at the end of the construction tunnel:

Charing Cross 7Looking back down the construction tunnel:

Charing Cross 26

Back near the top of the construction tunnel showing the detail of the construction of the tunnel walls.

Charing Cross 9

Each of the segments forming the tunnel surround are dated with their year of manufacture:

Charing Cross 21The next set of tunnels were those used for the ventilation of the working tunnels. These carried large ventilation pipes and other equipment so hard hats were needed:

Charing Cross 24

Descending down to where the air vents above the working platforms are located:

Charing Cross 11

A strange experience to be standing on the grills above working platforms with trains arriving and departing beneath:

Charing Cross 12

Train at the platform from above:

Charing Cross 13

The other side of the grill, looking through to the passenger walkways from the ventilation tunnels:

Charing Cross 14

Walking along the ventilation tunnels. Large ventilation pipes running the length of the tunnel:

Charing Cross 23

At the end of the tunnel is the shaft that rises up above surface level. This is looking down at the base of the shaft. A further tunnel branching off the base of the shaft to the lower right can just be seen:

Charing Cross 16

Looking up the shaft:

Charing Cross 17

Again, the segments supporting the sides of the shaft are dated with their year of manufacture:

Charing Cross 18

This is what the shaft looks like from outside. In a side street adjacent to Charing Cross Station these look integral to the office block on the site but are really part of the infrastructure supporting the underground:

Charing Cross 19

This was a fascinating tour to see part of the history of the London Underground and some of the infrastructure that has supported past construction and current operation.

My thanks to the London Transport Museum and the staff on the day for the tour.

alondoninheritance.com

Aldwych Underground Station

I have an underground map from 1963 and whilst there are some very significant differences when compared with an underground map of today, for example the yet to be constructed Jubilee Line, there is one station on the 1963 map that has disappeared.

Underground Map 1

Find Holborn Station in the above map. This has the Central and Piccadilly lines passing through, and there is a short stub section of the Piccadilly line going to an Aldwych station.

Aldwych station closed to passengers in 1994, however every so often the London Transport Museum organises tours of the station and yesterday I headed to Surrey Street, just of the Strand to take a look inside a station that I have walked past many times, but have never seen inside.

The external entrances of the station are still very visible. The station was built on a block of land between the Strand and Surrey Street with an entrance in each.

The following photo shows the block with the Strand entrance on the right and the Surrey Street entrance just visible on the left.

Aldwych 2

A close up of the Surrey Street entrance. The tiling is a very distinctive feature on both entrances:

Aldwych 1

The station was built on the site of Royal Strand Theatre which closed on the 13th May 1905. The site had been a theatre for much of the 19th century. The Royal Strand opened on the 5th April 1858 and was a reconstruction of the Strand Theatre which had previously stood on the site.

The underground station opened in 1907 as the Strand Station. It was renamed Aldwych in 1915.

On entering the station, one is greeted with a now empty set of telephone booths. A reminder of the pre-mobile days when a fixed pay phone was needed to make a call when travelling in London.

Aldwych 18

The original lifts remain, although they do not work and were one of the reasons why the station closed. The lifts were still mainly the original 1907 equipment and replacement was urgently needed, however the very significant cost of replacing two lifts could not be justified for a station with only 450 passengers a day.

Aldwych 21

Passenger numbers through the station were very low from opening. This resulted in the ticket office being closed in 1922. Ticket booths were built into the lift cars so as well as operating the lift, the lift man could sell and collect tickets.

Lift control equipment:

Aldwych 19

Without operational lifts, the platforms are now reached by a spiral staircase of some 160 steps. The base of the staircase:

Aldwych 22

Platform 1 is the first platform to visit. This has an old Northern Line train in position along the platform. This platform and the train are used for training of the Underground’s Emergency Response Unit and has also been used as a film set for a considerable number of TV programmes and films. The old posters are more recent reproductions as part of creating an authentic platform for filming.

Aldwych 6

Aldwych was not part of the main Piccadilly Line and only had a shuttle service operating to Holborn.

More advertising posters:

Aldwych 13

This platform still has an operational track towards Holborn station:

Aldwych 8

During the war, Aldwych station was a major air raid shelter which could accommodate up to 1500 people and was equipped with first aid facilities and a canteen. The train service to Holborn was suspended on the 22nd September 1940 from when the station was used as a shelter. The following photo is from the Imperial War Museum’s collection (© IWM (D 1675))

IWM (D 1675)

The following, also from the Imperial War Museum’s collection (© IWM (HU 44272)) illustrates just how basic and uncomfortable the facilities were, but considerably safer than being above ground during a major raid.

IWM (HU 44272)

The shelter formally closed as a shelter in May 1945 when war ended. peak usage had been during the early years of the war, with a second peak when the V1 and V2 weapons were targeted at London during the closing year of the war.

To get from platform 1 to platform 2 there is the walkway above the platforms as is typical in many other operational stations:

Aldwych 5

Platform 2 is very different to platform 1. This platform was closed for train services in 1914 with only platform 1 continuing to be used. Much of this area and the tunnel to Holborn was used as a store-room during the war. Many of the treasures from London museums were moved here for safety, including the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum. This is looking in the direction of Holborn.

Aldwych 24

On the right can be seen part of the original Strand name of the station, shown below in more detail:

Aldwych 12

Only the “AN” still visible of Strand. The “Station Closed” posters are modern reproductions.

Platform 2 has also been used by London Underground to create mock-ups of station tiling and decoration in a realistic environment.

The opposite end of the platform, away from the Holborn direction is bricked off, with the exception of a door:

Aldwych 10

Behind the door is the original 1907 run off tunnel:

Aldwych 15

If a train did not stop, it would continue into the run off tunnel which had sand laid along the ground to try to slow the train. At the end of the tunnel are the original 1907 buffers and beyond these the tunnel terminates in a brick wall. Hopefully the dragging effect of the sand and the buffers would have done their job.

Adjacent to the run off tunnel are some of the original stairs. believed to have been intended as the original entrance to the platform:

Aldwych 14There are also a number of tunnels which were never used by passengers and remain in their basic state. Even when the station was under construction there were concerns that passenger numbers would be low so only the main exit / entrance passages were fully finished.

Aldwych 16It was here that our guide told the story of why it is possible to feel a breeze, without the passing of any trains through the station.  The lead actress in the last play to run at the Royal Strand Theatre before it was demolished to make way for the station  was so unhappy that the play that was going so well was being cut short, swore to come back and haunt the station.

Sniffer dogs in training at the station have also been known to avoid this area of the station. A nice story, but looking into the dark of these tunnels does allow the imagination to run wild for a moment.

Aldwych 17

All too soon, it was time to climb back up the 160 steps to ground level and head out into Surrey Street, which as the sign below suggests, provides a short walk down to Temple Station.

Aldwych 20

A fascinating insight into one of the disused underground stations that are to found scattered across the underground system. As usual, the tour was superbly run by the London Transport Museum, with their highly knowledgeable staff and volunteers as guides.

alondoninheritance.com

The Waterloo Air Terminal

Following the closure of the Festival of Britain, the Southbank site was swiftly cleared apart from the Royal Festival Hall which was always planned as a permanent facility unlike the rest of the Festival buildings.

One part of the Festival site did remain for a few more years and provided support to the rapidly growing Heathrow Airport to the west. In the early days of Heathrow, transport options to the airport were very limited. The Bath Road ran alongside which provided a route for cars / taxis and there were some limited bus services to the airport, however the extension of Underground and Rail services were still many years in the future. The airlines operating out of Heathrow needed to provide passengers for this new and rapidly growing form of transport with easy access to the airport from the centre of London.

One of the main entrances to the Festival of Britain was on York Road facing the main entrance of Waterloo Station. This entrance also had a dedicated entry / exit to the Underground system at Waterloo with the escalators diving underneath York Road to reach the tunnels to the Northern and Bakerloo lines.

The Festival of Britain was held during the summer of 1951, and two years after closure, on the 27th March 1953 the York Road entrance to the site re-opened as the BEA Waterloo Air Terminal serving passengers on BEA flights and other airlines operating out of Heathrow for which BEA acted as a handler. (BEA or British European Airways was formed in 1946 and merged with BOAC, the British Overseas Airways Corporation in 1974 to become British Airways)

The following photo of the Waterloo Air Terminal was taken in York Road from the end of the access road to the main entrance of Waterloo Station.

Waterloo terminal 1

A British European Airways truck is parked outside the building, a poster advertising events at the Royal festival Hall is on the right. County Hall, the home of what was the London County Council can be seen to the left.

My 2015 photo taken on a damp January morning from roughly the same position is shown in the photo below:

Waterloo terminal 4

In the original photo, the London Underground sign can be seen on one of the columns of the building to the left. In the 2015 photo the underground station is just under the footbridge as it enters the office block. The station entrance and the escalator tunnels down to the main underground stations have not changed in the intervening years which provides a perfect reference point in the old and new photos.

Walk further along York Road towards County Hall and we can look back and get another view of the Air Terminal and the Underground Station entrance can be seen just behind the bus.

Waterloo terminal 3

The Waterloo Air Terminal was in use between 1953 and 1957 and provided check-in facilities, luggage drop-off (which would be collected and taken separately to Heathrow) and a regular coach / bus service provided passenger transport to the airport.

For a short period starting on the 25th July 1955 and ending on the 31st May 1956, a trial helicopter service was run between the Waterloo Air Terminal and Heathrow using the space remaining from the Festival of Britain and a Westland-Sikorsky S55 helicopter, however the high cost of the tickets and the limited capacity of the helicopter did not justify running the service and the coach / bus services remained as the primary means of transport. The helicopter service carried 3,822 revenue paying customers during operation.

Walk to the traffic lights where Chicheley Street meets York Road, walk down Chicheley Street and cross over to the Jubilee Gardens where we can look back towards York Road. This was the rear of the Waterloo Air Terminal:

Waterloo terminal 2

The main terminal is underneath the arches. The building on the left is the BEA Cargo Depot. The coach park is on the right. To the left can be seen the railway viaduct which runs from Hungerford Bridge into Waterloo East. Roughly the same scene in 2015:

Waterloo terminal 5A much larger Air Terminal was constructed by BEA in Cromwell Road in 1957 and the services provided by the Waterloo Air terminal were relocated to Cromwell Road allowing the closure of the site and the redevelopment of the area.

The building that is now located on the site of the Waterloo Air Terminal is Shell Centre, built as the UK Head Offices of the Royal Dutch / Shell group of companies and was constructed on the site shortly after the closure of the air terminal from 1957 to 1962.

Aerofilms took a superb photo of the site after closure of the Festival of Britain and removal of many of the buildings including the central Dome of Discovery, the outline of which can be seen in the centre left of the photo below. It was the large area occupied by the Dome of Discovery that was used for the helicopter service.
EAW048068

The Waterloo Air Terminal can be seen in the lower centre of the photo with York Road running left to right. The curved roof of Waterloo Station can just be seen at the bottom of the photo. The Royal Festival Hall is clearly seen and to the right is the Shot Tower which would soon be demolished.

The Waterloo Air Terminal was only open for 4 years, but during those years it played a small, but significant role in supporting the development of Heathrow. A clear sign in the immediate post-war years of how Heathrow would become such a key part of London’s transport infrastructure.

alondoninheritance.com

London’s Railways – Planning For Peace

Around this time of year, a number of London stations are in the news for the considerable amount of work that is on-going for rebuilding, the creation of new lines and what always seems to be the inevitable overrunning engineering works. The work at London Bridge and for Crossrail being just two examples.

Major schemes have always been in various stages of planning to address London’s ever increasing transport requirements. Some schemes have reached completion, others never moved from the conceptual stage.

For this week’s post, I want to illustrate one set of schemes that were published in January 1946 and show how usage of the main London stations has changed over almost 80 years.

In the middle of the last war, there was a general feeling that the tide was starting to turn and planning could start for what London would look like in the decades after the war. How could the city be developed, what would be the transport needs of Londoners in the future, how could both the city’s infrastructure and landscape be improved and better use made of the limited space available?

In 1943 the London County Plan was published, then in February 1944 a committee was established :

“To investigate and report upon the technical and operational aspects of those suggestions made in the County of London Plan of 1943 which relate to the main line and suburban railway system of London, both surface and underground, bearing in mind that these suggestions are intended to contribute towards and form part of a comprehensive scheme for the re-development of the area in question.”

The report from the committee was published in 1946 and made some very far-reaching proposals, that had they been implemented would have had a dramatic impact on the transport system we see in London today.

Report Cover 1

Before getting into some of the details of the proposals, it is fascinating to compare the use of London stations between the 1930s and today. The 1946 report details passenger numbers of all mainline terminals up to the end of 1938 , the latter being the last year free from the influence of war.

The following table compares passenger arrival numbers during maximum morning peak hour  pre-war and in 2010 (the 2010 figures are taken from the “Central London Rail Termini: Analysing Passengers’ Travel Patterns Policy Analysis Research Project” published in September 2011 by Transport for London):

Station 1938 Peak Hour 2010 Peak Hour
Paddington 4,800 10,500
Euston 5,800 11,500
St. Pancras 2,100 9,000
Fenchurch Street 10,500 11,500
King’s Cross 9,000 7,500
Liverpool Street 34,700 32,500
Marylebone 3,900 5,500
Waterloo 24,300 45,500
Victoria 16,400 28,500
Charing Cross 17,000 15,500
Cannon Street 18,100 15,000
London Bridge 31,300 31,000
Totals 177,900 223,500

Whilst overall numbers have increased considerably there are some fascinating individual station comparisons. I bet if you use London Bridge on a daily basis the fact that in 2010 passenger numbers were still slightly below the 1938 level is of little comfort.

Perhaps reflecting the different options for transport and the changes in home locations for those working in central London, there are some significant swings. Paddington, Euston, St. Pancras, Waterloo and Victoria all showing significant increases in passenger traffic whilst King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge are all showing reductions.

There were a couple of major themes within the 1946 report, perhaps reflecting the “anything can be done” attitude needed during the war, and a realisation that the changes caused to London by heavy bombing presented a major opportunity to improve London for everyone who lived and worked in the city. A similar approach to that taken by Wren after the Great Fire of 1666 when he proposed the creation of a city more along the lines of Paris than London had been with an ordered city with straight boulevards and a logical planning approach rather than the numerous small lanes and alleys of pre-fire London .

The major themes of the 1946 report were:

  • The removal of the head on terminals at Charing Cross and Cannon Street and the high level stations at London Bridge and Waterloo Junctions and the associated bridges across the River Thames
  • The construction of an extensive series of deep level tunnels and interchanges to replace the above ground infrastructure and to provide improved passenger and freight transport across London, capable of meeting the expected increase in both freight and passenger volumes.

As well as the removal of the bridges across the Thames, the viaducts across south London were also seen as a problem. Not just as a wasted space, but that they also split communities and their replacement by tunnels was seen as a way of integrating the many communities of south London. This was one of the areas where the rebuilding of the rail system would contribute into the overall London plan by making redevelopment of large areas such as the South Bank possible without the extensive railway infrastructure across the area.

In these proposals it is also possible to see the ideas behind Crossrail where trains from outside the immediate underground network are routed in tunnels across London with deep level interchanges with the tube and other rail networks and with the surface. Whilst the destinations are different, the concept is the same.

The following map from the report identifies the possible routes:

Map 1

The options shown in the map are:

Project A: A new deep-level North Bank link from Battersea to Deptford via Victoria, Charing Cross, Blackfriars, Cannon Street, Shadwell, Wapping and Surrey Docks

Project B: A new deep level-loop connecting Waterloo Junction, Charing Cross, Blackfriars, Cannon Street and London Bridge and then by tunnel via the Surrey Canal rising to join the existing surface systems in the south and south-east.

Project C: A north-south tunnel, an underground link to replace the existing viaduct from Snow Hill to Loughborough Junction

Project D: A northern arc suburban passenger route, passing below the main line stations at Paddington, Marylebone, Euston, King’s Cross and Liverpool Street with interchange facilities.

The projects also included the electrification of all remaining lines into London. I did not realise how much of the rail network leading into London had been electrified by the start of the last war. We tend to think that this was still the age of steam, but into London, the percentages that were already electrified after completion of the 1935 / 40 New Works Programme were:

Southern Railway: 86%

London and North Eastern Railway: 26%

London Midland and Scottish Railway: 32%

One of the other projects considered for the rail terminals was “The reconstruction of terminals at two levels, with flat roofs for future air landing”. Just shows the difficulties in trying to forecast how transport will be used in the future.

Removal of the bridges across the river was considered important as “the merit of a clean sweep of the three rail bridges over the Thames between Westminster and London Bridge cannot be denied”. How different the river would look today without the rail bridges.

Some of the themes driving the need for change are the same now as they were in 1946:

“Size and Distribution of Population. For many decades past, London has embraced a rising proportion of the total population of the whole country, which has itself been rising. During the inter-war years approximately half of the increase in London’s population could be attributed to immigration from the provinces

Decentralisation of employment, for it is one of the guiding principles that industry also should be de-centralised and there are proposals for satellite towns to be located, and existing towns expanded beyond the green belt.

Increasing traffic. Experience shows that, as income rises, the demand for transport rises more than proportionately, irrespective of transport to and from work.”

These words could equally have been written in 2014 as they were in 1946, and in 2014 to support the second point could also be added the ever-increasing price of property in central London driving people further out in search of affordable housing.

The following map from the 1946 report shows the proposed routes in their wider context and the considerable complexity of these proposals (click on the map to open a large copy):

Map 2
London Bridge Station was singled out for special interest. Total passenger numbers in the peak hour in 1925 was 38,000 and grew to 55,000 in 1938. In planning the proposed changes to the rail system, an expected 75,000 passengers was considered the level for which an upgrade should be planned.

As well as moving part of the station underground, an alternative site was considered and a major new underground / overground station was planned for a site adjoining Tower Bridge Road (as marked in Map No. 2 above)

The following map shows the first and second priority routes and also tunnels for the use of passenger and freight traffic. This was still at a time when significant volumes of freight traffic were carried by rail. The explosion of road transport, the motorway network and the considerable use of lorries for freight was not forecast to have a major impact on the rail system in 1946 (again click on the map to open a larger copy).

Map 3

The cost for the priority works were estimated as:

North Bank Route Cost (£)
Main Route 20,920,000
Clapham Branch 2,640,000
Brixton Branch 1,940,000
Deptford Branch 530,000
New Cross Branch 1,380,000
New Cross Gate Branch 1,620,000
Lay-over at Charing Cross 1,840,000
South-east, City and West End Route  
Main Route 5,590,000
Lay-over at Charing Cross 460,000
North-South Route  
Main Route 4,800,000
Lay-over at Holborn 920,000
Northern Arc Route  
Main Route 6,450,000
Lay-over 460,000
Total Scheme 49,550,000

This was rounded up to £50 Million, which was then doubled to take into account the cost of land, property, traction equipment, rolling stock and signalling, plus a further £10M for other ancillary works, giving a total estimated cost of £110 Million. A considerable sum just after the war, also given the financial situation of the country at the time.

The cost of all proposals in the plan was estimated at between £228 Million and £236 Million and these costs did not include the cost of electrification or any other works outside of the proposed tunnels. Estimates of construction time were “under the most favourable conditions, would not be less than 30 years”.

New types of train were also recommended. The majority of overland trains on the Southern Railway comprised carriages with six-a-side compartments, however the safety needs of operating these trains underground required the provision of rolling stock with some form of through corridor to enable passengers to pass in emergency from one coach to another. The types of trains in use at the time were made up of six-a-side compartments and an overall train could carry 1,050 passengers. A 10-coach train of similar length with through corridors reduced passenger carrying capability down to 600 passengers. A challenge with the proposed approach as an increase in the number of trains would be required to carry the same number of passengers without any capacity for the expected increase in numbers.

So what happened to these proposals which would have had a very dramatic impact on the train services and stations in London as well as the view along the Thames if the removal of the rail bridges had gone ahead?

As well as the very significant costs of the proposals, shortly after they were published alternative committees were also set-up to look at options for upgrading London’s transport services.

London Transport planners also prepared their own report which was published the following year in March 1947. On the 1st January 1948, the British Transport Commission took over London Transport as well as the main line railways. The Commission also set-up a new working party to report on transport services within London and a report was completed in late 1948.

The multiple reports, high costs and the economic state of the country in the late 1940s and early 1950s put on hold this type of far-reaching proposal and development of transport within London followed a more individual project approach. Some of the 1946 proposals did get included in alternative projects. For example the Brixton branch proposed in 1946 was eventually covered by the routing of the Victoria Line to Brixton.

London Bridge Station in all it’s complexity is still there and perhaps after the ongoing considerable rebuilding work including the work over this year’s Christmas break, will see the station reach the potential envisaged by the 1946 planners, although with the significant difference of being above ground rather than below.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • Railway (London Plan) Committee 1944 Report to the Minister of War Transport – 21st January 1946
  • Central London Rail Termini: Analysing Passengers Travel Patterns. Policy Analysis Research Report. published by Transport for London, September 2011

alondoninheritance.com

 

Cannon Street Station and a Lost Roof of Iron and Steel

Cannon Street Station is a strange station. If you walk down Cannon Street the station appears to be hiding, pretending to be an office block and blending in with the other recent glass and steel office blocks that now make up so much of the City.

To find any real evidence of Cannon Street Station you need to head to Southwark Bridge where across the Thames you can view the rail bridge heading across the river and entering the station where it is flanked by two brick towers providing passengers their first glimpse of the London Terminus of the original South Eastern Railway.

This was the photo my father took back in 1948 of the entrance to the station from Southwark Bridge:

dads cannon street

In 2014 I took the following photo from the same spot on Southwark Bridge: 2014 photo

From this perspective the towers and the side walls remain, however the most significant change to Cannon Street Station is the roof. The original roof was glass on an iron frame that arched from side wall to side wall across the width of the platforms and ran the entire length of the station. The shape and length of the roof from the edge of the river to the station entrance made this a very significant landmark in the south of the City. The following photo is from a postcard showing the view across London looking west from the top of the Monument. The size of the roof of Cannon Street Station and how it dominated the area is clearly visible.

view from monumentCannon Street Station was built on the location of the Steel Yard. According to “Old and New London”, this was:

“the residence of the Hanse Town, German and Flemish merchants who obtained a settlement in London as early as 1250. Henry III, in 1259 at the request of his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, granted them very valuable privileges, renewed and confirmed by Edward I. The City also conceded them many privileges, on condition of their maintaining Bishopsgate in repair (they rebuilt it once), and sustaining a third of the charges in money and men to defend it when need was. In spite of English jealousy, the Steel Yard merchants flourished till the reign of Edward VI, when the Merchant Adventurers complained of them and they were held, like all other strangers to have forfeited their liberties. In vain Hamburg and Lubeck sent ambassadors to intercede for their countrymen. Their monopoly was gone, but the Steel Yard men still throve, and continued to export English cloth. Elizabeth, however, was rougher with them, and finally expelled them from the country in 1597-8.”

The Steel Yard derived its name not from the steel imported by the Hanse merchants, but from the King’s steel yard here erected to weigh the tonnage of all goods imported into London, the tonnage office being afterwards transferred to the City.

A view of the Steel Yard and neighbourhood in 1540 can be seen below:

The Steel Yard

Approval for the construction of the station was given through an Act of Parliament passed in 1861. Construction commenced in 1863 and the station was officially opened on the 1st September 1866. The station and bridge were designed by the Civil Engineers Sir John Hawkshaw and Sir John Wolfe Barry (who was also the engineer for the construction of Tower Bridge).

The station serves suburban South East London, Kent and East Sussex.

Due to pre-war neglect and damage during the war, the roof was demolished in 1958 and the hotel followed soon after in 1960. There followed a series of re-development projects across the station platforms and on the frontage to Cannon Street resulting in the station and offices we see today. Fortunately the towers facing the Thames are Grade II listed so at least what remains of the once magnificent building over and into the platform area is protected.

Much of the brick wall on either side of the station that reached up to the base of the roof is still in place and provides a sense of the scale of the original station. If you walk down to Upper Thames Street, then on the east side of the station, walk down Allhallows Lane along the side of the wall to the river, up a small set of steps and on the right is a plaque commemorating the German Hanseatic merchants who were based here in the Steel Yard for so many centuries.

plaque

Cannon Street, after which the station is named, was originally Candlewick Street, first mentioned in 1276 and ran from Watling Street to London Bridge and was widened and extended to St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1853-4.

The original station buildings facing the road were in true Victorian station style. Along with the functions needed to support the station, the building also included the Cannon Street Hotel. The following postcard shows the station and hotel building facing onto Cannon Street. The architectural style is very similar to that of Charing Cross Station. Note also the two towers that matched those facing the bridge across the river.

Cannon Street Hotel Postcard

Looking at this postcard of Cannon Street it is hard to believe (or rather perhaps not given how much change there has been in the City) how the station frontage has changed. I took a walk down Cannon Street and took the following photo of the station as it now borders Cannon Street:

cannon street

As I said at the start of this post, until you get really close and look at the ground floor entrance, would you really know that this is a station, or just another City office building?

Walk past the station and you will see an M&S Simply Food shop to the left of the entrance. Above this are two parish boundary markers for St Swithin London Stone (the church damaged by bombing during the war and demolished in 1962) and St Mary Bothaw (this church was on the site of Cannon Street Station, but was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and not one of those selected to be re-built).

P1020408

Passengers arriving into Cannon Street Station would, if they could have looked directly into the station have seen the following view. Looking down into the station from this perspective gives an idea of the scale of the roof as it covered the length of the platforms from the edge of the Thames through to the station buildings on Cannon Street.Bridge entrance to Cannon Street postcard

Today, by London station standards, Cannon Street Station is relatively quiet.  In 2012/13 there were just over 20 Million entries / exits compared to 95 Million for Waterloo (the busiest) and 38 Million for Charing Cross and unlike other central London terminus stations, Cannon Street is closed on Sunday’s (although this will change in 2015).

A shame that this station hides itself in the street after which it is named, however at least the view from the Thames continues to provide a memory of this fantastic example of Victorian architecture and engineering.

The sources I used to research this post are:

alondoninheritance.com

 

Last Tram Week in London

62 years ago this coming week was “Last Tram Week”. The last week of tram services before they were finally withdrawn on the 5th July 1952.

From the early 1860s through to 1952, various parts of London had a tram service. Initially pulled by horse, but later replaced by electric trams.

The following is my father’s photo of a tram just outside Embankment Underground Station on the last day of operation.

Last Tram 2

And another photo from the same location (Hungerford Railway Bridge is the bridge on the right side of the photo):

Last Tram 1

The same view today:

DSC_1258

To get an idea of the size of tram operations in London, the following is taken from the “1935 London Transport – A Record and Survey”

The system consists of 328 miles of route including 18 miles of trolleybus routes, with a fleet of 2,560 tramcars and 61 trolley-buses. 101 routes are worked over, including 4 operated by trolleybuses and there are 32 depots in use.

The history of London’s tramways begins with the line built by George Francis Train, an American engineer between the Marble Arch and Notting Hill Gate. This opened to traffic on March 23, 1861, but was taken up shortly after, the projecting flanges on the rails having proved a source of danger to other vehicles, while Train also encountered legal difficulties. The first regular service was provided by the Metropolitan Street Tramways Company, which inaugurated its line between Brixton Station and Kennington Gate on May 2, 1870. Exactly a week later, the North Metropolitan Tramways Company started a service between Whitechapel Church and Bow Church.

Electric traction was inaugurated by the London United Tramways Company in April 1901, on two sections: from Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush to Kew Bridge and Shepherd’s Bush to Acton. The first section of the London County Council Tramways to be converted to electrical working was the Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges – Clapham – Tooting line, the date being May 15, 1903.

In 1932 there were 9 local authorities and 3 companies running trams across London with the London County Council being by far the largest running 1,714 cars and Ilford the smallest with just 19 cars.

Looking down on the number 40 to New Cross:

Last Tram 3

The same view today where the car has now taken over the roads:

DSC_1259

There was no specific reason for the end of the tram, rather a number of issues conspired to end this means of public transport.

There was a believe that they caused congestion, London streets were too narrow and new housing was being built far from the tram routes.

Photos from the 1935 London Transport Record and Survey provide an insight into the operation of the tram and similar means of transport long disappeared from the streets of London such as the trolleybus.

LT book scan 1

 

LT bookscan 2

There are two really good videos on YouTube on the tram and the last night of the tram. these can be found here and here.

alondoninheritance.com