Tag Archives: Charing Cross

London Postcards

Back in August, I published a number of London Postcards showing the city during the first decades of the 20th Century. For this week’s post I have another series of postcards from the same time period.

I find these fascinating as they show many different aspects of London and provide a tangible link with those who lived in, or were visiting London.

The first postcard is of a very wintry Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Taken at a time when this was still a working observatory. Very rare to see such snowfall in London today.

The postcard was posted at a very different time of year to the pictured scene, on the 31st August 1905. With a Greenwich postmark, posted to a child in Lowestoft with a birthday wish from his aunt and uncle.

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As well as scenic views, early postcards are also populated by Londoners. This postcard shows Covent Garden with some fantastic detail of a very busy street scene. This was at a time when wearing a hat was almost mandatory, with the type of hat indicating your position in the social structure of the day. The scene is also piled high with baskets ready to transport goods to and from the market.

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The following postcard shows Regent Street at a time when almost all shops had awnings or shop blinds. The shop on the right is the London Stereoscopic Company. Formed during the 1850s, the company started selling stereoscopic photos and viewers and then went into the general photographic business selling cameras, photographic paper and other photography supplies. The company lasted until 1922.

The bus in the foreground is the number 13 covering Finchley Road, Baker Street, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross and Fleet Street. The number 13 bus route today covers many of the same locations.

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Another street scene, this time Holborn (posted on the 18th September 1913).

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All these photos show the main street lamps on islands in the centre of the road. When electric lighting was introduced to the streets of London, the centre of the road was found to be the best location to spread light across both sides of the road. These lighting islands also had other benefits. A report presented to the Vestry of St. Pancras in 1891 covering the use of public lighting by electricity claimed that one advantage of central street lighting in busy thoroughfares is that they regulate the traffic. The report stated:

“Your committee are informed that the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police has suggested that there ought to be a rest at that point to prevent the numerous stoppages and accidents that occur there. The Police seem to be strongly of the opinion that the fixing of rests assists very materially in the regulation of the traffic, and your Committee feel therefore that although at first sight many people may think the lighting from the centre of the road would tend to obstruction, it really assists in facilitating the traffic and preventing obstruction in crowded thorough-fares.”

“Rests” refers to the islands built in the centre of the road where a street lamp could be installed and protected from traffic. They also provided a safe stopping point, or rest, for pedestrians trying to cross the road. The report was written as part of the planning for the installation of electric arc lamps in Tottenham Court Road. The following postcard shows Tottenham Court Road taken looking north from the junction with Charing Cross Road. The buildings on the left, along with the pub are still there.

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The above postcard was sent by a visitor to London from North Wales who “has been seeing the sights and are now going to the zoo.”

Perhaps one of those sights was Leicester Square, much quieter than it is today, possibly a weekend in winter when sitting in, or running through the square was the ideal way to pass the afternoon. The building in the background with the large flag is the original Empire Theatre. Opened in 1884 and demolished in 1927.

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It was not just central London locations that were popular subjects for postcards. The following card, postmarked 1912, shows Clapham Junction. Although the type of traffic has changed, the scene looks remarkably similar today, although the Arding and Hobbs department store on the corner is now a Debenhams.

The sender of the card wrote “On back is the new Arding & Hobbs. Old building burnt down a few years ago.” The new building shown in the postcard was completed in 1910.

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At first glance, the following photo looks to be of Charing Cross Station, although, as the name across the building confirms, it is the original Cannon Street Hotel, forming the entrance to Cannon Street Station.

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To show how similar they are, the following shows Charing Cross Station. This is no coincidence as they were both designed by Edward Middleton Barry who also designed the replica Queen Eleanor Cross which stands in the forecourt of the station. The hotel at Cannon Street has long gone, and the station entrance now looks very different. Charing Cross provides a physical reminder of what once stood in Cannon Street.

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The next postcard is of the Monument, however what I find more interesting about the scene are the people, and also the large amount of advertising on the building to the left. The postcard was posted at the station at Walton on Thames by someone who had just moved into a new house in Weybridge. Perhaps a City worker who had bought the postcard in London.

Postcards from London 2 6The posters include adverts for, Nestles Swiss Milk, Bass beer, the Royal Military Tournament, Regie Cigarettes, Allsopp’s Lager and Triscuit, which if it is the same thing is a cracker produced in America and is still in production today. The building on the corner on the right is the Monument Tavern.

London’s bridges have always been popular subjects for postcards, and the following view is of London Bridge. The bridge shown is that designed by John Rennie and opened in 1831. It was sold in 1968 to make way for the current London Bridge and rebuilt in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Both the buildings on either side of the end of the bridge are still there, Adelaide House on the right and Fishmongers Hall on the left.

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And the following postcard shows Blackfriars Bridge. The large curved building at the left of the bridge is De Keyser’s Royal Hotel which was opened on the 5th September 1874 by Sir Polydore de Keyser who came to London as a waiter from Belgium and eventually became Lord Mayor of London. The Uniliver building is now on this site.

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The following postcard is titled “The Hanging Gardens of London, Selfridges Water Gardens Looking West”. The roof of the Oxford Street department store, Selfridges, had gardens and cafes during the 1920s and 30s and were a popular location after shopping. The roof gardens were damaged during the last war and never reopened.

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The following postcard shows the London County Council Millbank Estate, and judging by the condition of the streets, this must be soon after construction of the estate finished in 1902. The building halfway down the road on the left is a school. The estate and the school are still in existence and the buildings today look much the same although there is now parking lining most of these streets. The Milbank Estate is Grade II listed. The people in the photo are probably some of the first occupants of the estate.

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Although the Tower of London is the subject of the following postcard, I find the background of more interest as it shows London when the height of buildings was relatively low compared to the City we see today. This postcard has a 1931 postmark and was sent to Belgium by a visitor to London.

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The following photo taken from Bankside shows the north bank of the river with the original wharfs.

Paul’s Wharf in the centre with St. Paul’s Pier in front, the London & Lisbon Cork Wood Company (the smaller building towards the right with the white upper part), and Trig Wharf to the right. The Millennium Bridge now crosses the river here, roughly at the site of the London & Lisbon Cork Wood Company.  The Bankside location has always provided a superb view across the river and has a fascinating history which I wrote about here, mainly involving the transport of coal and other goods on the river hence the lighters on the river in the foreground.

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In the days before the personal ownership of portable cameras, postcards were about the only means of sending a message showing where the author lived or was visiting and as such they provide a fascinating insight into early 20th century London.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

Charing Cross 7Looking back down the construction tunnel:

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

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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:

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

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

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Train at the platform from above:

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

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

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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:

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Looking up the shaft:

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

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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:

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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.

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