Category Archives: London Transport

Broad Street Station – A Lost London Station

London has lost a number of stations on the rail network over the years, for example I have written about Spa Road Station in Bermondsey, but they are usually stations serving trains that pass through the station, rather than a terminal station. One lost station that was a terminus for the North London Railway was Broad Street Station.

The station was demolished in 1986, and just as work was about to start, I took a couple of photos of the front and side of the building from Liverpool Street.

Broad Street Station

The station was replaced by the Broadgate office complex. The following photo shows the same view today:

Broad Street Station

The history of Broad Street Station starts in 1850 when the North London Railway started running services between Camden Town and Poplar.

The line was extended, firstly to Hampstead in 1851 and in 1858 this was followed by a connection with the London and South Western Railway to Richmond.

Although the railway circled around north London, it did not have a route into the City, and a City terminus was seen as essential to drive additional goods and passenger traffic from the expanding northern suburbs. The extension into the City and Broad Street Station was opened in late 1865 as the central London terminus of the North London Railway.

An indication of the volume of different types of traffic carried by the railway can be found from the directors report of the North London Railway in 1865, covering the year before the opening of Broad Street Station:

Broad Street Station

The higher value and greater increase over the previous year of Merchandise and Minerals than Passengers perhaps reflects the importance of the connection with the London Docks, and the lack of a connection directly into the City of London.

In the same Directors Report, the chief engineer for the extension to Broad Street states the current situation with construction of the station, and the route between Broad Street and the existing North London Railway at Kingsland:

“I have now the pleasure of being able to report that the whole of the works on the City Branch, between Kingsland and Broad-street, are complete, with the exception of the permanent way and signals, upon which the contractors are at present busily engaged. The stations at Dalston and Shoreditch are nearly ready for occupation, and the office-buildings, platforms and roofs at Broad-street station have made considerable progress since February last, but recently these works have been retarded by the strike amongst Messrs. Cubitt’s workmen, Every effort is being made to open this railway for public traffic at the earliest possible period”.

Broad Street station and the route into the station was sufficiently completed to open in the last months of 1865, and the following year the North London Railway company was able to advertise special trains which took advantage of the route around north London and down to the west:

“NORTH LONDON RAILWAY – OXFORD and CAMBRIDGE BOAT RACE. Saturday, March 24th, 1866 – A SPECIAL TRAIN will leave Broad Street Station at 6.35 a.m. for Hammersmith, calling at all intermediate stations and arriving at Hammersmith at 7.40 a.m.”

Broad Street station was built in the heart of the City, and provided a route for passengers and goods from multiple stations circling north London. The location of the station was directly to the west of the larger Liverpool Street Station.

The following map from 1940 shows the location of Broad Street Station:

Broad Street Station

Liverpool Street Station rail tracks headed east, whilst Broad Street’s headed north with the first stop being the original Shoreditch Station on the north west corner of the Kingsland Road / Old Street junction.

My second photo of the station again shows the main building of Broad Street Station, slightly further to the east than the first photo. The road that dived down between Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations can be seen running down alongside Hills, whilst in one of the open arches to the right of the station, an orange crane can seen, working on the station’s demolition.

Broad Street Station

The 1865 directors report demonstrated the significant value of goods being transported on the North London Railway, and whilst new passengers were an important source of revenue for the new Broad Street Station, the transport of goods directly into the City would also continue to drive revenue for the railway company.

A large Goods Station was constructed to the west of the passenger station as can be seen in the following extract from the 1894 Ordnance Survey map (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’):

Broad Street Station

The map also shows the relative size of Broad Street compared to the adjacent Liverpool Street Station. Liverpool Street was considerably larger with many more platforms.

The above map shows that the warehouses associated with the Broad Street Goods Station faced onto Eldon Street. The end of these warehouses came in January 1952 when a major fire destroyed the warehouses. It was the most significant fire in London since the war and three firemen lost their lives following a collapse of one of the warehouse walls.

The loss of the warehouses added to the general sense that Broad Street Station was in a terminal decline.

The peak of the station’s success was probably around the time of the above Ordnance Survey map, at the end of the 19th century. North London was being well served by underground routes, buses and trams, and the popularity of Broad Street Station, on the end of a relatively slow, stopping route, was in decline.

The station, and the lines running out of the station were damaged by wartime bombing and the reduction of local services started with the cessation of trains to Poplar. The station building was not repaired and much of the main building was closed in 1950, leaving just an entrance from the street onto the concourse. Just two platforms continued to operate.

The following photo from the Britain from Above archive, shows the station and the lines running out of Broad Street in 1947. Broad Street passenger station is in the lower centre of the photo. The tracks for the goods station are on the left with the goods warehouse on the left of the photo. The larger Liverpool Street station is on the lower right.

Broad Street Station

Broad Street station survived the Beeching Report, however the stopping services that ran into the station were identified as services for modification, and the gradual cease of services accelerated throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.

Plans for the demolition of the station started in the 1970s and a number of schemes were put forward for the use of a considerable area of prime land at the eastern edge of the City’s business area.

In 1975, British Rail proposed a scheme that would not only demolish Broad Street Station, but would also demolish the Great Eastern Hotel and the cast iron train sheds above the platforms of Liverpool Street.

Liverpool Street as a station would remain, but the station, and the surrounding area, including the land occupied by Broad Street Passenger and Goods Stations would be built over, with office blocks now dominating the area.

The following photo shows British Rail’s 1975 scheme. The tracks running into Liverpool Street Station can be seen heading underneath a plaza and office blocks.

Broad Street Station

The Liverpool Street Station Campaign proposed an alternative solution which would retain most of the existing Liverpool Street Station, the train sheds and the façade of Broad Street Station.

Other campaigns were more concerned about the transport options than the architecture. For example, in 1982:

“Tory MP Anthony Grant and Harrow Liberal councilor Stephen Giles Medhurst have joined forces to try and make British Rail change plans to demolish Broad Street Station in the City.

The pair met BR representatives at the House of Commons to give their objections to the plan for Broad Street, which is the terminus for a frequent service from Watford Junction through Harrow and Wealdstone and Kenton.

Mr. Grant, MP for Harrow Central, said: ‘I am satisfied that in the long term the service will be maintained to Broad Street and Liverpool Street when the new station is built, but this will take six years.

Meanwhile, my constituents who work in the City will suffer hardship through being dropped off at a temporary station nearly half a mile away’.

Cllr Giles-Medhurst, a regular user of the line, said ‘I’m pleased to say that as a result of our meeting they undertook to reconsider improving the interchange facilities at Highbury to make it easier to change to the Moorgate line or to provide a shuttle bus service from the temporary station to Broad Street in peak hours”.

There had been earlier schemes for the redevelopment of Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations. In 1944 an exhibition at the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors in Eaton Place hosted an exhibition of drawings by Mr. Kenneth Lindy and Mr. B.A.P. Winton Lewis showing their proposals for the re-planning of the City of London.

Their proposals transformed London into a future version from a science fiction film, and probably highlight the thinking at the time that the bombed City offered the opportunity for a sweeping change, with the car, towers and wide boulevards at the heart of the scheme. Their proposal for Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations is shown in the following drawing. The railway lines and platforms would move underground. Hotel and office buildings on top, and high above would be landing platforms for a gyroplane passenger service.

Thankfully, these 1944 proposals never got any further than the exhibition.

The eventual scheme for rebuilding involved the full demolition of Broad Street Passenger and Goods Station, but retained Charles Barry’s Great Eastern Hotel at Liverpool Street and part of the train sheds above the platforms of Liverpool Street station.

The go ahead was given in 1985 as reported by the Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush Gazette:

“Commuters lose rail link with the City – The final nail in the coffin of West London’s rail link with the City. 

Secretary of State for Transport, Nicholas Ridley has agreed to the closure of the North London line between Dalston Junction and Broad Street stations.

The closure will come in May 1986, when Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations will be redeveloped. Commuters travelling from Acton and Chiswick will be among the first to be affected by the change.

From next Monday, May 13, their service will be diverted from Broad Street to North Woolwich. Passengers bound for the City will have to change at Islington and Highbury. There will be no through rail link from West London to the City”.

The Conservative government of the 1980s did not seem very supportive of the railways. It was the same Nicholas Ridley who in 1985 oversaw bus deregulation and the privatisation of bus services. There was even talk of closing rail lines and using the routes for dedicated bus services. I remember one TV commentator at the time suggesting that if they did this, with the number of buses needed to bring commuters into London, it would soon be recognised that it was more efficient to connect all the busses together and run them on a dedicated track.

The Broadgate office complex was built over the land once occupied by the Broad Street stations.

The original North London Line is now part of the London Overground network.

The empty concourse of Broad Street Station as it would frequently appear in 1975.

Broad Street Station

Where did the name Broad Street come from as the station faced directly onto Liverpool Street?

Broad Street originally ran from London Wall to Threadneedle Street. An extension up from London Wall was named New Broad Street. The whole street today is called Old Broad Street.

I have marked the location of the passenger and goods station on Rocque’s map of 1746 and we can see New Broad Street extending up to the corner of the station and Broad Street Buildings running under where the main station building would be constructed.

Broad Street Station

The front of the main station building was over an interesting feature – Bethlem Burying Ground.

This was the “New Churchyard” which opened in 1569 and later became known as the Bedlam or Bethlem burying ground. The burial ground was used for well over 100 years, finally closing for burials in 1739.

The graveyard was disturbed during the construction of Broad Street Station, however no archaeological investigation was carried out. This was the mid 19th century and the City’s churchyards were being emptied as quickly as possible due to the conditions of these places in a growing City.

In parallel to the demolition of Broad Street Station, the Museum of London Department of Urban Archaeology carried out a detailed investigation with according to the museum’s web site “Several hundred skeletons were reburied on site and a sample c. 400 individuals were retained for research”.

The site has again been investigated as part of the preparations for Crossrail, and 3,300 burials were uncovered. Testing of five of the skeletons identified the plague pathogen, apparently the first time that plaque DNA from the 16th and 17th centuries has been identified in the UK.

In my 1986 photo at the start of the post, there is a busy road in front of Broad Street Station. This road was closed off for a few years as a work site for Crossrail. Liverpool Street will be one of Crossrail’s stations, so although Broad Street Station is long gone, the area continues to be an important transportation hub.

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Cannon Street Station from the Thames Foreshore

The joy of scanning negatives is finding different views of places that have been the subject of other photos. This week’s photo is of Cannon Street Station, photographed from the Thames foreshore at Bankside.

Thames Foreshore

The same view today (although I had walked slightly further away from the river wall):

Thames Foreshore

The view has changed considerably in the 70 plus years between the two photos. The only consistent features are obviously the river, Southwark Bridge and the twin towers at the entrance to Cannon Street Station.

The station has since lost the fantastic roof that stretched back from the entrance towers to the station hotel that once faced onto Cannon Street. The Walkie-Talkie, or 20 Fenchurch Street is the City tower visible from this perspective and the Millennium Bridge stretches over the foreshore, transferring walkers between south and north banks of the Thames.

I love being able to cross-reference photos so you can see both sides of the view. A few months ago I wrote about Emerson Stairs and published the following photo which is looking back from Southwark Bridge towards Bankside and includes the area where my father was standing to take the original photo.

Thames Foreshore

If you look at the photo at the top of the post, there is a Derrick Crane with the jib leaning out over the foreshore, and behind is one of the more traditional riverside cranes. In the photo above, taken from Southwark Bridge, I have ringed a small area. The following photo is an enlargement of this area.

Thames Foreshore

On the left is the crane in the background of the photo from the foreshore and to the right I have ringed the Derrick Crane. This is not easily visible due to the grain and contrast of the film, but can just be seen, so my father was standing just a short distance further to the right of the Derrick Crane, not far from where the conveyor belt taking coal from river barges to the original Bankside Power Station was located.

I have an almost complete set of photos of the south and north banks of the river between Westminster and Tower bridges in the late 1940s, and the plan for a future post is to bring these all together and document a trip along the river showing how both sides have changed in the intervening 70 years.

In the original photo, Cannon Street Station still has the arched metal framework which ran from the station entrance and hotel, all the way to the river entrance and the twin towers.

Cannon Street Station was opened in 1866 and the iron and glass arch was around 700 feet long and must have been a magnificent sight. The following postcard with a photo from the Monument gives an impression of what the arched roof must have looked like soon after completion, and how the new station dominated this area of the City.

Thames Foreshore

Maintenance of the station roof had been neglected prior to the last war, and the glass panels had been removed from the roof, leaving just the iron frame at the start of the war. Bomb damage included many incendiary bombs and a few explosive bombs, however as can be seen from my father’s photo, the majority of the iron frame of the arch survived.

The iron frame of the roof was removed in 1958, and the space above the platforms has been redeveloped with the office space that we see today.

The following photo is looking in the opposite direction, and shows the railway bridge running across the river for Blackfriars Station.

Thames Foreshore

The Thames foreshore is a fascinating place, with plenty of relics of the industrial past of the river. Comparing my father’s photo with view today, it looks as if there is now a more pronounced slope of the foreshore. It looked reasonably flat in the original photo, but as can be seen in my photos from the same place, the foreshore looks to slope down into the river. Possibly more erosion is taking place with increased water flow?

The foreshore is littered with traces of the past. Exposed pipes that run from the land down into the river. What was their original use, or are they still in use?

Thames Foreshore

Chains, the red / orange of tide worn bricks and lumps of chalk that were once used to create level platforms to position barges, all provide evidence of an earlier city.

The main change to the river in the area of my father’s photo has been the construction of the Millennium Bridge, which is just as interesting from below the bridge as from above.

Thames Foreshore

The day I was on the Thames foreshore to take an updated photo was a day of an exceptionally low tide. This is when the river reveals many more features including those that demonstrate that the foreshore is not a flat slope down to the centre of the river. Here a raised bank runs out further into the river.

Thames Foreshore

Almost certainly not a natural feature, but possibly enhanced by the river eroding softer sediment on either side.

Alongside the raised bank, the remains of iron piers run out into the river. The remains of a structure from the days when Bankside was industrialised and dependent on the river.

Thames Foreshore

When the water is this low, it is intriguing to imagine what the view would look like if all the water was drained away. The detritus of a couple of thousand years of London’s history revealed.

During the reconstruction of the area and the new walkway along Bankside, the river wall was replaced by metal piles, however they do not provide an impervious barrier between land and river and there are still plenty of points where water drains into the river, as well as strange pipes which serve no obvious purpose.

Thames Foreshore

For centuries, the river has collected everything that has been lost by those working or travelling alongside, or on the river. Buried under the silt and often returned to the surface following erosion by water flow and the tides. You will not find clay pipes being dropped into the river these days, rather the evidence of 21st century construction work on, or alongside the river.

Thames Foreshore

Low tide is a fascinating time to walk along the Thames foreshore, walking on a couple of thousand years of London’s history. Cannon Street Station has only been there for a very short period in that history, the wonderful arched roof has been lost, but the twin towers will continue to welcome trains into the station for years to come.

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Blake Hall Central Line Station And Greensted Church

Blake Hall Central Line Station and Greensted Church are a rather strange combination of subjects for a single post, however I hope the reason for combining these locations becomes clear.

Blake Hall Central Line Station

If you look at the following extract from a 1963 London Underground map, you can see the red of the Central Line extending at the top right corner from Epping, through North Weald and Blake Hall to Ongar.

This route out to rural Essex did not start as the Central Line. Built as a single track extension from Loughton to Ongar by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1865. This extension provided a direct route from Ongar, through Epping and Loughton, and then to central London, with fourteen trains a day making the full journey out to Ongar. The name of Blake Hall is after a country house with the same name, and as evidence of the very rural nature of the station’s location, the Blake Hall house is well over a mile away from the station. There appears to have been very little justification for a station at Blake Hall, however it may have been a requirement of the Blake Hall land owner, and a small goods yard for the distribution of coal and the collection of agricultural produce for delivery from the surrounding farms to the centre of London, probably also supported the provision of a station.

The extension of the Central Line, which had been delayed by the war, reached Loughton in 1948, with the original steam trains then continuing from Loughton on to Ongar. The route from Loughton to Epping was electrified in 1949, extending the Central Line further, and rather than leave the short route from Epping to Ongar under separate control, it was transferred to the London Transport Executive, but continuing to run steam trains.

In the 1950s, the line between Epping and Ongar was upgraded with a limited form of electrification allowing electric passenger trains to run, however goods trains continued to be powered by steam.

Due to its rural location, Blake Hall was the least used station on the London Underground network. The goods yard was closed in 1966 as the transport of goods moved from rail to road, and Sunday passenger services also ended in the same year.

Blake Hall continued as a stop on the Ongar extension of the Central Line, but was never going to attract the numbers of passengers which could justify keeping the station open.  Closure of the station was announced in 1981 and at the end of the October 1981 the last Central Line train stopped at Blake Hall and the station was closed on the 31st October 1981.

In August 1981 I took a trip out to Blake Hall to take a few photos of the station before closure, and last weekend I made another visit to see how the station had changed in the intervening 37 years.

At the Ongar end of Blake Hall station, there is a road bridge taking Blake Hall Road over the railway track. The bridge provides an excellent viewing point to see the station building, platform and track. This was my view of Blake Hall station in 1981:

Greensted Church

The same view in May 2018 (although at a slightly different angle as I had to move to a different point on the bridge as tree growth has completely obscured the view from the original position).

Greensted Church

The station buildings are now a private house. The platform is not the original platform. The original platform was demolished soon after closure, however the current platform was built in 2013 by the owner of the old station buildings. The new platform is much shorter in length than the original.

Another of my 1981 photos of Blake Hall station. I could not repeat this view today as trees have grown to completely obscure this view.

Greensted Church

In 1981 I also took some photos of the station entrance:

Greensted Church

Another view of the station entrance showing London Transport posters, advertising season tickets, and transport options to get to the Royal Tournament at Earls Court and Heathrow Airport.

Greensted Church

The old station building has been converted to a private home and the station approach road from Blake Hall Road is blocked by gates, so I could not get any photos of what the original station entrance looks like today.

This was the view in 1981 from the other side of the road bridge showing the track heading towards Ongar:

Greensted Church

The photo below shows the same view today. Note the additional rails in the above 1981 photo which provided the electrical supply to the trains.

Greensted Church

Although Blake Hall Station closed in 1981, the Epping to Ongar extension of the Central Line continued in operation until the 30th September 1994 when the line closed. Continuing losses and the lack of any future development in the area that would boost passenger numbers could not justify keeping the line in operation.

Soon after closure the line was purchased by a private company, with the intention of restarting train operation, however the failure to launch passenger trains led to the formation of the Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society who worked with the owner of the track and stations to restore the line between Ongar and North Weald to a point where diesel and steam trains could start running.

The Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society now run a weekend service on the line during the spring and summer months, and quite by chance whilst I was taking the photo of the station from the bridge, I could hear the unmistakable sound of a steam train in the distance, and a few minutes later I was treated to the sight of a steam train running again alongside Blake Hall Station.

Greensted Church

Heading towards Ongar:

Greensted Church

I did take photos in the 1980s of all the other stations between Epping and Ongar and the Central Line trains on this short extension, however I have only found the Blake Hall negatives – the challenges with a maximum of 36 photos on a single cassette of film. Hopefully I will find and scan my film of the rest of this small bit of the Central Line in rural Essex.

Full details of the train services now running between Ongar and North Weald can be found on the website of the Epping Ongar Railway.

The following map extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location of Blake Hall station (the orange circle) and how remote the station was from any major settlement. Blake Hall, the source of the name of the station is shown at the location of the red circle – it is some distance away. The route of the railway can be seen as the green line running left to right, to Chipping Ongar.

Greensted Church

The nearest village to the station is Greensted, and this is the location of my next stop, marked by the blue circle:

Greensted Church

Greensted Church is about one mile from Blake Hall station. When scanning my father’s photographs there were a few photos of the church that he took in 1953. There are no other local photos on the same strips of negatives, so I have no idea why he was here, did he travel out by the Central Line or on his bike.

Greensted Church is rather special, it is the only wooden church to have survived from before the Norman conquest, with the wooden walls of the nave dating from around 1060 – the oldest wooden Church in the world.

This is my father’s photo of the church in 1953:

Greensted Church

My photo from May 2018 is shown below. Greensted Church is identical in the two photos, as you would expect as the 65 years between the two photos is nothing compared to the 958 years that the nave of the church has been here in Greensted.

Greensted Church

There may have been a church on the site as early as the 6th or 7th century, however the Greensted Church of today developed in stages over the years.

In the photo above, the original Saxon nave of the church is the section to the right of the tower. The wooden logs forming the main part of the wall have been dated to around 1060. The logs were shortened and a lower brick wall added when decay in the logs was found during restoration of the church in 1848. The porch and windows in the roof are Victorian and the tiled roof is Tudor.

The chancel to the right of the nave, behind the tree has Norman origins, but is now mainly Tudor side wall and Victorian end wall.

In the photo below, the Tudor door, window and brickwork can be seen, with the remains of Norman flint walls on either side of the lower part of the wall. There are also, possibly, a couple of Roman tiles at the top of the flint on the left.

Greensted Church

There is no fixed date for the tower, it may be 17th century, or possibly earlier. One of the bells in the tower has the date 1618.

One of my father’s 1953 photos show the original logs of the side walls rather well:

Greensted Church

To construct the nave of the church, 54 oak logs were split lengthwise with the flat side on the interior of the church. Tongues of wood fixed into grooves running down the side of the logs were used to hold them together and seal gaps between adjacent logs.

The same view today:

Greensted Church

A view of the southern wall of the nave with the wooden logs. originally these would have extended into the ground and met a thatched roof at the top.

Greensted Church

The fenced grave in the above photo is thought to be a 12th century Crusaders grave.

The following photos show the interior of Greensted Church. The interior was much darker than the photos suggest. I was using a handheld camera so to avoid camera shake, I increased the ISO setting which has the effect of brightening the scene.

The following photo is from just inside the entrance porch, looking along the nave to the chancel at the end of the church. The flat side of the log walls can be seen running the length of the nave.

Greensted Church

The chancel:

Greensted Church

The view down the nave from the edge of the chancel gives a good idea of the wooden nave. Prior to the Tudor roof and Victorian windows, the nave would have been much darker,

Greensted Church

On the northern side of the church interior can be seen this strange, small piece of glass covering a hole through one of the logs:

Greensted Church

This is the other side of the hole – looking in from the outside of the church with one of the roof windows on the southern side of the church visible.

Greensted Church

The small window has been called a lepers squint – a small window in the side of a medieval church through which lepers could watch a church service, however this is very unlikely given the size of the hole and the very limited view of the church that it provides. It may well have been just a small window, or possibly a hole through which holy water could have been passed to a small font placed on the shelf cut into the wooden log. The shape of the hole in the log and the flat shelf makes this later use more likely.

The view from the rear of the graveyard of Greensted Church over the Essex countryside:

Greensted Church

The old Blake Hall Central Line Station is only a mile from Greensted Church so the trip out to Essex provided the perfect opportunity to visit the site of one of my earlier photos when the Central Line was still running out to this part of rural Essex, and the location of one of my father’s earlier photos. Two very different locations, but they are in their own way, fascinating landmarks on the Essex landscape.

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Spa Road Station, Bermondsey – London’s First Railway Terminus

During my walk through Bermondsey and Rotherhithe in the last couple of posts, I walked past one location that helps tell the story of the development of the railways in London as well as the long brick viaduct that stretches across so much of south east London from London Bridge Station. This was in Spa Road, Bermondsey, the location of Spa Road Station, London’s first railway terminus.

The brick viaduct that carries the railway out from London Bridge Station is an early 19th century engineering marvel. Although sections have been widened, and cast iron extensions to the side of the viaduct help carry the large numbers of trains that run along this route every day, the core of the brick viaduct is the same as when built for the London and Greenwich Railway Company in the 1830s.

When built, Spa Road was roughly the location where the viaduct emerged from the streets of south London and headed over open country and market gardens towards Deptford and Greenwich. In many places the viaduct is hidden from view behind the buildings that cluster up against the sides of the railway, however in the many streets that cross underneath the viaduct, we can still get a good view of this remarkable structure.

As I walked along Spa Road, this is the view of the tunnel underneath the viaduct from the southern approach where Spa Road narrows to pass between the original cast iron columns:

Spa Road Station

The central roadway runs through the middle of the tunnel with footpaths on either side between the cast iron columns and the tunnel walls:

Spa Road Station

And on the side of the tunnel is this plaque commemorating Spa Road Station.

Spa Road Station

Proposals for a railway to run from London out to Deptford and Greenwich had been put forward in the early decades of the 19th century, and in the 1830s. the technical solutions, finance and Acts of Parliament came together to build this first railway into central London.

The land between the planned London terminus of London Bridge and Spa Road in Bermondsey was built up, very densely as the proposed route approached London Bridge. Running a railway at ground level would have caused considerable problems with the large number of streets that would have to be crossed by a railway. The land was also marshy and the open land out towards Rothehithe and Deptford was crossed by streams and ditches.

A viaduct was seen as the best solution as this would carry the railway above the marshy ground and would also ensure the streets that the railway crossed could run underneath the viaduct without obstructing street traffic or the railway.

The route was surveyed in 1832 and in 1833 the Acts of Parliament had been approved and the Act to create the London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) received Royal Assent on the 17th of May 1833.

The L&GR began compulsory purchases of land in 1834, and the enormous quantities of materials needed to build the viaduct began to arrive on site.

Construction of the viaduct started at Corbetts Lane as this point was roughly in the centre of the route, and was in open country so was not dependent on the land purchases and demolition work required to prepare the route in central London.

Soon after construction started, the considerable quantity of 100,000 bricks were being laid daily and such was the demand for bricks that the price of bricks for sale in the London area rose due to shortages created by the quantities purchased for the construction of the railway.

On either side of the viaduct a roadway and footpath was constructed. This was intended to provide access to the arches and also to provide a parallel walking and carriage route with the railway charging a fee for access. The boundary between the pathway and the adjacent country was made up of shrubs and bushes.

Maps provide an insight into how south east London expanded, the route of the railway and Spa Road Station. The first map shows Bermondsey in 1832:

Spa Road Station

I have marked the location of the future Spa Road Station with a red circle. The street running left to right underneath the circle is the future Spa Road, although in 1832 is was called Grange Road.

Look just to the upper right of the red circle and you will see the name Gregorian Arms – this is the pub on the Jamaica Road which is still in existence and with the same name. See my photo of the pub in last week’s post.

In 1832, the future location of Spa Road station was on the edge of development with open country and market gardens stretching out towards Deptford and Greenwich. To the right of the red circle are the Seven Islands and the Mill Pond. Occasional houses, a windmill and the Blue Anchor Public House can be seen along the sides of the streets.

Now move forward, only 12 years to 1844, and a solid black line across the map shows the new viaduct of the London and Greenwich Railway. Look in the centre of the map, and replacing the red circle is the new Spa Road Station, with the street below the station now having been renamed The Spa Road.

Spa Road Station

Apart from the building of the viaduct, there has not been much more development, with the route of the railway to the south east still running over open land, although more detail has been added to this map which shows the cultivated nature of the land.

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map extract shown below demonstrates how the area around Spa Road had changed from open country to densely built streets in the 50 years between the above and below maps.

Spa Road Station

The map also shows that Spa Road Station has moved from being to the west of Spa Road to now being a couple of hundred yards to the east (I explain the move later in the post).

Forty five years later in the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Atlas of Great London, Spa Road Station has disappeared. Spa Road is in the lower right hand quarter of the map and the top right of the green letter K is roughly where the first station was located. The map shows that by 1940 there were no stations in the area with London Bridge being the terminus for rail lines heading off to the south east.

Spa Road Station

As the viaduct was completed, there was considerable interest in the London & Greenwich Railway which the company encouraged by providing access to the viaduct. On Easter Sunday 1835 some 10,000 people walked along the viaduct with the company taking almost £50 in tolls.

During the rest of 1835 construction of the viaduct at the Greenwich and London Bridge ends continued and test runs of trains were made along the route. By early 1836 there was considerable pressure to open the railway. Revenue was needed and there was welcome publicity to be had from being the first railway to run trains in London. It was therefore decided to open the line between Spa Road and Deptford whilst the Greenwich and London Bridge works completed.

The first train left Deptford for Spa Road Station at 8am on Monday 8th February 1836.

It must have been quite an experience to speed along in a train along the viaduct above the surrounding buildings and countryside. The Birmingham Journal on the 13th February 1836 reported “A passenger in a Greenwich Railway carriage, on Monday last, says, that in one of the experimental trips, the train of six carriages was conveyed at the rate of a mile per minute, or 60 miles per hour! He adds, that the sensation experienced was that of flying, rather than that which is felt in the most rapid of ordinary modes of travelling. There were two numerous parties of ladies in the carriages, who seemed highly delighted.”

The first trains on the 8th February marked the start of a regular service from Spa Road. Adverts in newspapers gave details of the services and fares. From the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser on the 10th February 1836:

“LONDON & GREENWICH RAILWAY COMPANY. A TRAIN of the Company’s CARRIAGES will start DAILY at the following hours, until further notice – Fare, 6d. 

From DEPTFORD to SPA-ROAD, BERMONDSEY, at eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, one, two, three, four and five”

The return journey from Spa Road to Deptford was at half past the hour.

The first station at Spa Road was very much of a temporary form. Wooden stairs led up to the top of the viaduct where there was a narrow platform between the tracks and the viaduct parapet. The platform space was so limited that passengers would queue up the stairs until there was space to board a train.

The following print from 1836 shows the Spa Road tunnel underneath the viaduct with the stairs up to the station on the left. This is the view approaching the viaduct from the south.

Spa Road Station

Today, the above view is obscured by buildings, however the following photo shows the arches to the left of Spa Road and it was along here that the stairway led up to the platform.

Spa Road Station

The following photo shows the arches on the northern side, although these have been extended out from the original viaduct to form a bulge in the track for the future station. The metal bridge carrying the rail tracks rather than the original brick arches can be seen in the top left – another example of a later extension to the original viaduct.

Spa Road Station

The narrow nature of the platforms at Spa Road and the casual attitude towards the dangers of trains, with passengers standing on the tracks until the train arrived, resulted in a fatal accident at Spa Road on Monday 7th March 1836. From the London Evening Standard on the 10th March 1836:

“Mr James Darling, poulterer, Leadenhall-market, deposed that on Monday afternoon last, about three o’clock, he was standing by the platform on the Greenwich and London Railway, near the Spa-road, which is erected for the purpose of assisting passengers to get into the coaches that proceed on the railway. He was waiting for the steam engine to come from Deptford, which was shortly expected with a train of carriages, and which on arrival would be detached from that train to be joined to the train of coaches in which passengers would be conveyed to Deptford, and which train was on the railroad on the south line. While standing there he saw the train coming from Deptford. At that moment he was assisted on the platform. He had just been speaking to the deceased. The train came in at a rapid rate, and at the place where the engine is detached it receded from the north to the south line, and was not stopped till it came with a very violent concussion against the carriages. From the shock, witness was completely turned round. The train, by the impetus given it, was propelled to the barrier on the north line; on reaching which witness observed the deceased on the ground, dead.”

Despite this tragic accident and a number of other fatalities, the new railway was popular with travelers between Bermondsey and Deptford, and in December 1836 the stretch of viaduct between Spa Road and London Bridge opened allowing trains to now run to central London and out to Deptford, and following completion of the route from Deptford to Greenwich in April 1840 the full route was open.

Improvements and upgrades were made to the original Spa Road Station, however around 1872 it was relocated to a new station built 200 yards to the east where new ticket offices had been built into the arches and steps from within the arches led up to the platforms. This new station operated until the 15th March 1915 when Spa Road was one of a number of stations closed due to war time economy measures and it was never to re-open.

The remains of this later station can still be seen in a small industrial area at the end of Priter Road.

The view from Priter Road looking directly at the arch that was once the Spa Road Booking Office:

Spa Road Station

The view along the arches. The Spa Road Booking Hall is in the arch just to the left of the white truck:

Spa Road Station

The booking office:

Spa Road Station

To the right of the Booking Office there are a couple of plaques recording the London and Greenwich Railway and Spa Road Station. Had to take the photo at an angle as a truck was parked directly in front.

Spa Road Station

Soon after the viaduct was opened, other railway companies were formed to build and run additional routes out of London Bridge Station. Until these new lines branched off to their final destination, they used the viaduct built by the London and Greenwich Railway and paid a fee to the L&GR, usually based on a percentage of the ticket value.

One of the these was the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, formed in 1899 from the merger of the South Eastern Railway and the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. A couple of arches along from the booking office is another survivor from Spa Road station, with the initials of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway above the main entrance.

Spa Road Station

I have a postcard of the station when in use by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway., although I am not sure which of the two arches feature in the photo.

Spa Road Station

Above the arch are the initials SE&CR which are preserved on one of today’s arches, whilst on either side of these initials in the above postcard are the words Booking Office which feature on the other arch that remains today. There are no other clues as to which of the two arches is in the old photo, however it does show what the station looked like,

The view above the arches also shows the improvements at this second Spa Road Station.

The original station was made up of wooden staircases up the side of the viaduct leading to a narrow platform between the parapet and the tracks. The new station had wider platforms. station buildings and a roof above the platforms. The stairs leading to the platforms were also inside the viaduct. The space for the station on the viaduct was still limited, but it was a considerable improvement on the first station.

The two arches are in the photo below, although the arch with the words Booking Office is behind the wide truck:

Spa Road Station

The remains of the station on the viaduct can still be seen today. I have never been able to get a good photo from a train on the route, however the location of the station can be seen from the Shard.

The following view shows the viaduct stretching out from London Bridge Station towards Deptford and Greenwich, and gives a good impression of the scale of the building work carried out in the 1830s by the London and Greenwich Railway. Follow the viaduct away from London Bridge and in the distance, a train can just be seen on the left of the viaduct.

Spa Road Station

Enlarging this section of the photo shows the location of Spa Road Station where the viaduct extends out to the left. The platform was in the middle of the two tracks:

Spa Road Station

The tower of St. James Bermondsey is on the left of the station, and the large buildings of the old Peek Frean biscuit factory are just to the upper left of the station. These provide a couple of good landmarks to locate the old station when on a train running along the viaduct.

The remains of the station are also visible in these 1951 photos from Britain from Above:

Spa Road Station

Both photos also show the size of the Peek Freans biscuit factory which ran alongside the viaduct.

Spa Road Station

Whilst exploring Spa Road, I walked to some of the other streets passing through the viaduct. There are many of them, all different with features dictated by the places they connect, the type of streets that pass underneath and the architecture of the viaduct.

The number of streets cutting through the viaduct show that the use of a viaduct rather than ground level rail tracks was a superb bit of forward thinking. Despite the size of the viaduct, the frequency of streets passing underneath helps to ensure that the areas on either side are not separated. It all seems part of the same, connected place and instead of walking along open streets, part of the route is through a relatively short tunnel.

Had the London and Greenwich Railway been built at ground level, there would have been very few crossing points resulting in a distinct separation between either side of the tracks.

The wonderfully named Rail Sidings Road passing underneath the viaduct. Rail Sidings Road runs to Lucey Way which in turn runs parallel to the viaduct and alongside a housing estate. It is not a main through road and the tunnels on the right are now used for parked cars with only the tunnel on the left being open for traffic.

Spa Road Station

St. James’s Road tunnels passing underneath the viaduct:

Spa Road Station

Dockley Road passing underneath the viaduct, with a Monmouth Coffee Shop in one of the arches:

Spa Road Station

Whilst walking through these few tunnels I started to have thoughts about a project to photo all the tunnels between London Bridge and Greenwich – I need to take this less seriously !!

Adjacent to the St. James’s Road tunnel is Clements Road. Running from Clements Road. Parallel to the viaduct is a narrow paved road. When the original viaduct was built, construction included a roadway and footpath alongside the length of the viaduct and the L&GR charged a toll for the use of these. I have no idea whether this is true, however it would be good to think that this cobbled roadway is part of the original road from when the viaduct was built.

Spa Road Station

On the junction of Rail Sidings Road and St. James’s Road is the pub St. James of Bermondsey, formerly the St. James Tavern, a Victorian pub dating from 1869.

Spa Road Station

I also walked along Clements Road to take a look at a major landmark in the area, the old Peek Freans biscuit factory.

The Peek Freans factory was part of the development of Bermondsey from the open country shown in the maps earlier in this post to the densely built area of today. The factory was built on 10 acres of former market gardens adjacent to the viaduct which were purchased in 1866.

The factory closed in 1989, and has since provided space for a number of small businesses, however will soon be the subject of a major redevelopment.

Spa Road Station

One of the old factory entrances:

Spa Road Station

There is one of the usual artists impressions of the future development cabled tied to the metal fencing around the old factory. The usual view of these future developments where the sky is always blue, it is always summer and where no one over the age of forty or fifty would apparently ever be seen.

Spa Road Station

To be fair to the developers, the small print in the bottom right corner does state “Indicative computer generated image” so it may look completely different when finished (as these developments often do).

There is so much more to explore here, but this post is getting too long. For a final photo, I found this Bermondsey Book Stop at the junction of Webster Road and Clements Road, opposite one of the entrances to the old Peak Freans factory with quotes from Pride and Prejudice and Tristram Shandy on the doors.  A brilliant initiative.

Spa Road Station

Spa Road Station has now been closed for over 100 years, however the place where the viaduct passes over Spa Road will always be the first railway terminus in London and the viaduct will continue to support many more trains and passengers than the original founders of the London & Greenwich Railway can ever have imagined.

I have only covered the very first years of the construction of the viaduct. As soon as the viaduct was under construction there were many proposals for additional routes and extension of the railway onwards to Gravesend and Dover.

There was even a serious proposal at one stage to extend the viaduct across Greenwich Park, however fortunately this scheme was turned down in favour of the tunnel that was built underneath the land between the Queen’s House and the old Royal Naval College.

If you travel on the railway, look out towards the north when the old biscuit factory comes into view or the tower of St. James Church and you may catch a glimpse of the remains of Spa Road Station.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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.

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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.

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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.

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