The following photo shows the junction of South Grove and Highgate High Street. The photo is one of my father’s and was taken in 1948:
The same view, 75 years later, in 2023:
It is remarkable that in 75 years, the buildings have hardly changed. There is now far more traffic, but perhaps the most significant change is the network of cables that were strung across the street in the 1948 photo.
The cables were to provide power for the trolleybuses that once ran up Highgate Hill.
London had both trolleybuses and trams. The key difference is that trams ran on rails, whilst trolleybuses ran on normal pneumatic rubber tyres and did not need tracks running along the road. They were therefore more flexible in movement, within the constraints of the overhead cables which provided the electrical power supply.
The photo was taken where South Grove meets Highgate High Street, and where the layout of the streets and space available provides a turning point for the trolleybuses at the Highgate end of the route.
One of the reasons for using a trolleybus rather than a tram was the steep street that is Highgate Hill. The increase in height from Archway up to the point of the photo is 226 feet in a distance of 0.7 of a mile.
The rubber tyres of a trolleybus provide a much better grip than the metal wheels and tracks of a tram, which may well have had problems trying to maintain grip whilst ascending or descending Highgate Hill.
It was the 611 trolleybus that served Highgate. The route of the 611 was between Highgate and Moorgate, with stops as follows::
Moorgate: Finsbury Square
Holloway: Nags Head pub
Highgate Hill: Salisbury Road
Highgate Village: South Grove
During Monday to Friday, the 611 ran at a frequency of one every 5 minutes, with one every 4 minutes at peak times. On Sunday’s the longest time between 611 arrivals was 6 minutes, so it was a well served route, and ran from just after 7 in the morning until just after 11 at night.
It is a shame that my father did not take a photo of the 611 arriving and turning at the location of the photo. I do not know why he took the photo. It may have just been the architecture of the buildings and general street scenes, rather than a trolleybus, which would have been a normal sight across London in 1948.
Again, a theme throughout this blog is that it is the normal, everyday things that we take for granted, and are the things that will disappear and are worth a photo.
What did a trolleybus look like? I have not yet found a photo of one whilst scanning my father’s photos, but have found one on the Geograph site. The following photo was taken on the Romford Road at Manor Park, Ilford, and shows “two westbound trolley-buses, the front one being on Route 663”:
As can be seen from the above photo, a London trolleybus looked very much like a normal bus, but with the addition of the booms on the roof which took electrical power from the overhead wires. It was basically an electrically powered bus, and would be considered very environmentally friendly by today’s standards.
The trolleybus did not need the tracks in the street, which was a significant cost advantage for both the original construction and ongoing maintenance.
The trolleybus could move within the constraints of the booms, which rotated on the roof allowing the trolleybus to move around obstructions. Whilst this was a significant benefit in avoiding death and injury to pedestrians, it could also result in problems whilst manoeuvering, as this article from the Holloway Press on the 22nd of February 1952 demonstrates:
“Trolleybus Jammed: The crews of two L.T.E. breakdown vehicles worked for two hours on Saturday evening to free a No. 611 trolleybus which became jammed against scaffolding in Holloway Road, near Ronalds Road.
The crowded trolleybus driven by Mr. Thomas Kenefick of Lambton Road, Upper Holloway, collided with the scaffolding outside Messrs. G. Hopkins and Sons, engineers, after swerving to avoid a boy stepping off the pavement. The force of the impact burst the near-side tyre and smashed paneling on the top deck. Nobody was injured.”
The first London trolleybus service commenced in 1931, and a programme of replacement of trams by trolleybuses began, as they were far more economical and as illustrated by the newspaper article above, were a safer alternative when running along busy streets.
Trolleybuses lasted longer than trams on London’s streets, but from 1954, London Transport started to replace trolleybuses with diesel buses, and the last trolleybus ran on the streets of London on the 8th of May, 1962.
The Illustrated London News reported on the last day of the trolleybus: “The last 100 of the 1700 trolleybuses that once ran in London made their final runs on May 8th, before being honourably discharged. The changeover in South-West London began in 1959. London’s last trolleybus arrived at Fulwell, greeted by a large crowd at midnight.”
The last trolleybus service on the 611 route between Moorgate and Highgate ran on the 19th of July, 1960, after which diesel buses would take passengers up and down Highgate Hill.
In my father’s photo, there is a pub on the corner, as the street disappears down towards Highgate Hill. The pub is the Angel Inn:
The pub has an interesting plaque which states that Graham Chapman of Monty Python’s Flying Circus “Drank here often and copiously”:
The Angel Inn is a very old establishment, although the current building is relatively modern. The photo below shows the frontage of the Angel Inn on Highgate High Street:
There has been a building on the site from at least the fifteenth century, when it was known as the Cornerhouse. From 1610, and probably earlier, it was a coaching inn, and continued in this use for the next few centuries. There is a cobbled yard round the back of the Angel where horses would have been stabled.
The earliest written reference I could find mentioning the Angel was from the Oxford Journal on the 28th of June, 1755, when “On Sunday last, about five o’Clock in the Afternoon, the Roof of the Angel Inn in Highgate was split by the Thunder and Lightning, which was very violent about that Neighbourhood.”
The Angel was completely rebuilt between 1928 and 1930 which explains why this old establishment has such a modern appearance.
The previous version of the Angel was from around 1880, when a new façade had been added to a late Georgian building.
Back to my father’s 1948 photo, and I love enlarging, and looking at the detail of some of these photos. Looking across the street, we find C.G. Willis & Son, General Ironmongers who appear to have an array of pans hanging outside the shop. The shop is now a Cafe Nero:
To the right of the above shop, was Garden Layout Specialists, with a couple of small children in a pram parked outside:
Garden Layout Specialists was an interesting name, and presumably refers to some type of shop selling gardening supplies. The shop is now an estate agents.
As with the above two shops, the 611 trolleybus has disappeared from the streets of Highgate.
Bus route 271 was introduced to replace the 611 trolleybus. The 271 covered much of the same route, starting from Moorgate, and later being extended to Liverpool Street.
The 271 ran until a couple of months ago, when it was replaced by the 21 and 263 routes. These two existing routes were part diverted from their original route to cover for the closed 271. All part of TfL’s gradual reduction in the number of bus routes across the city.
So there are still buses running up and down Highgate Hill, however for some exercise, and a view of some interesting buildings, it is well worth a walk up Highgate Hill.
I think I first used Liverpool Street Station around 1974, and from 1979 to 1989 I used the station every working day. It is one of my regrets that in all those years I did not take a single photo of the station. Too busy with work and other commitments, the station was also a very familiar sight that I used every day, so why take a photo?
This was a time of slam door trains, carriages with individual compartments, which had a single bench seat along either side of the carriage. Always difficult when you got into one of these compartments which appeared full, but could you squeeze into a gap, and would people shuffle up? Reading your neighbour’s newspaper as they opened it up in front of you.
This is probably why I over compensate now, and take photos of almost everything. The present becomes the past very quickly.
Fortunately my father did take a couple of photos of Liverpool Street Station in 1952. Not the main buildings of the station, but from the far end of the platforms, looking back into the station:
The photo was taken from a rather good viewing point if you wanted to watch trains arriving at, and leaving the station.
The platforms at Liverpool Street Station are slightly below ground level. Not that much, but enough to mean that the tracks left the station in a rather wide cutting with brick retaining walls on either side, and the tracks passing under what were streets, which had been converted to a bridge structure when the tracks were built.
The following map extract is from the 1951 revision of the OS map, so about the same time as my father’s photos. There are two streets crossing the tracks as they leave the station, Pindar Street and Primrose Street.
The photo is dated 1947 and shows Liverpool Street Station in the lower right corner, and Pindar and Primrose Streets crossing the tracks leaving Liverpool Street.
The above photo also shows the different approach between Liverpool and Broad Street Stations. Broad Street was next to Liverpool Street, and in the above photo the tracks into Broad Street pass over the streets, where the tracks into Liverpool Street pass under.
The two station platform levels were at different heights. I did take a couple of photos of Broad Street Station in 1986, before it was demolished (see my post on Broad Street Station here). It can be seen on the photos that the station buildings and platforms were higher than those of Liverpool Street.
I have marked the location where my father was standing with a yellow circle in the above photo.
The photo shows that there is a road / ramp leading down from Pindar Street to the station, which would have provided an unobstructed view, also I have marked with a yellow arrow a series of sheds where the roofs form a distinctive pattern. These sheds can be seen in my father’s photo.
I cannot find the exact location from where the following photo was taken, it may have been turning to the left from the above photo, or further along Pindar Street:
I wanted to try and get a photo from the same position today, and although the area around Liverpool Street Station has changed beyond all recognition, I was able to get to a similar position.
The following photo from the top of the Heron Tower / 110 Bishopsgate helps put the location of the station in context.
The main buildings of the station can be seen in the lower left corner, with the roof over the main concourse at ninety degrees to the roof over the platform which runs up towards the right.
To the left of the station is the Broadgate development which was constructed on the site of Broad Street Station. On the right of the station, large office blocks have been built between the station roof and Bishopsgate. Some of the Liverpool Street platforms extend under these new office blocks.
The roof of the station appears relatively low compared to the surrounding buildings and ground level, again showing that the platforms of the station are below ground level.
In the above photo, and the photo below, at the upper end of the station roof, there is an office block which has an arch running across the façade, and there is an open space between the office block and the end of the station roof.
The open space is Exchange Square which has recently reopened after a redevelopment, and it is from here that I can get a similar photo to my father’s:
The photo is far closer to the end of the roof over the station platforms than my father’s, and I will explain why shortly. To help confirm that my father’s photo is of Liverpool Street Station, the pattern around the edge of the wooden roof is the same, as are the windows in the brick walls on the far side of both photos.
Exchange Square is a remarkable open space. As can be seen from the above photo, the edge of the space is up against the roof over the station, and from here you can look down directly into the station:
The roof almost comes down to the point where you can stand on the chairs and touch the wooden decoration (you cannot, it is just too high, and the wandering security man would not be very happy if you tried).
You can get a good view of the decoration at the top of the columns supporting the roof:
Details of the roof:
And the roof stretching over the platforms:
The view from Heron Tower shows that the roof over the concourse and part of the platforms closest to the concourse appear to be cleaned, whilst the roof over the main part of the platforms is dirty as shown in the above photo.
I assume this is to save money by only cleaning the roof over the area where people wait for their train, however it is probably my 1970s first experiences of London, but I like the dirty roof – a city can be too clean.
View from the corner of Exchange Square, with the roof of Liverpool Street Station with the two central arches, and smaller flat roof / arches at the sides, with the towers of the City in the background.
Although Exchange Square has recently reopened, it has long been part of the original Broadgate development, which included a number of works of art, two of which can be seen in Exchange Square.
This is the Broadgate Venus – a 5 tonne patinated bronze, created for Broadgate in 1989 by the Columbia artist and sculptor Fernando Botero:
Towards the back of Exchange Square is this group of figures, who look as if they have been wrapped up against the cold of a March day:
The group is a work titled “Rush Hour” by the American artist George Segal and was created in 1982. The work has only recently returned to Broadgate after being stored off site during Exchange Square’s renovation. Hopefully the weather will have warmed up by the time they are unwrapped.
But what of the two streets carried by bridges over the tracks into Liverpool Street Station?
Firstly these are old streets. I have highlighted Primrose Street (yellow oval) and Pindar Street (which was originally Skinners Street – red oval) in the following extract from Rocque’s 1746 map of London:
The map shows the dense network of streets, yards, courts and alleys that were lost when Liverpool Street Station was built.
Primrose and Pindar Street’s remained, but were turned into bridges that ran over the railway, rather than a street with buildings alongside.
Pindar Street disappeared with the building of Broadgate, however Primrose Street does remain, linking Bishopsgate and Appold Street. The following view is looking west along Primrose Street:
It does not look as if you are standing over a large number of rail tracks as there are office blocks on either side of the street, however a couple of things show the true nature of the street.
On the left of the above photo, an expansion gap can be seen running the length of the street, between the paving slabs. This shows that the road is still carried over on a bridge like structure, which can expand at a different rate to the slabs carrying the office blocks on either side.
Also in the above photo, and the following photo which is looking towards Bishopsgate, the road dips at the far end of Primrose Street, rising to the canter as it passes over the tracks.
The following photo is looking from Primrose in towards Exchange Square, with part of the roof of Liverpool Street Station just visible. Exchange House is between Exchange Square and Primrose Street:
The bridge carrying Pindar Street was lost during the redevelopment of the area. The following photo is from under Exchange House looking towards the station. Pindar Street ran from left to right between the trees and seats, and just in front of where I was standing.
I suspect that my father was standing in the centre of the line of trees to take the photo at the top of the post, looking towards the right, to get the right-hand main arch of the roof, and part of the smaller arch on the right into the photo.
Exchange House is an interesting office block. Straddling the main rail tracks into Liverpool Street Station required some interesting construction techniques to be used. This is the building that can be seen from the Heron Tower with the metal arch crossing the façade of the building.
As the rail tracks are below Exchange House, it was not possible to put large amount of piling down to support the building, so much of the weight is supported on either side, where a supporting structure can be built down to ground level to the side of the rail tracks.
The metal arch is used to transfer some of this weight to the supporting structure, one side of which can be seen in the above photo to the right of the building.
View of the redeveloped Exchange Square:
The architect for the redeveloped Exchange Square was the DSDHA architecture, urban design and research studio, and the project has been shortlisted for the RIBA London Award 2023.
I am not usually a fan of these small open spaces, which often come with a description by landowners and architects which far exceeds real experience of the space, however I really do like Exchange Square.
The space slopes towards the station, drawing the eye to the large sheds over the station platforms and tracks. There is a fair amount of planting, however a chilly and overcast Saturday in March was probably not the best time of year to view the planting and it will no doubt be better when established, and with better weather.
It was also really quiet when we were exploring the area. Only a dog walker and a security guard were walking through the square. Again, it is probably far busier in the week, rather than at the weekend.
Access to Exchange Square is not that obvious. There is access from Primrose Street (under Exchange House), and up some steps from Appold Street.
Access from Liverpool Street is along the side of the station. On the south eastern side, to the right of the escalators down to the concourse, there is a walkway which goes through the edge of the office blocks between the station and Bishopsgate.
From the south western side of the station, there is an open walkway which runs along the side of the station wall. This is the view along the walkway from Exchange Square.
The name of the walkway is Sun Street Passage. The name recalls one of the streets that was lost when Liverpool Street Station was built. There was a Sun Street, which I have highlighted in the following 1746 map, which ran across the station, under the current location of the platforms.
We walked along Sun Street Passage, with the high brick walls of the station on the left, and half way down there is an entrance into the station:
The above view is looking towards Exchange Square, which you can just see running across and above the platforms.
The concourse, where the roof runs at a ninety degree angle to the roof over the platforms, and with cleaned glass that allows a large amount of natural light to the area below:
The station is so very different to when I used it every day during the 1980s. Much cleaner, the old destination indicators above the entrance to the platforms, where tickets where inspected manually, and always busy in the morning and evening commute, less so late in the evening when the pubs closed.
The above photo is from a walkway that crosses the centre of the station. This is looking towards where there was a cut through to Broad Street Station. On the left are the stairs running up to the exit to Liverpool Street (the street after which the station is named).
The following photo is looking in the opposite direction. At the far end there are stairs and escalator up to Bishopsgate. Both views again show that the concourse and platforms are below ground level.
In the entrance space from Liverpool Street is the bronze sculpture “Kindertransport – The Arrival”, by Frank Meisler, which was installed in 2006:
The memorial is to the almost 10,000 children who escaped Germany between 1938 and 1939, travelling by boat from the Hook of Holland in the Netherlands to Harwich, then by train from Harwich to Liverpool Street.
The following view is looking along Liverpool Street with the station buildings on the left:
The two towers to the left of the photo were part of the late 1980s redevelopment of the station. The area occupied by the towers was a ramp providing access down to the area between Liverpool and Broad Street stations.
There are currently proposals for a major redevelopment of the station, which will see the towers and the lighter brick building demolished, and two large towers built over the space and above the original station buildings and station hotel which is the of the darker red brick.
The proposals would completely overwhelm the original station buildings, and those supporting the development claim that it would encourage people to travel back to the City and would improve the experience of the station users.
I think that what users of the station would really prefer is a cost effective, efficient train service, rather than the redevelopment, with two large glass and steel towers built over the station buildings.
The Victorian Society have launched a campaign to save the station, with the rather brilliant slogan (if you have used London’s transport system) of “See It, Say It, Save It”
View along the side of the station. Exchange Square is at the far end:
On the railings around the station entrance are the arms of the Great Eastern Railway, the original company that operated into Liverpool Street Station, with the individual arms of places served by the railway, including Essex, Norwich, Ipswich and Cambridge:
The station buildings on the corner of Liverpool Street and Bishopsgate:
Liverpool Street Station, the development of the railway into Liverpool Street and the area in general has a fascinating history, which I shall return to, as the demands of a weekly post, as well as trying to limit my posts to 3000 words prevent inclusion in this post.
I have been waiting for the redevelopment of Exchange Square to complete, and I am really pleased that it is still possible to almost see the same scene as my father.
The details within the overall photo are also fascinating, and I shall leave you this week with the extract from the photo at the top of the post, showing a worker walking up to an engine. I do not know if he was the driver, but an everyday station scene from 71 years ago.
I just wish that I had taken some photos in all the years that I used Liverpool Street Station.
Mornington Crescent and the Corn Laws – two totally unconnected subjects, but there is a tentative connection to the Corn Laws not far from Mornington Crescent underground station which I will get to at the end of today’s post.
The name Mornington Crescent may bring little recognition, apart from a Camden station on the Northern Line, or the name may be instantly familiar from the BBC radio comedy “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” where it is the name of an invented game which requires the naming of a random set of locations to finally get to Mornington Crescent.
The entrance to Mornington Crescent station on Hampstead Road:
Mornington Crescent station was built as part of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway, and opened on the 22nd of June 1907. The station is one of Leslie Green’s distinctive station designs with the exterior walls covered in red oxblood faience tiles. The station is now on the Northern Line.
The station takes its name from the nearby street of the same name, a street that was once prominent, but is now hidden away behind a rather glorious 1920s factory.
Mornington Crescent (the street, not the station) is the curved, crescent shaped street that starts to the left of the station, curves around a large grey block and then rejoins Hampstead Road. The following extract from the 1894 Ordnance Survey map shows the area in the late 19th century, with Mornington Crescent then looking onto a garden, the larger part to the left of Hampstead Road and a small part to the right (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“).:
The large grey block in the map of the area today, and which now occupies the area where the garden was located is the wonderful old Carreras cigarette factory, now offices:
The Carreras brand dates from the early 19th century when the Spanish nobleman Don José Carreras Ferrer started trading cigars in London. The business expanded into other forms of tobacco such as snuff and cigarettes, and became a significant business during the late 19th century.
What really drove the brand’s expansion, and the opening of the Mornington Crescent factory was the transformation of Carreras to a public company in 1903, when a Mr. W. J. Yapp (who had taken over the company from the Carreras family) and Bernhard Baron (of Jewish descent, who was born in what is now Belarus on the Russian border, who had moved to the United States and then to London), became directors of the company.
Whilst in New York, Bernhard Baron had invented a machine that could manufacture cigarettes at a faster rate than existing machines, and in London the Carreras company was the only one that took on the new machines, other tobacco companies preferring to stay with their existing means of production, or machines over which they held monopolies.
By the start of the 1920s, Baron was Chairman of the company and wanted to create a large, modern factory, which would enhance the brand’s reputation for the purity and quality of their cigarettes, and provide a good working environment for the company’s employees.
The result was the new factory on the old gardens between Mornington Crescent and Hampstead Road.
Designed by the architectural practice of Marcus Evelyn Collins and Owen Hyman Collins, along with Arthur George Porri who acted as a consultant, the design of the building was inspired by the archeological finds in Egypt during the 1920s, with the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun being discovered in 1922.
The building was one of the first (and I believe the largest at the time) building to use pre-stressed concrete, and also to be fitted with air conditioning and dust extraction equipment.
The innovative construction of the building, and the technologies used to maintain the internal environment were mentioned in all the major news reports that covered the opening of the building on the 3rd of November 1928:
“Carreras new factory at Camden Town, which was opened by Mr. Bernhard Baron, the chairman of the company, constitutes not only the largest reinforced concrete building under one roof in Great Britain, but also that rare thing – the realisation of one man’s dream.
Mr. Baron is a practical idealist. He set out to make cigarettes, he wanted them made in the best way, and in the best conditions. He wanted the people who made them to be happy in their work, it has all come true.
The opening ceremony was as impressive in its simplicity as the new building is in its efficiency and design. Mr. Baron performed it himself, not so much as chairman of the company, but as the father of the three thousand employees who have helped him to achieve success. He said, at the luncheon, that he felt it a great honour to have opened the factory, and that he wanted his employees about him at that moment to share his pleasure. That was why he decided on a simple ceremony, a family celebration, as it were, of the culmination of one stage of his life’s work.
Carreras new building embodies all that is best in factory design. It is well lit, and well ventilated and as healthy as it is possible to make it.
Most important of all, it has been fitted with an air conditioning plant which is the only one of its kind in the British tobacco industry, and which ensures a consistently ideal atmosphere for the manufacture of the perfect cigarette. The air which enters the building is first washed clean with water. It is then adjusted to the required temperature and humidity. Outside, London may be shivering or sweltering, damp or dusty. Inside, every day is a fine day; all weather is fair weather. It is well known that the English climate is the best in the world for the manufacture of tobacco; it can now be said that Carreras climate is the best in England.
The façade of the building, which stretches five hundred and fifty feet along Hampstead Road, is something fresh in London architecture – a conventionalised copy of the Temple of Bubastis, the cat headed goddess of Ancient Egypt.”
I have read several modern references to the opening of the building which include that the Hampstead Road was covered in sand, there were chariot races and Verdi’s opera Aida was performed, however I cannot find these mentioned in any of the news reports from the time that covered the opening of the building. As seen in the above report, the “opening ceremony was as impressive in its simplicity as the new building is in its efficiency and design“.
The opening of the factory was seen as an improvement to the area, although it had resulted in the loss of the open space between Mornington Crescent and Hampstead Road, as newspapers reported that “When the move to save the London squares was first begun, Mornington Crescent was cited as one of London’s losses. It had been acquired by Mr. Bernhard Baron as the site of his new factory. I doubt whether had it been saved we Londoners would have gained anything. Now when you come out of the Tube station, the eyesore of that dirty bit of green, backed by decaying Victorian basement houses is no more. Instead, there is the finest factory in London, an architectural triumph for Mr. Marcus Collins, the culmination of a life’s work for Mr. Baron and a model workplace for his 3,500 employees.”
The Mornington Crescent factory remained in operation until 1959 when Carreras merged with Rothmans, and cigarette production was moved to a factory in the new town of Basildon in Essex.
The building was sold and in 1961 it became office space, with the name of Greater London House, and all the Egyptian decoration was either removed or boxed in.
This would remain the fate of the building until the late 1990s when a new owner refurbished the building and restored the Egyptian decoration that we see today, as close as possible to the original design.
In the following photo of the main entrance to the building, two black cats can be seen on either side of the steps:
These are not the original cats as following the closure of the factory in 1959, one was transferred to the new factory in Basildon whilst the other was shipped to a Carreras factory in Jamaica.
After walking north along Hampstead Road, through the works for HS2, the restoration of the Carerras building has retained some wonderful 1920s architecture to this part of Camden, however it has almost completely hidden Mornington Crescent, and a walk along this street is my next destination, starting from the northern end, opposite the underground station, where the Lyttleton Arms now stands:
If you look closely at the top corner of the building, you will see the original name of the pub as the Southampton Arms. The pub was renamed the Lyttleton Arms in honour of the jazz musician and radio presenter, Humphrey Lyttleton, who was also the long running host of the radio panel game I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue from 1972 until his death in 2008, the show that included the game Mornington Crescent.
During the 1920s, the same decade that the Carerras factory was built, the Southampton Arms, as the pub was called, was one of the centres of conflicts between the gangs who tried to control race course betting, including the Clerkenwell Sabini Brothers and Camden’s George Sage.
The following report from the St. Pancras Gazette on the 6th of October 1922 illustrates one of the incidents:
“RACING MEN’S FEUDS – At Marylebone on Tuesday, Alfred White, Joseph Sabini, George West, Simon Nyberg, Paul Boffa, and Thomas Mack made their eighth appearance on the charges of shooting George Sage and Frederick Gilbert with intent to murder, at Mornington-crescent, Camden Town, on August 19, having loaded revolvers on their possession with intent to endanger life, and riotously assembling.
Helen Sage, wife of one of the prosecutors, said she was talking to her husband outside the Southampton Arms at Camden Town when several taxicabs drove up and a number of men alighted. She then heard a shot, but could not say who fired, as it was dark. The witness admitted that she told the police that West and White fired the shots, but now declared that this statement was untrue.”
Strange that Helen Sage, who was presumably the wife of the shot George Sage declared that her statement was untrue. Possibly some witness tampering or gangs not giving evidence against each other, preferring their own form of justice.
The first section of Mornington Crescent (from the north) is not part of the original, and this will become clear with the architectural style as we walk along the crescent. These later houses are smaller and less impressive than the original part of the crescent:
And after crossing the junction with Arlington Road, we can now see the original terrace of buildings from when Mornington Crescent was laid out:
In the middle of the above terrace there is a blue plaque, to Spencer Frederick Gore, the painter, who lived in the building between 1909 and 1912.
Gore painted the view from his house across the gardens and the view along Mornington Crescent. The Tate have one of his paintings of the gardens online here.
The following view is of the continuation of the terrace houses along Mornington Crescent, at the junction with Mornington Place:
Construction of Mornington Crescent started in the early 1820s and was not complete until the 1830s. It is named after Richard Colley Wellesley, the Earl of Mornington and Governor-General of India. He was also the eldest brother of the Duke of Wellington, so was from an influential family.
Mornington Place heads up to the rail tracks to and from Euston Station:
The street was built around the same time as Mornington Crescent and comprises smaller three storey terrace houses, although with some interesting architectural differences:
At the end of the street, we can look over the brick wall and see the rail tracks, with HS2 works continuing on the far side:
Looking back down Mornington Place towards the old Carreras factory – originally this view would have had the gardens at the end, through which Hampstead Road would have been seen:
Albert Street is a turning off Mornington Place, a terrace of new buildings occupies a space which on the 1894 OS map appears to have been an open space with a larger building set back from the road.
There is a smaller brick building between the modern terrace and the large brick terrace of houses. This is Tudor Lodge:
Tudor Lodge is Grade II listed. It was built between 1843 and 1844 for the painter Charles Lucy, and believed to be to his own design. The plaque on the building though is to George Macdonald, Story Teller, who lived in the building between 1860 and 1863. An interesting building in a street of mainly 19th century terrace houses.
Rather than walk along Albert Street, I returned to Mornington Crescent and the rear of the Carreras factory, where there is a chimney:
I have not been able to confirm whether or not the chimney is original, however rather than being the more common round chimney it seems to have the appearance of an obelisk, similar to Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment, so if original, the chimney continues the Egyptian design theme of the building.
Almost at the end of Mornington Crescent now, and the final row of terrace houses before reaching the Hampstead Road. The following photo gives an indication of the changes to the outlook of the houses when the Carreras factory was built. Rather than looking out on the gardens and across to Hampstead Road, they now had the view of the rear of the large factory.
By the time the factory was built, many of the houses were almost 100 years old, and their condition was not that good, many were subdivided into flats. Their condition would deteriorate further during the 20th century, there was some bomb damage along the terrace in the Second World War and it has only been in the last few decades that many of the houses have been restored.
In this final terrace of Mornington Crescent there is another blue plaque, to another artist, this to Walter Sickert, recorded as a painter and etcher:
Sickert was at the core of the Camden Town Group of artists, a short lived group of artists who gathered mainly between 1911 and 1913.
The building at the southern end of Mornington Crescent, which has a Hampstead Road address is of a much more impressive design, presumably as it was at a more prominent position. Just seen on the wall behind the tree is another plaque:
This plaque is to the artist George Cruikshank, who lived in the building from 1850 until his death in 1878.
On the opposite side of the street to the house in the above photo is a water trough for horses. I took a photo, but was not intending to include the photo in today’s post:
Until i found the following photo in the Imperial War Museum collection showing a horse and cart of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway pausing to drink at the trough, with Mornington Crescent in the background of the photo:
Pleased I found the photo, but rather frustrating as if I had found it before visiting I could have taken a similar view, however it does give a good impression of Mornington Crescent in 1943.
Returning to the space opposite the underground station, we can look south and get a view of the overall size of the Carreras factory, a building that occupied the site of the gardens between the crescent and Hampstead Road.
The space just to the north of Mornington Crescent underground station is the junction of Hampstead Road and Camden High Street, along with Crowndale Road and Eversholt Street.
To the east of the underground station at the road junction is the club / music venue Koko:
Originally the Camden Theatre when built in 1900, it then had a series of owners as both a theatre and a cinema, until 1945 when it was taken over by the BBC and used as a theatre to record radio programmes, including the Goon Show, with the very last Goon Show being recorded in the theatre on the 30th April 1972.
The BBC left in 1972, and from 1977 the building has been a live music venue, firstly as the Music Machine, then the Camden Palace and now Koko.
The building has hosted very many acts in its long history, including the Rolling Stones and the Faces, with my most recent visit to the Damned in February 2018 (and whilst researching the post I found a review of the Damned concert here).
The title of this post is Mornington Crescent and the Corn Laws, and it is only now that I can get to the final part of that title. In the open space opposite the underground station is a statue:
The statue is of Richard Cobden and was erected in 1868. Cobden did not have any direct relationship with Camden, however it was an impressive location for a statue, and it was put up due to the residents of Camden’s appreciation of Cobden’s work in the repeal of the Corn Laws.
The Corn Laws were a set of laws implemented in 1815 by the Tory Prime Minister Lord Liverpool due to the difficult economic environment the country was in following the wars of the late 18th and early 19th century.
The Corn Laws imposed tariffs on imported grains and resulted in an increase in the price of grain, and products made using grain. These price increases made the Corn Laws very unpopular with the majority of the population, although large agricultural land owners were in favour as they made a higher profit from grain grown on their lands.
The Corn Laws were finally repealed by the Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel in 1846, and they reflect a tension between free trade and tariffs on imports that can still be seen in politics today.
Richard Cobden was born on the 3rd of June, 1804 in a farmhouse in Dinford, near Midhurst in Sussex. His only time in London appears to have been after his father died, when Cobden was still young, and his was taken under the guardianship of his uncle who was a warehouseman in London.
Not long after he became a Commercial Traveler, and then started his own business which was based in Manchester, which seems to have been his base for the rest of his commercial success.
During his time in Manchester Cobden was part of the Anti-Corn Law League and was known as one of the leagues most active promoters.
The Clerkenwell News and London Times on the 1st of July 1868 recorded the unveiling of the statue:
“The Cobden memorial statue which has just been erected at the entrance to Camden Town was inaugurated on Saturday. Although this recognition of the services of the great Free Trade leader may have been looked upon in some quarters as merely local, the gathering together of some eight to ten thousand people to do honour to his memory cannot be regarded in any other light than that of a national ovation.
The committee had arranged that the statue of the late Richard Cobden at the entrance to Camden Town – with the exception, perhaps, of Trafalgar Square, one of the finest sites in London – should be unveiled on Saturday, that day being understood to be the appropriate one of the anniversary of the repeal of the Corn Laws, and the event was so popular that the surrounding neighbourhood was gaily decorated with flags for the occasion. The windows and balconies of Millbrook House, the residence of Mr. Claremont, facing the statue, had been placed at the disposal of Mrs. Cobden and her friends, including her three daughters.
A special platform had been created in front of the pedestal, covered with crimson cloth, and in the enclosure in front the band of the North Middlesex Rifles were stationed, and performed whilst the company assembled.
The report then covers at some length, all the speeches made which told the story of Cobden’s life and his actions in the repeal of the Corn Laws. There were many thousands present to witness the event, and at the end; “after the vast assembly had dispersed Mrs. Cobden, accompanied by Mr. Claremont, the churchwardens, and other friends, walked round the statue and expressed her high gratification at the fidelity of the likeness.”
The statue was the work of the sculptors W. and T. Willis of Euston Road, and is now Grade II listed.
I suspect if you turn right out of the entrance to Mornington Crescent underground station, you will be surprised to know that the space in front of you was compared to Trafalgar Square as one of the finest sites in London.
It always fascinates me how much history there is at almost any place in London, and Mornington Crescent is no exception. Whether the arrival of the underground, the architecture of the Carreras factory, race course gangs at the pub, historic streets, entertainment venues and radio shows and the statue of a free trade advocate – all within a short walk of Mornington Crescent.
One of the pleasures of wandering around London streets are the random memorials and objects that have survived from previous centuries, and how they can lead to a fascinating story of an aspect of the City’s history. Perhaps one of the strangest can be found in Cloak Lane, to the west of Cannon Street Station, between Dowgate Hill and Queen Street.
The ground floor of one of the buildings on the northern side of Cloak Lane has a number of arches with metal railings, and a large memorial occupying one of the arches:
A closer view, and the railings have signs that imply that there is perhaps more to discover:
The monument provides some information:
The contrast between letters and stone is not that high in the above photo, so I have reproduced the text on the monument below:
There is much to unpack from the inscription on the monument, and it does not tell the full story.
The church of St John the Baptist upon Walbrook was one of the City churches that was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666, and not rebuilt, so after the fire, only the churchyard remained.
I have circled the location of the surviving churchyard, at the junction of Cloak Lane and Dowgate Hill in the following extract from William Morgan’s, 1682 map of London:
According to “London Churches Before The Great Fire” (Wilberforce Jenkinson, 1917), St John the Baptist upon Walbrook was “Founded before 1291, and enlarged in 1412, and ‘new-builded’ around 1598. The west end of the church was on the bank of the Walbrook, hence the title.”
The book states that the west end of the church was on the bank of the Walbrook. This is possibly an error as the eastern end of the church would have been on the Walbrook, or it should have read that the church was on the west bank of the river.
It is possible that the Walbrook ran further to the west than shown in the above diagram, however all the references I can find are to the river running roughly on and alongside Dowgate Hill.
The text on the monument mentions the District Railway, and the title for the blog is about the Circle Line. I will explain why I have used the Circle Line later in the post, however stand next to the railings alongside the monument, and a grill can be seen in the floor. Wait a few minutes and the sounds of an underground train can be heard coming up through the grill.
After the 1666 Great Fire, the church was not rebuilt, the churchyard remained, and would do so for the next 200 years. Buildings alongside did encroach on the churchyard, however it was still there in 1880. In the next few years there was some major construction work in Cloak Lane which would result in the loss of the churchyard.
This construction work was for an underground railway that in the newspapers of the time was referred to as the Inner Circle Railway. The following article from the East London Observer on the 31st May 1883 provides some background:
“THE INNER CIRCLE RAILWAY. With much less outward demonstration than might have been expected, considering the importance and magnitude of the works, there is now being contracted in the City of London an underground railway which, by uniting the Metropolitan and District systems, will complete the long looked for Inner Circle Railway, and be of immense service to the travelling public and the metropolis.
The Acts of Parliament under which these works are being carried out were obtained in the names of the joint companies – that is to say, the Metropolitan and the Metropolitan District. They authorised the construction of a railway to commence by a junction with the District line at Mansion House Station, and to run under some houses south of the thoroughfare known as Great St Thomas Apostle, crossing Queen Street, then going along the south side of Cloak Lane, across Dowgate Hill, to the forecourt of the South-Eastern Cannon Street Station. Here is to be made a station.
The line is then to pass under the centre of Cannon Street, crossing King William Street, and is then to swerve slightly south. Between this point and Pudding lane is to be a second station, which will serve the busy district around it, including Gracechurch Street, Lombard Street and Billingsgate. By arrangement with the Corporation and the Metropolitan Board of Works, the narrow thoroughfares of East Cheap and Little Tower Street are to be widened on the south side, and Great Tower Street on the north side. The railway is to pass under the centre of the roadway, and will be constructed simultaneously with the new street. the line will then branch slightly to the north, and between Seething Lane and Tower Hill, another large station is to be built.
The line is then to pass by Trinity Square Gardens, joining the piece of railway already constructed.”
So by joining existing lines at Mansion House and Tower Hill, the new line would form what we know today as the route of the Circle and District lines between Mansion House and Tower Hill.
The Railway News (which also called the line the Inner Circle line) on the 18th of August 1883, provided additional technical information on the new line:
“From the Mansion House station to Tower Hill, there is no part of the line on a curve of less than 10 chains radius; the length from Cannon Street to King William Street is straight. The successive gradients are from the level at the Mansion House to a descent by a gradient of 1 on 100, followed by a rise of 1 in 355, then 1 in 100, next to 1 in 321, for 334 yards and then a fall of 1 in 280 for the remainder.”
I never fail to be impressed by the accuracy achieved in measuring and building these early lines, without the surveying equipment that we have available today.
Look through the grills and some of the monuments from the old churchyard have been mounted on the wall behind:
The new railway was just below the surface and was partially built using the cut and cover technique where the ground would be excavated to build the railway, which would then be covered over, with roads or buildings then completed on top.
Where cut and cover was not used, the railway would be tunneled underneath buildings, undercutting the foundations, bit by bit, with arches being built as the tunneling progressed to support the building above.
Railway News provides some detail:
“Near the western end of the line 200 feet of girder-covered way has been built between Queen Street and College Hill, and a large portion of the side wall has been advanced to Dowgate Hill. In this vicinity an important work, viz, a diversion of the main outfall sewer, has been successfully completed. It was lowered about 14 feet, and the length of this work from north to south being about 600 feet. The north side wall for the Cannon Street station, is also built, and rapid progress is being made with the excavations.”
The total distance of the new line between Mansion House and Tower Hill was 1,266 yards.
Behind the grills – an 1892 Walbrook Ward boundary marker:
The above extract refers to a diversion of the main outfall sewer in the vicinity of Dowgate Hill, which possibly was the sewer running down Dowgate Hill that carried what was left of the Walbrook river.
During excavation work for the new railway, there were a number of finds, which add to the question of the original route of the Walbrook.
In the book “London – The City” by Sir Walter Besant, he quotes from the notes of the resident engineer of the works, Mr. E.P. Seaton: “At the west end of the churchyard was found a subway running north and south. The arch was formed of stone blocks (Kentish rag) placed 3 feet apart, the space between filled up with brickwork. The flat bottom varied from 2 to 4 feet in thickness and was formed of rubble masonry.
A portion of the arch had been broken in and was filled with human bones. the other parts of the subway or sewer were filled with hand-packed stones. this is supposed to be the centre of the ancient Walbrook (this supposition is quite correct) and made earth was found to a distance of 35 feet from the surface. Clay of a light grey colour was then found impregnated with the decayed roots of water plants.
The foundations (it is a matter of regret that no plan of the foundations was taken; the opportunity is now lost forever) of the old church of St John the Baptist were discovered about 10 to 12 feet from the surface and composed of chalk and Kentish ragstones. They ran about north-north-east to south-south-west. Piles of oak were found which seem to denote that the church was built on the edge of the brook, which must have been filled up during Roman occupation, as numerous pieces of Roman pottery were found.
The bottom of the Walbrook valley was reached at 32 feet below the present street level, and is now 11 feet below the level of the lines in the station. During the excavations the piles and sill of the Horseshoe bridge which crossed the Walbrook hereabouts were also found near the churchyard, together with the remains of an ancient boat. These were unfortunately too rotten to preserve, but a block of Roman herring-bone pavement, formerly constituting part of a causeway of landing-place on the brook, is now at the Guildhall Museum. It was found beneath the churchyard 21 feet below the present level of the street.”
Besant can at times be unreliable, however as he is quoting from notes by the resident engineer, and the works were not long before the book was published, they should be an accurate record of finds during the work.
The finds imply that the Walbrook did run to the west of the church, so was further west of the route shown in the earlier diagram and was slightly further west of Dowgate Hill, or perhaps it was a separate channel or ditch.
There is another reference to the Walbrook, and its route in a report on the construction of the railway in the Standard on the 21st April, 1884, which refers to the sewer along Dowgate Hill that ran along the route of the Walbrook, needing to be lowered to make space of the railway. After completion, the sewer and Walbrook ran under the new rail tracks. The report describes the Walbrook as “flowing into the sewer down a flight of steps”.
These layers of history and archeology below the current surface of the City are really fascinating. We really do walk on London’s buried history when we walk the streets, and Besant’s description hints at what has been lost over the centuries, particularly during significant construction works of the later 19th and early 20th centuries, when these sites did not have an archeological excavation before construction commenced, and before the preservation techniques were available, that would have been needed to preserve the boat and wooden piles that were found.
Another of the memorials behind the metal grill – I wonder what John (died in 1804) and Uriah (died in 1806) Wilkinson would have thought if they knew their memorial would be hidden behind a metal grill, and above an underground railway?
The extract from Besant’s book mentions the “Horseshoe bridge which crossed the Walbrook hereabouts were also found near the churchyard”. The bridge also has a connection with Cloak Lane.
According to Henry Harben’s Dictionary of London (1918), the name Cloak Lane is of relatively recent origin, with the first mention being in 1677. Prior to this, the street was named Horshew Bridge Street after the bridge over the Walbrook.
A possible origin of the name Cloak Lane is from the word “cloaca” which is a reference to a sewer that once ran along the street down to the Walbrook, however as the name of the street is much later than the sewer and when the word “cloaca” would have been used, it is almost certainly not the source, which remains a mystery.
The first mention of this bridge dates back to 1277 when it was called “Horssobregge”, and was a bridge over the Walbrook close to the church of St John upon Walbrook.
During the medieval period, property owners in the neighbourhood of the bridge were responsible for keeping it in good repair. Around 1462, the Common Council ordained that land owners on either side of the Walbrook (which was then described as a ditch) should pave and vault the ditch, and if a landowner failed to comply, their land would be given to someone who would take on this responsibility.
Following the paving over of the Walbrook, the bridge became redundant, fell into disrepair and was eventually taken apart.
The following photo is looking down Cloak Lane towards Cannon Street Station, the entrance to the Underground station can be seen at the far end of the street, across Dowgate Hill.
I have arrowed two locations in the photo. The orange arrow is pointing at the location of the memorial, and was the location of the church and graveyard.
The second arrow is pointing to the site of another building that was demolished to make way for the works to construct the new railway – Cutlers Hall:
Cutlers Hall was the home of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, one of the City’s ancient companies. When the Cutlers were organised into a Company, the trade consisted of the manufacture of swords, daggers and knives. As an example of how specialised a City workman was at the time, there were seperate trades for hafters, who made the handles, along with blacksmiths and sheathers (who made the sheath in which a sword or knife would be stored).
The first mention of the Cutlers dates back to 1328 when seven cutlers were elected to govern the trade, and in December 1416, a Royal Charter was granted to the company.
Hafters, sheathers and blacksmiths were gradually incorporated into the Cutlers Company.
The hall of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers was in Cloak Lane from the earliest days of the company, until the arrival of the Inner Circle Line, when the hall was demolished in 1883, having been the subject of a compulsory purchase order.
The Cutlers purchased a new plot of land in Warwick Lane, had their new hall designed by the Company’s Surveyor, Mr. T. Tayler Smith, and the new hall came into use in March 1888. The Cutlers have remained at the Warwick Lane site ever since.
There were many newspaper reports on the construction of the new railway, and the methods used to minimise disruption to the City above.
Cannon Street Station originally had a forecourt between the station entrance and Cannon Street. The tunnel needed to be built under the forecourt, and the method used to avoid disruption to the station was that the contractor:
“Provided 250 men for the occasion and 50 more as a reserve, the intended work was commenced after the dispatch of the Paris night mail, and then the busy hands plied their busiest. The paving slabs were removed; the twelve inch timbers were laid on the bare ground, three-inch planking put across them, and again three-inch planking over these. And in the morning when Londoners came to their duties in the City they were astonished to see the fore-court paved with wood, and an alteration completely effected, of which there was not a symptom or indication when they went home from their duties the evening before. Having thus laid their roof on the surface the contractor could carry on burrowing to his heart’s content. Beneath the wood platform a heading was soon driven through the soil; and the contractors went on their way below, whilst the cabs and the passengers were going on above”.
The following photo shows the Cannon Street Station Hotel and entrance to the station behind. The forecourt under which the Inner Circle Line was dug can be seen in front of the hotel.
The monument in Cloak Lane is a perfect example of what fascinates me above London’s history. There is so much to find in one very small section of street, and that London is not just what we see on the surface, there is so much below the streets, lost rivers, centuries of history, remarkable examples of construction methods used to build the start of the underground system in the 19th century, and so much more.
If you take a train on the Circle or District line to or from Cannon Street Station, on the western side of the station, recall the Walbrook and the church and cemetery.
I have also added trying to find out about the fate of the finds from the construction of the railway, given to the Guildhall Museum, and which are now hopefully at the Museum of London. And if anyone from TfL reads this post – if you could let me have a look behind the metal grills in Cloak Street – it would be much appreciated !
A couple of week’s ago, I wrote about the construction of the Greenwich foot tunnel, based on a pamphlet published in 1902 by the Institution of Civil Engineers. The pamphlet included details of another recent tunnelling project, constructing the tunnels of the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway (known from the start as the Bakerloo line), under the Thames between Embankment and Waterloo Stations.
Parliamentary Acts of 1893 and 1896 had approved construction of the Baker Street and Waterloo Electric Railway, initially running from Dorset Square near Marylebone Station, to Waterloo Station. Further requests for extensions were approved and by 1904 the line ran from Paddington to Elephant and Castle.
The route of the Baker Street and Waterloo railway ran beneath the Baker Street Station of the Metropolitan District Railway, by Regent’s Park and Crescent Gardens into Portland Place, through Langham Place to Oxford Circus (where the tunnels pass over those of the Central Line with a clearance of only 6 inches at one point), down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, along Haymarket and Cockspur Street to Charing Cross, along Northumberland Avenue, then under the Thames to College Street, Vine Street and Waterloo Station.
The majority of the tunnel went through London Clay and was a relatively easy construction project, however there was a challenge where the tunnel went underneath the Thames.
The following diagram from the pamphlet shows the route under the river, from Northumberland Avenue to College Street on the opposite side of the river. The station shown above Hungerford Bridge, labelled Charing Cross Station, is now Embankment Station.
The diagram shows a “River Stage” extending south from Hungerford Bridge. This was a large platform, 50 feet wide and 370 feet long on which were built workshops, stores, steam cranes, boilers and air-compressors, staff buildings along with two shafts down to where the tunnels would be built.
The construction platform and shafts on the Thames were needed due to a strange anomaly found in the bed of the river when test boreholes were made along the route of the tunnels.
In the middle of the river there was a sudden depression in the London Clay through which the rest of the tunnel had been bored. This had filled with gravel, which was porous to water and required a different tunnelling method to the rest of the route, which would use compressed air to help keep out water as the tunnel went through the gravel.
The following diagram shows the route under the Thames of the Baker Street and Waterloo railway, the depression in the London Clay and short distance of gravel through which the tunnel would need to run.
The diagram also shows the shafts sunk down to the level of the tunnels for their construction, along with the temporary work platform created on the river.
College Street on the right is now under the Jubilee Gardens.
Note also in the diagram how the depth of the two tunnels diverge as they route under the Thames, with the “up” line having a rising gradient towards Waterloo (shown as dotted lines) and the “down” tunnel having a descending gradient towards Waterloo.
There are many features below the surface, some as a result of ice and freezing, some as a result of water, for example when the Thames was a much wider river, and the multiple smaller rivers that ran into the Thames, and some the result of human activity.
I wondered whether the feature shown in the 1902 pamphlet was still there. I suspect we look at the Thames at low tide, and assume a uniform bed to the river as it descends from one side of the river, to rise on the opposite side.
A view where bridges almost disappear, with only the piers supporting the bridge shown on the chart, as these are the key features for those on the river.
The PLA kindly gave permission for me to include an extract from the chart for Lambeth Reach in today’s post, an extract which covers the area where the tunnel for the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway was constructed.
Hungerford Bridge can be seen in the centre of map, although only shown by black lines, with the piers supporting the bridge as the key feature.
The depth of the water is shown in metres (the depth is the average depth at the lower of each day’s two tides, which should show the minimum depth of water for those travelling along the river). The green areas along each side of the river are where the land is exposed at each low tide, with the height being shown (numbers underlined).
The depth of the Thames is typically between 2 and 3 metres at low tide in the central part of the river, however as can be seen just south of Hungerford Bridge (arrowed) there is a small area where the depth increases to a maximum of 5.4 metres, which is the same area as the depression in the London Clay shown in the 1902 diagram. Today’s Bakerloo line runs a short distance below the deepest area of this depression.
The PLA charts show how the depth of water gradually increases as the Thames heads towards the estuary, which is to be expected. They are some other similar features to the depression by Hungerford Bridge. For example, just off Limehouse Marina, there is a small area where the bed of the river suddenly descends from an average depth of between 6 and 7 metres, down to 11.7 metres, which is quite a depth at low tide.
Returning to the 1902 diagram of the route of the tunnels, it shows the tunnels running under College Street on the south bank of the river. This is one of the many streets that were lost following clearance of the area for the Festival of Britain.
Looking at the area today, the tunnels of the Bakerloo line, run roughly under the blue van in the photo below. The edge of the grass to the right is the approximate pre-1950 boundary with the Thames.
This view is looking back towards Waterloo Station from the walkway along the south bank, following the route of the Bakerloo line tunnels and College Street:
in the following view, the work platform extended from the first bridge pillars on the opposite side of the river (in front of the white boat) and extended 370 feet to the left. The depression in the London Clay is in the centre of the photo, and the Bakerloo line tunnels are running from the white ship to where I am standing to take the photo.
One of the benefits stated in the 1902 pamphlet of the work platform in the river was that material excavated during the construction of the tunnels could be taken away by barge, saving the transport of large amounts of material through the city’s streets.
The river continues to be used for a similar purpose, with close to the route of the Bakerloo tunnels, a new construction site on the edge of the river for the Thames Tideway Tunnel or the Super Sewer, being dug at a much greater depth to the Bakerloo line tunnels, but with the same need to understand the geology through which the tunnel will be bored beneath London, and to transport materials via the river.
The two tunnels of the Bakerloo are each 12 feet in internal diameter, and were located in the gravel bed at a distance of 23 feet apart from the centre of each tunnel. As the tunnels approach the south bank, they move closer and the east bound tunnel will be running vertically over the west tunnel along the old route of College Street. This was done to keep the tunnels within the limits of the street.
Presumably this was done to avoid any damage to the buildings on either side of the street, or to create problems with later construction on the street, where deep cellars may have been built.
To get from College Street to Waterloo underground station, the tunnel crossed Belvedere Road and then routed along Vine Street. This street was also lost during clearance for the Festival of Britain, and in the late 1950s, the Shell Centre complex was built over the site of the street (only the tower block still remains).
I worked in the building during the 1980s, and fortunately working in what would today be called IT (lots of network, radio and telephone cabling), was able to access many of the tunnels built as part of the complex. There were two tunnels between the upstream (with the tower block) and downstream buildings of Shell Centre (on the opposite side of the railway viaduct to Hungerford Bridge). One of these tunnels was for pedestrians, and the other was a service tunnel.
The service tunnel had a raised section which went over the upper tunnel of the Bakerloo line, and it was possible to hear trains rumbling through the tunnels below.
To start construction of the Baker Street and Waterloo railway tunnels, two shafts of cast iron, 16 feet in internal diameter, were sunk from the work platform on the Thames. They reached down 50 feet. I like to assume these cast iron shafts are still below the surface, filled in, as probably too difficult and expensive to remove.
From a chamber at the bottom of the shaft, tunnels were started heading in both directions, with special attention paid to the tunnels under the Thames due to the gravel. The gravel was waterlogged, and at high tide, the combination of river and waterlogged gravel gave a head of 70 feet which created a considerable pressure of water through which the tunnel had to be driven.
A special shield was constructed, weighing 29.5 tons and with an outer steel cylinder of 13 feet in diameter. The shield included 14 hydraulic rams, each 6 inches in diameter, to push the shield forward as the gravel in front of the shield was excavated.
The following diagrams show some of the detail of the shield’s construction, including the hydraulic rams, their controls and the pipes feeding the rams, along with elevations of sections of the shield. Each hydraulic ram could be operated independently
Specially constructed iron rings were designed for the tunnel wall under the river. Each ring was 18 inches wide, and constructed of seven segments. Initially, the joints between the rings were machined to give a smooth fit between rings where bolts were inserted to join the two, however this design was soon revised with rough surfaces on the joints, which were then packed with creosoted pine wood (figures 7 and 9 below).
Gaps were grouted using a specially designed grouting machine (figure 10 above), which applied the grout at pressure, through special grouting holes, to help make the rings water tight.
The first part of the tunnel was through London Clay, however as the tunnel approached the centre of the Thames, it hit the water bearing gravel shown in the diagram earlier in the post. This required a change in tunneling method.
Compressed air was now used to keep the tunnel pressure at a level slightly higher than the pressure of the water through which the tunnel was being bored. This prevented water entering the tunnel, but required adjusted working conditions for the workers, with shifts reducing from 12 to 8 hour shifts.
Air pressure was also adjusted as the tide above rose and fell as the pressure of the column of water above the tunnel through the gravel and the river changed.
As the air pressure in the tunnel was higher than the water column, air would escape from the tunnel, up through the gravel, and could be seen by those on the side of the river as water spouts, with the position of the spouts changing as the tunnel progressed across the river.
The configuration of the shield needed to change as the shield approached and entered the gravel. The following drawings show the shield as it approached and then went through the gravel (called ballast in the diagrams).
Work on the first tunnel commenced on the 19th March 1900. it had taken the previous January and February to construct the shield at the bottom of the shaft. On the 2nd of April, work was stopped to allow the construction of an 8 foot thick bulkhead brick wall in the tunnel. This would form the airlock to the section of the tunnel through the gravel where compressed air would be used.
Tunneling restarted on the 2nd of May and on the 6th of June the shield entered the gravel, and on the 15th July, the tunnel was fully within the gravel.
During the period of tunneling through the gravel, there were a few “blowouts” where water entered the space behind the shield. The design of the shield allowed time for the men working to escape, and provided a means of re-entering sections, and continuing work.
On the 27th September, the tunnel re-entered London Clay, with the last of the gravel seen on the 6th October 1900.
Tests were then carried out by removing the pumped air pressure to check for leaks, repairs carried out and compressed air was ended on the 27th October, with the airlock being demolished in November 1900.
The second tunnel was constructed in 1901, with the majority of the same workers, and using many of the lessons learnt on the first tunnel. This second tunnel was completed separately as the shield from the first tunnel was reused.
There were no deaths during construction, two “illnesses” due to working in compressed air, neither of which appear to have been serious. Workers were provided with hot coffee, clean work clothes, and a place to change before and after work. A doctor was assigned to the project to monitor those working in the part of the tunnels with compressed air.
Figure 11 at the top of the following diagrams highlights the method of tunneling in loose, water-bearing gravel:
The Baker Street and Waterloo Railway commenced services in 1906, from Baker Street to Elephant and Castle. The Middlesex & Surrey Express on March the 9th, 1906 provided a description of the new railway:
“The Bakerloo, London’s new tube railway, running from Baker-street to Kennington-road, will be opened tomorrow. There are intermediate stations at Waterloo, Embankment, Trafalgar-square, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus and Regent’s Park, and a novelty about the new stations is that they are each treated in a separate colour scheme.
A uniform fare of twopence for the whole or any distance is to be charged, and trains will run at frequent intervals from half-past five in the morning until twelve thirty at night. The cars are of the usual type, well lighted, and with good, if not excessive provision made for ‘strap-hangers’ and one can imagine a scramble for straps taking place during the busiest hours. Collisions are rendered practically impossible for a most ingenious system, of automatic signaling has been adopted. Should, however, there be a prolonged breakdown, passengers will be able to leave the trains as a lighted footway has been provided between each stopping place along the whole length of the line.
The booking halls at the various stations are almost palatial in their design, and a feature of the lift accommodation is the use of compressed air in the rapid opening and shutting of the gates. All the wood used in construction has been rendered fire resisting”.
What is not mentioned in any of the news reports covering the opening of the Bakerloo is the tunnel under the river, and the challenges that were overcome in building two rail tunnels through water logged gravel under the Thames.
There was speculation at the time that the depression in the clay was caused by dredging for an earlier tunneling project for the Whitehall and Waterloo Railway.
This was a scheme to build a pneumatic railway in an iron tube under the river, the tube being sunk into the river bed rather than bored. The Railway News on the 20th of May, 1865, provided a description of project;
“THE WHITEHALL AND WATERLOO RAILWAY. Arrangements have now been completed which will admit of the commencement of works of this proposed railway immediately on the necessary Parliamentary powers being obtained. The bill has passed the Commons, it is now unopposed in the Lords and in a few days it may be expected to receive the Royal assent.
The railway is to be worked on the pneumatic principle, and is to be carried under the River Thames from Scotland-yard to the Waterloo Station of the London and South Western. The work must, of course, be finished before the wall of the Thames Embankment on the north side is built up, hence the necessity of pushing forward the preliminary arrangements as quickly as possible.
The railway will be formed by an iron tube, twelve feet in diameter, sunk into the bed of the river and supported in piers – a bridge, in fact, built in, not over the waters. the iron tubes will be made by Messrs. Samuda, and the laying of the tube and the other works will be undertaken by Messrs. Brassey and Co. The principle upon which the line will be worked will be much the same as that adopted on the experimental railway in the grounds of the Crystal Palace. The machinery will be on the Surrey side at the York-road Station.
The whole of the works will be completed in twelve months from the date of commencement. The cost of the undertaking will be about £130,000. The total weight of iron in the tube will be about 5,000 tons, and it will be sunk in four separate sections.”
The project soon ran into financial difficulties, the proposed timescale and costs for the project were hopelessly optimistic. In February 1868, papers were reporting that “The Whitehall and Waterloo Railway is at a complete standstill, and the directors advise the abandonment of the concern, unless, as they say, something turns up between this and the spring. They, of course, hope the South Western will help them in their difficulty, but one would think nothing could be farther from the thoughts of the directors of this company.”
In 1871, the company formed to build the Whitehall and Waterloo Railway was wound up.
The route of this earlier railway did follow much the same route as the later Baker Street and Waterloo Railway, and some parts of the iron tube were found during excavation for the construction of the Shell Centre complex, however I am not sure whether the depression in the London Clay was caused by dredging for this abandoned project.
The shape looks natural, the plan was to dig in the tunnel across the river to bury the iron tube, however the PLA chart shows the change in depth running along the river.
Whether natural or man-made, it was a considerable achievement to bore two tunnels that would become the Bakerloo line, through water bearing gravel, under a considerable head of water, at the start of the 20th century.
If you travel from Embankment Station to Waterloo on the Bakerloo, you will pass through this area of gravel soon after leaving the station.
The problem with research using old newspaper archives is that there is so much else of interest to read and it is so very easy to get distracted. I was looking for a totally different subject, when I found an article that referenced a long closed east London Station, in the East London Observer on the 27th August 1887:
“A MILE END EXCURSION. It was one of the jolliest and most pleasant excursions in which we have ever taken part that started off from Globe-road station, in the very early hours of Tuesday morning. There was nothing stiff and starched about either the excursion or the excursionists – it and they were as delightfully and pleasantly informal as the origin of the Association in whose aid it was held – the Mile End Old Town Victoria Park Hospital Association.”
I love these insights into London life, written at the time they happened. There is more to discover about their association in a moment, but I wanted to find out more about Globe Road station.
The full name of the station was Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station. It was located on the main line between Liverpool Street and Stratford stations and was originally part of the Great Eastern Railway’s efforts at generating traffic from the dense housing being built across east London, and growing demand for easier travel.
I have highlighted the station in the following page from the 1902 Railway Clearing House maps:
Another map showing Globe Road and Devonshire Street station on the route from Liverpool Street to Stratford. There are several other lost stations and stations that have changed name on the map.
So returning to the article that mentioned Globe Road station, where were the excursionists going on the 27th August 1887. The rest of the article:
“It was then the annual excursion which had drawn so many Mile-enders together on the Globe-road Station on Tuesday morning. In point of numbers, the gathering could scarcely be said to equal those of previous years – a result due rather to the vacillation and delay experienced at the hands of a railway company with whom the Association had first attempted to arrange, than to any lack of energy and perseverance on the part of the officers of the Association.
But no regretful consideration such as that was allowed to weigh with the excursionists; they were out for a day’s excursion to Harwich and Dovercourt, and like the thoroughly honest and hard working, genial Mile-enders as they were, they were determined to enjoy themselves to the uttermost. And everything on Tuesday seemed to favour that determination.
The day was one of the best and brightest with which the Metropolis has ever been favoured, and the round, red faced sun peered from behind the misty heat, and gave promise of even more charming weather in store. The special train too, hired for the conveyance of the excursionists, seemed to heartily enter into the spirit of the thing, and flew shrieking, past houses, villages, woods, fields and rivers, until, with a snort of satisfaction, it drew up at quiet, sleepy Dovercourt, with its breezy common, its golden sands, and its magnificent stretch of sea.”
They spent the day enjoying everything that Dovercourt had to offer before returning to Globe Road Station on their special train, a journey of a couple of hours through the Essex countryside.
Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station was a relatively short lived station, opening in 1884 and closing for passenger use in 1916.
In the 5th of July, 1884 edition of the East London Observer, a report on the opening of the station provides a detailed description of the new station:
“The station is entered from either Globe-road or Devonshire-street. It is a double station, having a spacious booking office at Devonshire-street and Globe-road respectively. The platforms are approached from the booking offices on street level, by staircases 9 feet in width, constructed of ‘Hedges patent wood treads’.
The platforms are 600 feet in length, by an average width of 25 feet, and are covered from end to end by a light ornamental glass, iron and zinc roof. The platforms are paved with ‘Victoria Stone’ throughout. This material is well-known, but these platforms will serve as an excellent specimen of the pavement. On each platform are well arranged ladies and gentlemen’s waiting-rooms for each class of passenger. A drinking fountain for the use of the passengers is placed on each platform. Offices for staff are provided, the platforms are well lighted throughout, and every improvement and modern requirement for a London suburban station, has been carefully studied and provided.
The works have been carried out by Messrs. Perry & Co. contractors, Bow, Messrs. Lead & Co. of Stratford carrying out the gas lighting arrangements. All the works have been designed and executed by the company’s engineer-in-chief and staff. There is a very frequent service of trains to Liverpool-street and Stratford, about 80 trains calling at the station on week-days. The journey to Liverpool-street is done in seven or eight minutes, and the return fares are 6d first class, 5d second class, and 4d third class.”
This was a significant suburban station for east London and if we assume services were running between 04:00 and midnight, then 80 trains a day is 2 trains an hour to Liverpool Street and the same to Stratford.
In the same newspaper, the results for the first half of 1884 of the North Metropolitan Tramway Company were reported. The area covered by the company included the trams not far from Globe Street and Devonshire Road station. The company had carried 17,428,145 passengers during the half year, however there was an outstanding issue of fares for short journeys and the report in the paper ended with a reference to the new station “We would remind the directors that the subject of penny fares for short distances is a matter worthy of consideration, especially in view of the opening of the new station by the Great Eastern Railway Company at Devonshire-street, Mile End”.
Having a local station was, as now, a benefit for those who lived and worked locally. During the years that the station was open there were numerous newspaper adverts for properties for sale or rent that mentioned their proximity to Globe Road and Devonshire Street station.
The Britain from Above archive includes a couple of photos of Globe Road station. In the following photo, the platform buildings can be seen running either side of the tracks running through the station:
The full name of the station was Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station. Whilst we can still find Globe Road, Devonshire Street has changed name and is now Bancroft Road.
I have annotated the above photo to show the local roads, a couple of key buildings, entrances to the station, and the direction to Stratford and Liverpool Street stations:
Another view of Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station, where the tracks for stopping at the station are seen on the left, and the fast tracks for trains not stopping at the station can be seen on the right:
The end for Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station came in 1916. The Great Eastern Railway had been proposing to close a number of what were classed as suburban east London stations. Presumably the long distance routes into Liverpool Street were more profitable, and stopping trains at stations in east London were taking up capacity that could be used for faster, long distance trains.
There were also a number of underground routes serving east London along with a network of trams, however many of the stations that were proposed to close were still being well used and there was much concern that closure would transfer additional passengers to already busy tram and underground services.
On the 15th of April 1916, the East London Observer announced a “Mass Meeting of Inhabitants of Mile End, Bow and Bromley and Bethnal Green”, The meeting was held in the People’s Palace on Mile End Road, and chaired by Warwick Brookes M.P. and supported by the Right Hon. Lord Burnham, along with the “Leading Public Men of the districts affected”.
In May 1916, meetings were held with the London County Council to protest the proposed closures. the “Housing of the Working Classes Committee” reported that their attention had been drawn to the closures (there were complaints that the LCC were somewhat late at looking at the impact of the closures), and they were concerned about the impact on travel times, the lack of alternative rail routes, and the problems that would be caused by additional load on the trams.
The East London Observer provided a table showing the number of users of the stations that the Great Eastern Railway were proposing to close between 5 and 9 a.m. on a typical weekday morning.
As can be seen, Globe Road was well used in the morning, with 607 passengers boarding trains during the four hour period to travel towards Liverpool Street.
Despite the meetings and protests, the Great Eastern Railway, after a short delay, confirmed their intention to close Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station, with closure on the 22nd of May, 1916. I will cover the story and fate of the other stations in future posts.
Much of the station buildings and infrastructure remained in place until 1938 when they were finally demolished leaving very little evidence that the station had existed.
Although there would be nothing much to see, I still wanted to visit the site of the station, and take some photos.
The following map shows the area today. Devonshire Street has been renamed Bancroft Road. The other street names rename the same. I have marked the locations of the entrances to the station in Globe Road and Devonshire Street:
The blue circle is around the Carlton pub which has a sad recent history.
I walked down Morpeth Street (to the upper right of the station, the location of which is marked by the red rectangle), to get to the bridge that runs under the rail tracks and provides access to Devonshire Street / Bancroft Road.
To the right of the bridge is the old Morpeth Street entrance to the station.
There were originally two brick pillars on either side of the entrance, only the left hand pillar, up against the viaduct, survives today.
There was a gate between the two pillars, and a cast iron curved sign above the entrance running between the two pillars. The station name was on the sign, and a round gas lamp was mounted at the top of the curved sign above the entrance.
Turning to the left, and this is the view under the viaduct, which provides a walkway between Morpeth Street and Bancroft Road.
The viaduct carrying the tracks towards Liverpool Street has been extended and modified a number of times over the years since the lines were originally constructed in the mid 19th century.
Some of these changes can be seen by the different construction and materials in use to carry the tracks over the tunnel:
The opposite side, now on what was Devonshire Street, now Bancroft Road:
Looking towards the location of the Devonshire Street entrance to the station, now occupied by businesses using the arches and space between Bancroft Road and the viaduct:
The section of viaduct along Bancroft Road is Grade II listed. It was built between 1839 and 1840 by John Braithwaite, the engineer for the Eastern Counties Railway. The bridge that I have just walked under is included in the listing and is described as “The skew bridge is a very shallow elliptical opening, with radiating voussoirs of sandstone set above an impost band of sandstone.” (I had to look up the meaning of voussoir, and apparently it means a wedge shaped or tapered stone used to construct an arch).
Between the bridge and the area that was occupied by the station are two, small, blind arches:
The arch that was occupied by the station is now the site of Red Sun Fitness:
When in use, the name Great Eastern was above the arch, running along the brick parapet at the very top of the viaduct.
The following photo is looking back to the bridge that provides access from Morpeth Street. The Historic England listing describes the viaduct along Bancroft Road as “the viaduct is among the earliest, and longest, examples of a first-generation railway structure to survive in London.“
On the corner of Bancroft Road and Portelet Road, and opposite the tunnel under the rail tracks, is a building which appears to be a pub called the Carlton, although the pub is not what it seems.
There was a pub, originally called the Carlton Arms on the site since at least the early 1850s. A typical east London pub with a large corner advertising sign, advertising around the top of the building and wood paneling around the ground floor.
The pub closed in early 2018 and a couple of months later, Tower Hamlets Council had approved a planning request to convert the site to five flats, which would involve demolishing the first floor, adding additional floors and a new basement. Planning approval required that the historic ground floor of the pub should be retained.
Contrary to planning approval, the whole pub was then demolished. The developers argued that demolition was the only option due to the condition of the structure. It was then rebuilt with a modern wooden trim to the outer ground floor, but was substantially a new building.
The ground floor and basement are currently available to rent as an empty commercial space, and are ready to be transformed to a “traditional pub/restaurant”. If you have £2,500 per month to spare, plus the cash to convert to a pub, it is currently listed on Rightmove.
There is a very small part of the station left in Bancroft Road. As Bancroft Road and the railway viaduct head east, the land where the station entrance was located forms a small triangular site. On the edge of this site, along Bancroft Road, what was Devonshire Street, was a wall surrounding the entrance to the station, with two brick pillars on either side of the opening in the wall to access the station.
One of these brick pillars survives and is now part of a modern brick wall.
In the following photo, the original brick pillar can be seen in the centre of the wall.
View looking back along Bancroft Road, with the brick pillar on the left:
I next wanted to find the Globe Road entrance to the old station, so I walked to the junction of Bancroft Road and Globe Road, and turned right to see the bridge carrying the railway across the road.
Walking towards the bridge, and up against the viaduct, on the east of Globe Road is the old station entrance. Very similar to the Morpeth Street entrance, with brick pillars either side of the entrance, however at this entrance more pillars survive:
As with Morpeth Street, there was a curved, cast iron station name sign above the entrance from pillar to pillar, with a gas lamp in the middle.
Walking under the bridge, and this is the view looking south along Globe Road. The station entrance is just under the bridge on the left:
Only some of the brick piers at the station entrances appear to have survived, but good that there is something left from this east London station, from a time when there was a number of suburban stations as trains from the east approached Liverpool Street.
The station was only open for 32 years, and provided a fast method of transport for those who worked in the City, as well as providing a route into Essex for those such as the excursionists of the Mile End Old Town Victoria Park Hospital Association on the 27th August 1887, who were leaving the noise, congestion and smoke of east London for a very different day on the Essex coast at Dovercourt.
And if any TV production company is looking for a Victorian soap opera based in east London, then my outline for Mile Enders is ready and waiting.
Two apparently unconnected subjects for this week’s post. A Billingsgate excavation, and the London Docklands. What connects the two is that whilst sorting a box of papers this last week, I found leaflets handed out to visitors when it was possible to visit the archeological excavation in the old lorry park at Billingsgate Market, and the London Docklands Development Corporation Visitor Centre on the Isle of Dogs.
I had posted some photos of an excavation a few months ago, asking for help to confirm the location, and a number of readers suggested Billingsgate. I was really pleased to find the Billingsgate leaflet because it helped to confirm the location.
Billingsgate fish market moved to a new location between the Isle of Dogs and Poplar in February 1982, and whilst the buildings of the fish market were to be retained, the adjacent lorry park was to be redeveloped with an office block. The lorry park was in a prime position between the River Thames and Lower Thames Street and offered a sizeable area for new offices.
Archeologically, the site of the lorry park was important. It had been built on the area of land that was once the shifting waterfront between land and river. The Thames has only relatively recently been channeled within concrete walls, many centuries ago, the river’s edge would have been marsh, inter-tidal land up to where the ground rises north of Lower Thames Street.
As the importance of the City as a trading port grew, the edge of the City expanded into the river, building quayside, docks and buildings from the Roman period onwards.
It was this advance of the waterfront that the excavation hoped to uncover below a tarmac lorry park.
In 1982, the Museum of London published a leaflet explaining the Billingsgate Excavations and it was this leaflet I found in a box of London guides and leaflets.
The leaflet was published during the early weeks of the excavation, and provided some background to the location and included a drawing showing the results from a previous nearby excavation at St Magnus House which had found evidence of the Thames waterfront as it expanded southwards from the Roman period to the 13th century. A continuation of this Roman to 13th century strata was expected to be found under the Billingsgate lorry park.
Long before the fish market, Billingsgate had been one of the three docks or harbours dating from the Saxon period, along with Queenhithe and Dowgate. These later two sites had been lost to archeological investigation due to development in the 1960s and early 1970s, so access to the Billingsgate lorry park was of considerable importance.
Preparation of the site began on the 20th January 1982 when the tarmac was removed, along with rubble found in the basements of the buildings beneath the tarmac. A cofferdam needed to be installed to shore up the sides of the site and prevent water entering the excavation at times of high tide. The waters of the Thames would still try and seep through the land the river had lost. The work to excavate the site began in March.
The leaflet explains the source of funding for the excavation, from the Corporation of the City of London, the Department of the Environment and from a number of private contributions. A reminder of the expense of such projects and the considerable challenges of raising funds for such important work, as when these sites have been lost, there will never again be a chance to explore the history of the site.
I had photographed the lorry park in 1980, when the market was still open. Rather a bland view when you consider what would be found below ground.
I took a number of photos of the excavations when I visited the site. When I originally scanned the negatives I was not sure of their location (I was not good at keeping records of the location of my photos), and I published a couple in a post a few months ago asking for help with the location. A number of readers suggested Billingsgate, and finding the leaflet helped jog my memory of visiting the site.
The Billingsgate excavation uncovered a significant amount of evidence of the waterfront as it developed, and the buildings that lined the river.
Excavation of the upper levels found evidence of the waterfront dating back to the 12th century, along with tenements that lined the river (extending into the Billingsgate lorry park from other tenements discovered during earlier excavations to the west). A small inlet from the river was also discovered under the lorry park.
The church of St Botolph Billingsgate was originally just north of the site, where Lower Thames Street is today, however part of the church did extend into the area of the lorry park, and evidence of the southern wall was found, along with two tiled floors from the church and a number of burials.
Numerous small finds were uncovered, including a rare 14th century buckle, a lead lion badge, which could have been a pilgrim’s badge and intact 17th century bottles.
A number of fabrics dating back to between the 12th and 14th centuries were found. These were made of undyed, natural fibres, the type that have been used for sacking, probably evidence of the transport of goods from ships at the inlet and Billingsgate waterfront.
The Billingsgate dock may have been used by larger ships that would have been used for cross channel trade. Documentary evidence from the 14th century implies that these ships were encouraged to use Billingsgate rather than navigate through London Bridge to Queenhithe.
If you look in the middle of the following photo, there appears to be a number of twigs and branches laid out to form a mat. This is wattle consolidation in front of the 12th century waterfront.
In the following photo, a three sided wooden long rectangular box like structure can be seen:
This is a wooden drain that dates to the 13th century, possibly around 1270. The drain extended for a length of 8.8 metres, parts also had the top covering, and the drain was in exceptionally good condition allowing the detail of construction to be examined.
The results of the Billingsgate and related excavations, were published in the 2018 book “London’s Waterfront 1100-1666: excavations in Thames Street, London, 1974-84” by John Schofield, Lyn Blackmore and Jacqui Pearce with Tony Dyson. The book is a detailed examination of London’s historic waterfront as it developed over the centuries.
The book includes a photo of the same drain that was in my photo, and as Archaeopress appears to state that the book comes with a Creative Commons licence, I have copied the photo from the book below.
The drain is exactly the same as in my photo, so final confirmation that my photos were of the Billingsgate excavation.
The Billingsgate excavation was a significant dig during the early 1980s. I found some of my old copies of Popular Archeology from the time, and there are a number of articles by John Schofield providing updates on the work.
The following photo shows how far down the excavation had reached when I photographed the site, however it would continue downwards to reach the timbers of the Saxon and Roman waterfront, showing just how far below the current surface of the City that these remains are found.
The excavation was initially scheduled to end in November 1982, however agreement with the developer allowed work to continue into 1983.
Excavation finally worked down through the Saxon waterfront to the substantial timbers of the Roman waterfront.
As well as providing comprehensive coverage of the excavation, told by those working on the site, it also shows how this type of work was carried out in the early 1980s, and “because the dig has extra funding from sponsors, the Museum of London can invest in computers for the first time”. Very early use of computer technology to record a large excavation.
When work completed, a large number of finds were ready for further investigation. Wood from the various waterfronts had been removed, and sections of wood cut out to allow the age of the tree and when it was cut down to be investigated.
The BBC Chronicle programme shows the pressures of City archeology, the pressure to complete by a date driven by the developer, negotiations for extensions and how work is planned to retrieve as much as possible within a limited period of time.
Today, the site is under the building at the western end of the old Billingsgate Market building, at the far end of the following photo.
The following photo shows a very different view from roughly where I was standing to take the 1980 photo of the old lorry park.
Finding the leaflet on the dig, along with reading the book and watching the Chronicle episode brought back a load of memories from visiting the site almost 40 years ago. An advert in Popular Archaeology of July 1982 states that the site was open for visitors every day of the week except for Monday, and admission to the viewing platform cost 50p for adults and 25p for children.
Preserving timbers exposed to the air, when they have been buried in waterlogged soil for centuries is a considerable problem, however it would have been really good if some section of the old Roman and Saxon waterfront could have been preserved in situ. It would have provided a really good demonstration of how the present City has been built on the layered centuries of previous development, and as the City has risen in height, so the Thames has been pushed back into the the confined channel that the river runs in today.
Another of my finds whilst sorting through a box of London papers was a reminder of a very different visit.
London Docklands – The Exceptional Place
In the late 1980s / early 1990s, the redevelopment of the old docklands, around the Isle of Dogs and the Royal Docks further to the east was moving forward under the management of the London Docklands Development Corporation (the LDDC).
The LDDC opened a visitor centre at 3 Limeharbour on the Isle of Dogs, where a brochure on the London Docklands – The Exceptional Place was available:
The rear of the brochure, shows a train on the recently opened section of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).
The brochure opens up to reveal a large map of the area, from the City of London in the west, to the edge of the Royal Docks in the east. Having a map is probably why I picked up and kept the brochure – anything with a map.
The focus of the map is on the transport links connecting the docklands to the City and the surrounding road network. Only recently this area of London had seemed a remote and derelict land and if the LDDC were to entice the investment needed, along with the businesses and people to relocate to the docklands, they had to demonstrate that travel was easy.
The map charts the growth of the Docklands Light Railway, and shows the extent of plans in 1990, along with some station changes to the DLR network we see today.
By 1990, the DLR extended from Tower Gateway in the City, to Stratford, and Island Gardens on the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs. The eastern route onwards from Poplar was shown as a dashed route to show that this section of the route was under construction.
The following section shows the north eastern tip of the isle of Dogs and Leamouth, with the River Lea / Bow Creek curving around an area of land that has now been redeveloped as City Island.
The red dashed line shows the 1990 expectations for the planned Jubilee line extension, where the line would continue from Canary Wharf, to a new station called Brunswick, then to Canning Town and on to Stratford.
As built, the Jubilee line extension took a different route, and headed across the river to North Greenwich from Canary Wharf, before heading back across the river to Canning Town. Brunswick station would never be built.
Comparing the planned to the built route of the DLR shows a similar loss of the name Brunswick for a station. In the 1990 plans, there was to be a Brunswick station on the DLR, however as built, this would be named East India. The following map marks the location of DLR stations today:
The route further east to Beckton shows the loss of a station. Connaught Station was planned between Prince Regent and Royal Albert stations, however when looking at the map, Connaught would have been so close to Royal Albert that it made little sense to build the station.
The yellow area in the above map is London City Airport, which had opened three years earlier in 1987. The map also shows the 1990 planned extension to the DLR, and the map below shows the line as built today.
The 1990 plan was for the line to run along the north of the Royal docks, however in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the line was further extended to Greenwich, Lewisham, City Airport and Woolwich.
The route south of the Royal Docks is shown on the 2020 map above, not on the 1990 map, and in the 1990 map, the line terminates at Island Gardens to the south of the Isle of Dogs, rather than crossing under the river and continuing on to Lewisham as it does today.
The map also identifies another element of transport infrastructure that has not been built – the East London River Crossing is shown on the eastern edge of the map from Gallions Reach, heading under the river towards the A2.
Ideas for this tunnel keep resurfacing, however it is not on Transport for London’s list of new river crossings for London, and I suspect given current financial conditions, the Silvertown Tunnel will be the only new river crossing built for a very long time.
Two very different topics, the only apparent connection being the leaflet and brochure coming from a box of London papers. There is though another connection – they both tell of the development of London. With Billingsgate we can discover the growth of London’s waterfront from the Roman timbers found many feet below the current surface level, through the Saxon and Medieval to a lorry park that served the old fish market.
In the London Docklands, development continues to this day, and the brochure records some of this and shows how the 1990 plans developed to the transport network we see today.
It is interesting to speculate whether archeologists in 2000 years time will discover any remains of the DLR and what they will make of a 20th century transport system.
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.
The station was replaced by the Broadgate office complex. The following photo shows the same view today:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The same view today (although I had walked slightly further away from the river wall):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
In 1981 I also took some photos of the station entrance:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Heading towards Ongar:
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.
The nearest village to the station is Greensted, and this is the location of my next stop, marked by the blue circle:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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,
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:
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.
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:
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.