Category Archives: London Transport

Cloak Lane, St John the Baptist, the Walbrook and the Circle Line

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:

Cloak Lane

A closer view, and the railings have signs that imply that there is perhaps more to discover:

Cloak Lane

The monument provides some information:

Cloak Lane

The contrast between letters and stone is not that high in the above photo, so I have reproduced the text on the monument below:

Cloak Lane

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:

St John the Baptist upon Walbrook

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 Walbrook is one of London’s lost rivers, and in the following map I have marked the location of church and churchyard along with the Walbrook which made its way down to Upper Thames Street which was the early location of the Thames shoreline (© OpenStreetMap contributors):

Walbrook and Dowgate Hill

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.

Cloak Lane

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:

Cloak Lane

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:

Cloak Lane

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?

Cloak Lane

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.

Cloak Lane

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

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.

The following print shows Cutlers Hall in Cloak Lane as it appeared in 1854 (© The Trustees of the British Museum):

Cutlers Hall

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 !

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Tunnelling the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

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.

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

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.

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

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.

The ground beneath the streets and buildings of London is generally invisible, but is just as interesting as the surface. I have written about some of the areas where the geology beneath the city has influenced the development of an area, for example, how water shaped north Clerkenwell, Bagnigge Wells, St. Chad’s Place and a Lost Well, and also when oil was found beneath the streets of Willesden.

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.

The Port of London Authority (PLA) have a complete set of survey and navigation charts on their website, detailing the river from Teddington to Southend. They show a very different view of the Thames, a view that is essential to those on the river. The depth of water, obstructions, navigation lights, moorings etc.

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.

Port of London Authority chart for Lambeth Reach

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.

The 1894 Ordnance Survey map shows the location of College Street (underlined in red) in the following extract  (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland“):

College Street

Interesting to compare the above map with the PLA chart. In the OS map, the priority is the land, so the river is shown as a blank stretch of water, with no defining features.

The location of College Street today, is under the northern edge of the Jubilee Gardens. The Thames has also been pushed back, with the construction of the embankment and walkway along the river for the Festival of Britain. In the following map, I have marked the location of College Street, pre-1950 edge of the river, where the shafts to the tunnels and the working platform were located, along with the route of the tunnels which today form the Bakerloo line ( © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

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.

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

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:

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.

River Thames

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.

Thames Tideway Tunnel

There is a superb aerial view on Google Maps of the above Tideway Tunnel construction site showing the shaft down to the tunnel, which can be found on this link.

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

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

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).

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

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).

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

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:

Baker Street and Waterloo Railway

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.

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Globe Road and Devonshire Street 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:

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

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.

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

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”.

The following map shows where the station was located, with Liverpool Street at lower left. Continue the line off to the right and the next stop is Stratford (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the station on either side of two tracks on the northern part of the rail route. Presumably the two tracks on the southern side were for fast trains not stopping at Globe Road (‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

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:

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

(Source: https://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/en/image/EPW036260 )

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:

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

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:

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

(Source: https://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/en/image/EPW036258 )

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.

Station users

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.

Globe Road and Devonshire Street 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.

Morpeth Street bridge

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:

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

The opposite side, now on what was Devonshire Street, now Bancroft Road:

Morpeth Street bridge

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:

Railway 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:

Railway viaduct

The arch that was occupied by the station is now the site of Red Sun Fitness:

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

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.

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

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.

Carlton pub, Bancroft Road

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.

Bancroft Road

View looking back along Bancroft Road, with the brick pillar on the left:

Bancroft Road

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.

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

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:

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

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:

Globe Road and Devonshire Street Station

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.

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Billingsgate Excavation and London Docklands

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 Excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

In the following photo, a three sided wooden long rectangular box like structure can be seen:

Billingsgate excavation

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 is published by Archaeopress, and is available for download under Open Access. 

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

The BBC history series Chronicle made a programme on the Billingsgate excavation and this can now be found here on YouTube.

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.

Billingsgate excavation

The following photo shows a very different view from roughly where I was standing to take the 1980 photo of the old lorry park.

Billingsgate excavation

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:

Billingsgate excavation

The rear of the brochure, shows a train on the recently opened section of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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:

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

Billingsgate excavation

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.

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Broad Street Station – A Lost London Station

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

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

Broad Street Station

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

Broad Street Station

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

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

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

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

Broad Street Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broad Street Station

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

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

Broad Street Station

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

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

Broad Street Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broad Street Station

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

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

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

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

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

Broad Street Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broad Street Station

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

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

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

Broad Street Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cannon Street Station from the Thames Foreshore

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

Thames Foreshore

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

Thames Foreshore

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

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

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

Thames Foreshore

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

Thames Foreshore

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

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

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

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

Thames Foreshore

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

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

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

Thames Foreshore

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

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

Thames Foreshore

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

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

Thames Foreshore

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

Thames Foreshore

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

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

Thames Foreshore

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

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

Thames Foreshore

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

Thames Foreshore

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

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Blake Hall Central Line Station And Greensted Church

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

Blake Hall Central Line Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

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

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

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

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

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

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

Greensted Church

Heading towards Ongar:

Greensted Church

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

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

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

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

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

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

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

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

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

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

Greensted Church

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

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

Greensted Church

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

The same view today:

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

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

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

Greensted Church

The chancel:

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

Greensted Church

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

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

Greensted Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

The booking office:

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

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

Spa Road Station

One of the old factory entrances:

Spa Road Station

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

Spa Road Station

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

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

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

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

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Highgate Station – A Hidden London Tour

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

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

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

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

Highgate Station

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

Highgate Station

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

Highgate Station

A postcard showing the platform and through the tunnel.

Highgate Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highgate Station

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

Highgate Station

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

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

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

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

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

The deep level station opened to traffic in 1941.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highgate Station

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

Highgate Station

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

Highgate Station

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

Highgate Station

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

Highgate Station

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

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

Highgate Station

The southern tunnels.

Highgate Station

A redundant litter box.

Highgate Station

The two southern tunnel entrances.

Highgate Station

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

Highgate Station

A final look along the central station platform.

Highgate Station

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

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

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

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Down Street Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down Street 28

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

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

Down Street 1

Looking down the stairs:

Down Street 26

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

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

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

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

Down Street 2

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

Down Street 3

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

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

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

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

Down Street 9

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

Down Street 4

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

Down Street 5

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

Down Street 6

An original water heater.

Down Street 7

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

Down Street 8

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

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

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

Down Street 10

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

Down Street 11

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

Down Street 12

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

Down Street 13

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

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

Down Street 14

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

Down Street 15

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

Down Street 16

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

Down Street 17

Station tunnel:Down Street 18

More original signage:

Down Street 21

Curving tunnels always fascinate. What is around the corner?

Down Street 22

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

Down Street 19

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

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

Looking up the lift shaft:

Down Street 20

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

Down Street 23

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

Down Street 24

Back up to the surface and heading towards the street:

Down Street 27

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

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

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

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