My little ‘culture’ trek out this week, had a bit of a ‘train’ theme to it, as my travels took me not far from home, to a main-line terminus station that has been a ‘constant’ throughout my 60+ years on this planet.
The topic for my ‘London Shoes’ website this week is….all about “Liverpool Street Station”!!!
Liverpool Street Station (known in travel terms as London Liverpool Street), is the 3rd busiest station in the UK, after Waterloo and Victoria stations.
Statistically, its main line and tube station, serve in excess of 120 million passengers per year!!
It is the starting place for destinations in Eastern England such as:- Chelmsford, Southend, Colchester, Clacton-on-Sea, Frinton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze, Norwich, Ipswich and Harwich International – it is also the starting place for many suburban stations in north and east London, Essex and Hertfordshire such as:- Stratford, Ilford, Shenfield, Cambridge, Harlow Town, Hertford East – and it also services Stansted Airport.
The Underground/Tube service at Liverpool Street station is served by the Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines.
Liverpool Street Station was formally opened back in 1875 as a replacement for the existing Bishopsgate station, part of the “Great Eastern Railways” main London terminus – It was built on the site of the historic old ‘Bethlehem Hospital’ which was at one stage, London’s main asylum hospital – and where the term ‘Bedlam’ originates from.
The station was designed by the Great Eastern Railways’ chief engineer Edward Wilson– with its ornate glass structured roof designed and constructed by the Fairburn Engineering Company (who built the Albert Hall roof) – and the whole project cost around £2m, which was a lot of dosh for that time.
Because of its ‘Gothic’ architectural design and style, it was known at the time as the ‘Dark Cathedral’ – as its construction consisted mainly of wrought iron, glass and stone.
The ‘tube’ station at Liverpool Street, also opened in 1875, servicing what was then the Metropolitan Railway.
As it was such a busy and important rail terminus, it was the ideal location for a top-class hotel – and in 1884 the ‘Great Eastern Hotel’ opened right next door to the station – and at that time, the ‘Great Eastern’ was the only hotel located in the City district of London.
Inside the ‘Great Eastern Hotel’ was the ‘Hamilton Rooms’, a ballroom that was named after ‘Lord Claud Hamilton’, the former head of the ‘Great Eastern Railway’.
Throughout its history there have been some significant incidents and occurrences at Liverpool Street station – the main ones of which are commemorated in or around the station site:-
On the 13th June 1917 during WW1, the very first air raid on London took place, when 20 German Gotha G.IV bomber planes dropped 7 tons of bombs on the ‘Smoke’ – killing 162 people and injuring hundreds more.
It was the deadliest raid on Britain throughout WW1 and Liverpool Street Station was unfortunate to ‘cop’ 3 of these bombs, causing a number of fatalities.
A magnificent marble memorial stands in the Station to commemorate and honour all the ‘Great Eastern Railway’ employees who died during WW1.
This memorial was unveiled in 1922 by a Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson Bart, who, upon his return home from the unveiling ceremony, was assassinated on his front door step by 2 IRA members.
To honour Sir Henry, the Great Eastern Railway commissioned a commemorative plaque to be built in to the war memorial – along with that of another war hero, Charles Fryatt, who was executed by the Germans in 1916 for ramming a German U-boat with the GER steamer SS Brussels.
In the late 1930 and early 1940’s at the beginning of WW2, thousands of Jewish refugee children arrived at Liverpool Street station as part of the “Kindertransport” rescue mission to save them from Nazi persecution.
In 2003 the “Für Das Kind Kindertransport Memorial” sculptures by an artist named ‘Flor Kent’ were, and still are, on display at the station to commemorate this famous ‘rescue’ activity.
Also, during WW2, the Gothic tower at the main entrance to the Station on Liverpool Street and its glass roof,
was badly damaged from a bomb dropped nearby it.
In the years subsequent to WW2 and right up to this present day, there have a number of extensive redevelopment projects undertaken throughout Liverpool Street Station, especially to its roofing and interior – but always attempting to ensure that changes were kept in line with the stations original design.
There is a plaque is currently on display at the station – that commemorates the re-opening of the station by the Queen Elizabeth in 1991, following one of the main redevelopment projects.
In 1993 Liverpool Street station was “twinned” with ‘Amsterdam Centraal’ railway station, and a plaque marking this event is on display close to the entrance of the Underground/Tube station.
In 1990’s, the ‘Broadgate’ area to the side and the back of the station was extensively redeveloped, and today it is full of bars and restaurants and artistic statues and ornaments – and is a popular place for City workers to hang out.
In April 1993 Liverpool Street station was badly damaged on by an IRA bomb that went off in Bishopsgate. The stations glass roof was particularly damaged, and the station had to close for a short while.
During the July 2005 terrorist attacks on London, a bomb was exploded aboard an Underground train that had just departed Liverpool Street toward Aldgate. Seven passengers were killed.
The current giant departures board was installed above the concourse, was only installed as recently as 2007 – before that, Liverpool Street station had one of the last remaining mechanical ‘flapper’ display boards in operation.
In the past few years, the ‘Crossrail’ project has had a big impact on Liverpool Street station, as it will be one of the main rail links on the new routes.
In 2013, during excavation work for the project, a mass burial ground dating from the 17th century was uncovered a few feet beneath the surface at station. This burial pit contained the remains of hundreds of bodies and it is thought that they were from of a wide variety of people, including plague victims, deceased patients from the ‘Bethlehem’ Hospital, prisoners, pirates and ‘unclaimed’ corpses. Following the full-scale excavation work that followed this find, it is estimated that around 3000 skeletons have been discovered.
By late 2019, Liverpool Street will be one of the main ‘Crossrail’ stations, and Crossrail will be known as the ‘Elizabeth’ line with train services running westward towards Heathrow Airport or Reading via Paddington, and eastward to Abbey Wood or Shenfield via Whitechapel
Currently, some of the new ‘Elizabeth Line’ trains are being ‘run-in’ between Gidea Park (my hometown station) and Liverpool Street – at the rate of 4 per4 hour during peak periods.
So – having spent a couple of hours playing at being a train-spotter, I popped into the ‘Hamilton Hall’ pub for the customary couple of ‘cheeky’ ones.
As mentioned earlier, the Hamilton Hall building is attached to Liverpool Street Station, and was named after Lord Claud Hamilton, chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company who originally built Liverpool Street station.
Hamilton Hall was originally part of the Great Eastern Hotel ballroom – which was part of the railway – and all the original ballroom design features such as chandeliers and ceiling artworks are clearly visible, and are regularly maintained.
Today, the Hamilton Hall is an extremely busy pub, not only frequented by office workers, during lunch time and for a ‘quick-one’ before their commute back home – but it is also a regular meeting place at the weekends for little football mobs & firms, on their way to matches being held in the ‘smoke’.
Throughout my life, Liverpool Street Station has been a sort of ‘constant’ location, simply taken for granted – and so it was good to find out a little bit more about its origins and history – and I know that a lot of my FB friends have done, and still do, use the station regularly – so I hope you found this interesting.