An early precursor of the modern shopping centre is the Arcade, and a rather fine example can be found just outside Liverpool Street station.

The Arcade exists thanks to the advent of electricity — as it sits directly over the railway tracks of the Metropolitan line, which at the time was a steam railway. When the line switched to electric locomotives, they were able to start to build over the station and the Arcade was born.

The old glazed arch roof of 80ft span over the platforms was replaced by steel and concrete floor providing an area of 17,000 sq ft, carrying the 100yd long, 18ft wide shopping arcade, with a new booking office, circulating area and tea rooms across the west end.

The Arcade, for which long standing Metropolitan Railway consultant, Frank Sherrin was the architect (completed by his son), was opened on 11 March 1912.

It has two imposing entrances, on Liverpool Street and Old Broad Street and is a key pedestrian link to both streets as well as entrance to the underground. The entrance on Old Broad Street has a neoclassical treatment, with painted stucco columns supporting an architrave with a deep fascia containing the inscription ‘THE ARCADE’.

The corner is open, with views into a terrace of small shops on either side. These shopfronts have painted timber frames, with stallrisers in grey granite and are divided by pilasters. There is a metal framed pitched roof with extensive glazing that permits natural light into the ‘indoor street’.

In 1988, The Arcade above the underground station on the corner of Liverpool Street and Old Broad Street was due to be completely demolished by London Regional Transport and MEPC, who wanted to develop the site into a five-storey block of offices and shops.

More than 6,000 people signed a petition to “Save the Arcade”, and the historic Victorian building still stands today. The campaign against the development was led by Graham Horwood, who owned an employment agency within the Arcade at the time.

Saved from demolition, it was sympathetically reconstructed in 1994-95, with a more historically correct colour scheme.

Although saved once, the Arcade is still not a listed building, so its future is never safe. Right now, a planning application is going through the system to refurbish the row of shops that line the outside of The Arcade, although fortunately, this is to be done in a suitable manner, with the frontages restored to a “late Victorian” design rather than some modern replacement.

What looks likely to vanish though, is this delightfully old map of the area that still manages to survive despite being hopelessly out of date.

For a final hurrah though, go around the back of the Arcade to find a piece of the original Metropolitan line station’s supporting wall.


Be the first to know what's on in London, and the latest news published on ianVisits.

You can unsubscribe at any time from my weekly emails.

Tagged with:

This website has been running now for over a decade, and while advertising revenue contributes to funding the website, it doesn't cover the costs. That is why I have set up a facility with DonorBox where you can contribute to the costs of the website and time invested in writing and research for the news articles.

It's very similar to the way The Guardian and many smaller websites are now seeking to generate an income in the face of rising costs and declining advertising.

Whether it's a one-off donation or a regular giver, every additional support goes a long way to covering the running costs of this website, and keeping you regularly topped up doses of Londony news and facts.

If you like what you read on here, then please support the website here.

Thank you

  1. mauricereed says:

    It is a nice little haven, plus I often go there to Thomas exchange Global to get Euros. They give the best rates for foreign currencies around. Handy being only 20mins from Walthamstow.

  2. Andrew Gwilt says:

    I been there couple times. Reminds bit like the shopping arcades in Norwich with the row of shops.

    • Andrew Gwilt says:

      Error mistake. I was meant to say-It reminds me of the shopping arcades in Norwich that I have visited many times. Lol

  3. Chris Rogers says:

    And don’t forget the lovely Art Deco entrance, as famously featured in the original Mission: Impossible film

  4. Colin says:

    There are authentic Japanese stand up noodle bars in some of the units, highly recommended

  5. Edmund Bird says:

    The Metropolitan Arcade is protected by the City of London’s Bishopsgate Conservation Area. As you say it is unlisted notwithstanding two other Edwardian station arcades by Sherrin being listed Grade II (South Kensington and Victoria Station Arcade). A minor correction – George Sherrin was the father (who was born in 1843 and died in 1909, 3 years before the completion of the Arcade), its construction would have been supervised by his son Frank (1879-1953).

  6. Sai Sai Zhao says:

    Dear sir/mamdam,

    I am wondering if there’s any empty shop available to be rent out at the moment and how much rent costs per week.

    Thanks in advance.

    Sai Sai Zhao

Home >> News >> Architecture