In 1863, the railway from Greenwich to London Bridge was extended to Charing Cross, but not without considerable disturbance to the lands it passed through.
The Illustrated London News, while reporting on the developments at London Bridge couldn’t help but express its distain for the iron bridge over Southwark. I wonder what they would make of the recent works to expand the line for the Thameslink upgrade?
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THE SITE OF ST. THOMAS’S HOSPITAL, AND THE CHARING -CROS3 RAILWAY WORKS.
THE reader, if at all familiar with the locality immediately adjoining, the London Bridge Railway termini, may, in looking upon the accom panying picture of its present aspect, exclaim with the black man in the play, ” Chaos is come again !” The time to pull down, and the time to build up, and the time to pull down again, have here succeeded each other with rapid though not noiseless pace ; and within the compass of a single generation the genius of change has been more busy upon this spot than any other portion of the metropolis.
Little more than thirty years have elapsed since the old High-street of Southwark (the Borough), the narrowest leading thoroughfare into London — with many a gabled and plaster house front in grimy picturesqueness — was swept away for the southern approach to the new bridge this and the corresponding approach northward costing a million of money, or double the cost of the bridge itself. The Southwark street, though doubled in width, is not unique, the old houses on the east side being only cleared away as far as St. Thomas’s Hospital ; but the most was made of the fine area gained by this removal.
The hospital was rebuilt in massive style, commencing with the north wing, for the site of which £40,850 was paid, and not conaidered an extravagant price, though at the rate of £54,855 per acre ; and for the site of the two houses adjoining the City purchased of the hospital at the rate of £69,935 per acre.
In building the west side of the street, the east end of St. Mary Overie — in magnitude and architectural character the third church in the metropolis — was left open to view, though in the old street arrangement it had been hidden, save the upper portion of the tower, for centuries. [Here we must enter our protest against the lofty pile of the Hibernia Wharf dwarfing the tower when viewed from the river or the north.] The tower seen in the centre of the accompanying Engraving is 150ft. in height, and from. its roof Hollar drew his celebrated view of London: upon the restoration of the tower and. the rebuilding of the east end of the church the parishioners expended. some £45,000. This is the work of Mr. George Gwilt, F.S A. — the choir consisting of an enriched gable, with an elaborately foliated cross on its apex ; pinnacled, staircased turrets, with niches at the angles ; a new triple lancet window, and a catherine-wheel window of extra-ordinary richness and beauty. Over the vaulting was erected a cast-iron roof covered with copper, the flying buttresses were cased. with stone, the aisle windows built anew, &c. ; in which Mr. Gwilt rigidly adhered to the former work, ” not only in the general design, bat in the minutest details wherever prototypes could be found.” The above is allowed, even in these days of revivalism, to be one of the most conscientious works in the country.
We wish that half the praise could be accorded to the transept and the nave of the church, restored and rebuilt by less painstaking architects. We must not, however, forget the Lady Chapel at the east end, which, after a stout battle with the iconoclasts who fought for its removal, was restored by public subscription, under the superintendence of Mr. Gwilt and. Mr. Cottingliam.
The public bad scarcely appreciated the ” fine architectural group ” we have just sketched, when, at the close of 1836, the opening of the Greenwich Railway — the first complete line from the metropolis soon threw the locality into a transition state, which has continued to the present hour.
The railway companies were the disturbers. We pass over the removals and rebuildings caused by their encroachments to come to the cause of the strange scene which our Illustration presents. We should, however, first note that in 1854 was erected, midway in the road, opposite St. Mary Overie’s Church, a clock tower of Gothic design, resembling a market-cross, with a canopied niche, thus adding a picturesque architectural feature to the spot.
In 1861 a railway hotel of imposing dimensions was built adjoining the terminus, its principal front being in St. Thomas’s-street. This ” Terminus Hotel ” is seven stories high, and has a Mansard roof, with dormer windows. We now come to the actual scene of the Engraving.
The public had long complained of the journey from the railway termini though the overcrowded streets to the west end of London occupying nearly as much time as the railway transit from Brighton; when an extension line along the southern bank of the Thames, which the line is to cross by three bridges, was determined on one of these bridges being for the Charing-cross extension into Hungerford ; another for the Chatham and Dover line into Farringdon-street; and the third between Southwark and London Bridges, to take a line into Cannon-street, near the Mansion House.
We are, undoubtedly, approaching the time when London itself will show as many railways on its surface as it now has lines of main sewers. It is already grilled with telegraph wires ; and girder bridges across second and third rate streets are not rare ; but very shortly we shall have this unsightly Cyclopean progeny of iron bestriding our leading thoroughfares, as in the example shown in the centre of our Illustration.
The Charing-cross Railway Company, having determined on their plan of extension from the nest of stations at London-bridge, besought the authorities of St. Thomas’s Hospital to sell them a small piece of garden-ground, one-sixteenth of an acre, for £20,000, which offer was refused. The railway bill was then in Parliament, and. was vigorously opposed by the hospital ; but at last the company got their Act. Then, said the hospital, ” You shall take all our place — all or none ; we will not let you have a part only.” After long and tedious litigation and arbitration, the company were compelled to purchase the entire property. The hospital has been removed to Walworth. The north wing has been taken down, and the ground is being cleared the south wing still remaining, as shown on the left of the accompanying View.
Meanwhile, the Charing-cross Railway line is in course of construction upon massive brick arches upon the verge of the hospital ground, until the arches reach Duke-street, across which the line will be carried by a massive iron girder bridge, which, from the lowness of its pitch and the ugliness of its form, almost dwarfs into insignificance every object around it, its Brobdingnagian proportions crushing, as it were, the architectural group in the centre of the view, and making the summit of St. Paul’s scarcely to be recognised in the distance.
West of the roadway the brick arches are continued past the churchyard, cleared, and now a thoroughfare ; and onward the line will be laid upon huge iron columns, through a portion of the Borough Market, which, within recollection, had been improved from an assemblage of mean shops and stalls to one of the most convenient markets in the metropolis.
We need not pursue the railway in its gigantic course onward to the bridge by which the railway will cross from Lambeth (old. Pedlar’s-acre) to Hungerford, but the other day the great focus of the Thames steam navigation. The visitor who is familiar with the history and olden interest of the place may be allowed a little sentiment as he views the vast nineteenth-century work passing close to the Stoney-street, or Stane-street, of Roman times.
To return to the print. The hospital ground, nearly four acres, is to be disposed of ; while the hospital authorities have to decide Upon the site for their new edifice. The old ground is considered to, have been obtained cheaply at £74,000 an acre ; for it is stated by a correspondent of the Builder that several parcels of land have been subsequently let at very different prices in the Borough :- ” The Alliance Bank has taken a piece of ground at £500 per annum rent, which, when capitalised, is at the rate of £260,000 an acre. Another property has just been taken, on a twenty-one years’ lease, at an improved rent of £750, which is at the rate for the freehold of £298,000 per acre, in no better situation than the frontage of the hospital. The site of the old Townhall has lately been taken at £500 a year, the area about 2090 superficial feet ; this would indicate a freehold value of more than £250,000 per acre.
“It is hoped that eventually the hospital ground will become the site of buildings worthy of this costly location; and that the great iron horizontal centre this engineering eyesore — of the present view may receive some embellishment to reconcile us to its intrusion. When this shall be accomplished we may look forward to the rebu ilding of the east side of the High-street ; but then will be swept away the most picturesque relics of old Southwark, including Stow’s ” many fair inns for receipt of travellers, the Spurr, Tabard°, George, Hart, King’s Head, &c.”
Article last updated on June 6th, 2019 at 08:30 pm