Nearly a hundred years ago, plans were shown off for a mighty civic new building for the east-end of London that would have dominated the skyline for miles around.
The new scheme, prepared for Stepney borough was prepared by Mr. Thomas H. Mawson, and in addition to the gigantic new tower, also included various “improvements” such as new roads and railway links.
In the time, central government was much smaller than today, and local government more powerful, so as politicians are wont to do, they liked spending money on themselves — especially new Town Halls. Manchester’s town hall is so grand that it doubles up for the Houses of Parliament in TV shows. Stepney’s wasn’t quite on that scale, but still an impressive slab of municipal power.
However, it was something else that the politicians planned that would have transformed the skyline.
What was planned was a mighty War Memorial Campanile (bell tower) which would have stood just to the south of Albert Square (today Albert Gardens) about half-way between Shadwell and Limehouse stations on the DLR. Based on the architects drawing, it would have been the principal landmark across much of the East-End of London.
Based on the drawing below, I estimate it to be about the same height as Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower.
The tower was itself just part of a series of rebuilding works, the most dramatic of which called for the railway running between Limehouse and Fenchurch street to be buried underground, and a 110 feet wide road built on top.
The new road was to be called the “Stepney Greeting” and would have seen huge numbers of workers housing and workshops demolished to further the goal of shifting more cars more rapidly.
Meanwhile, Fenchurch Street station would have been replaced with a terminus with a direct link to the London Underground. So actually, that bit wasn’t a bad idea.
And Albert Square would be rather more famous for its tower, than for a soap opera.
The Building News and Engineering Journal, June 1915, Jan & Feb 1919