Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,128 pages of information and 245,598 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Bishopsgate Goods Station

From Graces Guide
2023. 1. Brick Lane, looking west. See text.
2023. 2.
2023. 3.

See Subterranea Britannica for an excellent account, illustrations and maps.[1]

Photo 1 is taken from Brick Lane, looking west at the remains of what was presumably part of the viaduct constructed in 1881-2 (see below), taking the GER tracks over Brick Lane into Bishopsgate Goods Station. The use of plate girders with a curved transition from vertical to horizontal is unusual. Detail shown in photo 2, where it will be noted that the iron girders are supported on brick (or brick-faced) piers. The iron plates are riveted to longitudinal I-beams, which in turn support iron cross beams and brick jack arches. The Subterranea Britannica images include a photograph taken from the road/trackway below this viaduct, looking from Wheler Street (now Braithwaite Street) towards Brick Lane (i.e. standing under the iron viaduct shown in photo 1, looking along its length towards Brick Lane). In the Subterranea Britannica photo, on the right can be seen a series of brick piers supporting the iron viaduct, while on the left are arches of what was presumably the historic Braithwaite Viaduct. This area had a cobbled roadway for carts and also railway lines, with turntables to allow wagons to be turned 90 degrees to enter the inner part of the goods station through the arches of the 'Braithwaite Viaduct'.


1881 ' The Great Eastern Company's New Viaduct at Brick Lane.
The extensive works at present in progress in connection with the large new goods station at Shoreditch necessitates a considerable lengthening of the bridge which carries the railway over Brick Lane, both on the north and south sides of that thoroughfare. The intention of the Company was to extend the present brick arch 23 feet on the south side, and also to construct a new girder bridge on the north side 40 feet in width, and for carrying out the proposed works the Company have just sought the consent of the Whitechapel and Bethnal Green Board of Works, in whose districts respectively the contemplated extensions are situated. This has led to a conference between the representatives ot the Railway Company and the Local Authorities, the result of which is that the present old brick arch carrying the line over Brick Lane, which it appears has for some time past been a subject of public complaint, is to be removed altogether, and an entirely new girder bridge to be erected with the extensions north and south of the existing old structure, having an uniform width over Brick Lane throughout its entire length of 40 feet. In consideration of the Railway Company having agreed to demolish the old brick bndge, the Local Authorities undertake to bear a portion of the cost of the new structure.'[2]

Note: A photograph here, Fig. 24.6[3] shows the bridge over Brick Lane, c.1976. The visible part has riveted I-beams, surmounted by brick parapets. The view is evidently looking south, with the bridge over the G.E.R. main line just visible. The bridge over Brick Lane was demolished c.2006. Photo 3 above shows the remains of the abutment at the north west corner of the bridge, which . Evidently 'make good' was not part of the contract. Just visible at the bottom of this photograph is the end of one of the I-beams, white glazed bricks or tiles, and traces of a brick jack arch.

1881 'THE NEW BISHOPSGATE GOODS DEPOT. On Wednesday afternoon a party of members and associates of the Society of Engineers paid a visit to the new goods depot of the Great Eastern Railway at Bishopsgate, the erection of which was commenced about three years ago, and will, it is expected, be completed in about nine months. The length of the warehouse, or covered part of the station, is 500 feet, and the width 400 feet, while the open part lying beyond is about 900 feet by 400. Tbe old station was at the outset entirely demolished, and the new one occupies its site, and a vast deal of space besides, large numbers of old houses of the most frail and shanty-like character having been pulled down, while others still skirting the new station seem by their appearance to await a similar fate. Lengthwise the whole station, covered and open, extends from Shoreditch to Brick-lane, being bounded on the south by the existing Great Eastern main line, on the north by the new Bethnal-green-road, on the west by High-street, Shoreditch, and on the east by Brick-lane. The new station will be used as a high level one, the connection with the existing main line of railway being at Bethnal-green Station. The sub-structure of the station will be employed for receiving and unloading goods which are to be carried up to the main level by means of hydraulic machinery. There are to be twelve sets of rails leading into the main goods station, the platforms extending all round; also five loading docks, each containing two roads. Above the rail level is a warehouse supported by girders and connected with the main line by means of hoists, this being intended for the warehousing of Continental and other goods conveyed to the station. The outbuildings comprise a large fruit shed where all the Continental fruit traffic, amounting in the busiest part of the season to about 300 tons per day, is received. There is an amazing quantity of iron employed in the construction of the warehouse, the total being about 10,000 tons. Spanning the different departments are to be seen iron girders, weighing about 22 tons each, and resting on iron columns 2ft. 6in. in diameter, 18ft. high, and each weighing about eight tons. Iron, in fact, appears to be the chief support and mainstay of the new building, and the whole structure is at least one of the solidest ever erected, and will probably when finished be the largest goods depot in the kingdom. A portion of the substructure of the station on one side of the centre will be used as a potato market, while on the other side it is proposed to create a large fish market, a deputation from the Metropolitan Board of Works having visited the station for the purpose of reporting as to the advisability of its being used for that purpose. The whole front of the station on the warehouse level is to be devoted to offices for the clerks in the goods departments, several such offices being already in full operation. About half the new depot is complete and in daily use, while the remainder is in active progress. Looking from the floor of the part completed in the direction of Brick-lane, there stretches before the eye a vast expanse of three or four hundred yards, dotted with men at work — the average number from the commencement has been about 500 a day — and one is enabled to realise what a magnificent metropolitan depot the Great Eastern Company will possess when all is finished. The new station is approached by a road for carts and other vehicles, having a gradient of one in 27, and this road, like other parts of the station, rests upon solid arches. The works, it should be added, have been designed and carried out by Mr. A. A. Langley, Chief Engineer of the Great Eastern Railway Company, and the Resident Engineer on the ground, Mr. H. Wilmer, an Associate Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers. The Contractors for this gigantic goods station are Messrs. Vernon and Ewens, of Cheltenham, and Mr. Vernon, C.E., has from the first almost continually superintended the works, the estimated total cost of which is £300,000.'[4]

The City Press published on Wednesday an interesting article under the heading "Bishopsgate — Where is It — The Future Liverpool-street." From It we take the following extracts : A person or a Corporation who buys up a whole street is reckoned to be in a big way of business, but what will be said of the magnitude of the operations of a railway company which buys up a whole parish? But this is what the Great Eastern Railway Company has done in Bishopsgate Without. The transformation which pick and shovel, aided by the hands of the builder and the skill of the engineer, has brought about in Bishopsgate is a surprising one. To all intents and purposes a whole parish has been absorbed, and the Great Eastern Railway Company is the master of the situation. While Londoners are hurrying and scurrying to and fro past Liverpool-street, few have given thought to the gigantic works which have been undertaken under their very noses, while fewer probably know that since the early part of 1891 there have been human elements at work which have taken from the map of London a piece of land five and a quarter acres in extent.
London will soon be able to boast of the possession of the largest railway terminus in the world, for Liverpool-street Station will, when the addition is completed, cover no fewer than 15 acres of land.
The removal of hundreds of homes was not a matter of any great difficulty, but in order to bring the new site to the level of the adjoining one a litany of difficulties presented themselves, and before it could be accomplished 130,000 cubic yards of earth had to be dug out.
After the levelling of the houses the serious portion of the enterprise was embarked upon. Mr. J. Wilson, the chief engineer to the Company, has been the designer of this grand transformation scene, which has been enacted so quietly, and withal so persistently, in Bishopsgate, and on its completion the travelling public will find the work he has accomplished is of a monunental character. Taking the Worship-street Bridge, which divides Norton Folgate and Shoreditch, as a starting point, it will be seen that there were engineering difficulties of some magnitude to contend with. In the first place, in cutting away the two arches of the structure the workmen were not allowed to interfere with the railway traffic beneath or the road traffic above. It says something for the skill of those who manipulated the delicate piece of work that, after a possession of the roadway for one week, the two brick arches were removed and the bridge was ready for use. Iron to the amount of 260 tons was used for the purpose. The next bridge, leading from Bishopsgate-street right into the station, is Primrose Bridge, which has a span of 105 feet and a roadway of 35 feet, while in the construction of it 340 tons of iron were employed. The third bridge, which spans the large area from Bishopsgate-street to the old station, is Skinner-street Bridge, which is 168 feet long and has 30 feet of roadway. In the making of the structure 540 tons of iron were used.
A conspicuous building is the new parcels office, which, by a well-thought-out plan, extends over towards the old station and above the railway lines, thus economising space without interfering with the utility of the building and the convenience of the site. It is a four-storey fire-proof building erected upon a network of massive girders (some of which weigh 40 tons), and extends a distance of 188ft. It is intended for inward and outward parcels, and will be well able to bear the enormous weight which promises to be put upon it. In this building alone there are approximately 2,000 tons of ironwork.
In the area which the Company has secured there are eight new lines of way and eight platforms. Four of these are 500 ft. and one 200 ft. long. These dimensions will convey to the mind of the reader the vast amount of space that has been added to the present station, which, by the way, stands upon 9 1/2 acres of land. At the end of the new platforms is an enormous space known to railway experts as a circulating area — or, in other words, a vast space devoted to ingress and egress, and its proportions are 90ft. by 210 ft. This has been roofed over in one span — a grand piece of ironwork, as may be gathered from the fact that about 11,000 tons of ironwork have been employed in the construction of the roof. Spacious galleries lead out into Bishopsgate-street, while another handsome corridor connects the new station with the old. In addition, and supplementing the whole, there is a high level roadway with two incline roadways leading down to the level of the platform, these being similar in many ways to those existing in the approaches to the old station. With the addition of the eight new lines Liverpool-street will contain no fewer than 20 lines of way, and between five and six miles of permanent way have been laid down, while the old and new stations combined will be 500 ft. from to side. By the engineer's excellent designs the new and old stations are practically part and parcel of the the same, each being connected by a series of large archwayseach having a 23ft span. There were formerly four approach lines and there are now six, while the lines have been quadrupled to Bethnal-green and other suburban places. The electrical arrangements for the lighting of Liverpool-street are on the grand scale that characterises the whole of the work.'[5]


This interesting site was largely demolished in 2003, and is the subject of controversial development proposals. See here for an interesting account of aspects of the Goods Yard, from which the following extracts are taken:-

'.... a ten-acre railway city became a very large pile of rubble, and an empty space was to be found where once stood three tiers of stations, twenty-three tracks, hydraulic lifts to heave locomotives between the three levels, engineering workshops, offices, its own dedicated police station, and over one hundred brick and steel arches. ..... The long atmospheric Wheler St tunnel that ran beneath the Yard down into Spitalfields from Bethnal Green Rd was, for the most part, laid open to the skies. The only survivors of the complex are its perimeter wall and grade II-listed Braithwaite Viaduct built in 1839. .... The Yard has a murky and poignant history. The Wheler St tunnel was one of the largest of East London’s informal doss-houses in the eighteen-eighties and nineties. The pavement on the western side of Wheler St would fill up with those with nowhere else to sleep, ....'[6]

The new East London Line and Shoreditch Station have been constructed on part of the old goods yard site, the line crossing Brick Lane on a new bridge.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Subterranea Britannica
  2. Herapath's Railway Journal - Saturday 22 October 1881
  3. [2] Underneath the Arches: The Afterlife of a Railway Viaduct by Emma Dwyer
  4. Bury and Norwich Post - Tuesday 23 August 1881
  5. Essex Weekly News - Friday 29 December 1893
  6. [3] Spitalfields Life - Ancient Arches, by Sarah Wise, November 5, 2014