The following series of short tales came about after receiving a number of postcards sent to me by Dave Hill.  I think the reader will find them of interest since they resemble nothing like the postcards available today and also show parts of London that have long since changed.

After the postcards were uploaded to the website for some time, Mr. Hill sent another postcard.  This was of the Kingsway Tunnel or to give it its full name, the Kingsway Tramway Tunnel, an especially one-time intriguing thoroughfare of Central London, which has always proven fascinating to me.

Sadly, when young I had the good fortune to travel through the tunnel on a tram.  I say sadly since I was not old enough to appreciate the journey and hated every minute of it.  Unfortunately, I was too young to find pleasure in traveling on a London tram, alas.  Still, my father, whose idea it was to travel through the tunnel, enjoyed it immensely and was thrilled by it ………. so much so …….. that we traveled through it on numerous occasions.

Of course with the passage of time, I realise how lucky I was to travel through the tunnel on a tram!  I hope all readers will enjoy this short piece which appears for your please at the beginning of this series of vignettes.



The Kingsway Tramway Subway is a cut-and-cover Grade II Listed tunnel in Central London, built by the London County Council (LCC) and the only one of its kind in Britain.

The Kingsway Tramway Subway connected Southampton Row in the north with The Embankment in the south and ran under Kingsway and The Aldwych

At first, only single decker trams were used to travel through the Subway, but following changes to the structure during the 1930s, double-deckers trams were able to be used.  The Kingsway Tramway Subway  was opened to the public on 24th February, 1906 and continued in service until 5th April, 1952.

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The first tram was introduced into London in 1860 by George Francis Train, an eccentric American.  It was a horse drawn vehicle and ran along Victoria Street to Westminster on rails that had been secured to the road surface.  Naturally this arrangement impeded other traffic, which soon brought opposition to this mode of transport.  Later Parliament permitted the introduction of trams to London, but with the proviso that the rails were built into the roadway.  In addition, the tram companies were to bear the maintenance costs including road repairs and were allowed to charge one penny (1d) per mile with half-price fares for early and late travel for workers.

Trams were immediately popular with the public and soon there were commonplace in London.  They were cheaper than the other forms of public transport at the time and allowed more passenger-room and gave a smoother ride.  The earliest trams carried a maximum of 60 passengers and were pulled by two horses.  By 1901, electric trams were introduced and the last horse-drawn tram finally ran in 1915.

 Trams on Westminster Bridge Road, 1912  
Prior to the introduction of electric trams several other ways of powering a tram were tried out.  These included motor-power (1873-1891), compressed air (1881-1883) and cable (1891-1906).  There were two cable tram services that once operated in London.  In 1891, the first cable line in Europe was introduced into operation on Highgate Hill and the second went into service between Brixton and Streatham.  Both were replaced by electric trams by 1906.

 Highgate Hill

The first electric tram was tested on the WestMetropolitan Tramways Acton-to-Kew route following the invention of the storage battery in 1883.  Despite this, the first fully operational electric tram with power supplied by overhead wires was only introduced by the Croydon Corporation in 1901.  At about the same time, Imperial Tramways, after renovation and extension of its routes and being renamed the London United Tramways also employed the same type of power supply to its trams.

There were over 300 electric trams operating in London by 1903.  London County Council (LCC; the forerunner of the Greater London Council) began operating its first electric line between Westminster Bridge and Tooting in May 1903 with immediate success.  The company believed that with tram service, social change would come, as cheap and efficient transport would lead to workers moving to the suburbs and so enjoy a healthier lifestyle.  Although the tram services were popular, the City of London and the West End never permitted them to be introduced.  The success of the LCC tram service soon led to other London boroughs introducing electric tram services, and by 1914, London had the largest tram network in Europe.  However, progress came to an abrupt halt with the outbreak of war.  Once men entered military service, women stepped in to keep the services running.

Fortunately each of the operating tram companies employed the same standard gauge between the rails, which was to allow possible future linking of services.  In 1900, the companies were brought together under the control of LCC.

For a number of years, the LCC had wanted to connect its northern network with those of the south.  With such a connection, the company could send trams from all over London for service at its Central Repair Depot at Charlton in South East London.   In 1902, plans were proposed to build a subway or tunnel from Theobalds Road in the north to the Embankment where it would surface at Waterloo Bridge and continue across the bridge into South London. 

Prior to the proposal to build the Kingsway Tramway Subway, an underground tram line between South Kensington and the Royal Albert Hall had been suggested, but plans were abandoned in 1891 in favour of a pedestrian route.  However, the proposal to build the Kingsway Tramway Subway for a tram route was to become reality in 1902.

 Upper Row: The Royal Albert Hall, Kensington - site of the Promenade Concerts  and other events
Lower Row: left, row houses; centre, Underground Station; and right, Victoria and Albert Museum

The proposed underground route would allow the LCC to take the advantage of the proposal first made in 1898 to demolish one of London’s last remaining slum rookeries between Holborn and The Strand and to redevelop the area.  A new road, to be named The Kingsway after Edward VII, was to be built with the tunnel beneath and would connect Southampton Row in Holborn in the north to the broad newly built semicircular road, the Aldwych, which contained the new Bush House complex, on its south side.  Both ends of the Aldwych joined The Strand with eastbound traffic being streamed into the Aldwych while westbound traffic continued along The Strand.  The western junction of the Aldwych and The Strand also formed a crossroad serving Waterloo Bridge and which itself crossed the Victoria Embankment and the Thames.  The redevelopment of the slum area with a tram route beneath would thereby allow increased access between areas of North and South London.

 Kingsway in 1920 - looking south from Holborn towards Bush House in The Aldwych

The proposal to build the tunnel beneath Kingsway and on to the Embankment met with both legal and logistic problems and permission was not fully granted until 1906.  The Kingsway part of the tunnel was approved in 1902, but permission to continue to the Embankment took another four years to achieve.  Parliament advanced a number of reasons for this and perhaps the most ridiculous was that the tram line would interfere with Members crossing the road to reach St. Stephen’s Club!  Permission was never granted for trams to cross Waterloo Bridge.  In addition, due to the presence of a sewer (carrying the River Fleet) at the northern end and the District Railway at the southern end, the subway would only be able to support passage of single-decker trams.  

The Kingsway Tramway Tunnel soon after its opening to the public

However, later in the 1930s, double-decker trams were at last able to go through the tunnel with the removal of the arches and its deepening.

After leaving the tunnel at the Embankment, trams were to turn right and continue on to Westminster Bridge or turn left and cross the Thames via Blackfriars Bridge and travel to the Hop Exchange in Southwark.

 Left: Blackfriars Bridge; Right: the Hop Exchange

However, overhead wires were not allowed in this section of track and current was taken by a plough from a conduit buried in the road.  This system of supplying power to the tram was not without its problems, as the conduit tended to accumulate fallen leaves and other debris and so impede the flow of current.  In 1930, service to the Hop Exchange was withdrawn due to poor patronage and the tracks were taken up.

 Tram crossing Westminster Bridge - note the absence of overhead wires and the addition of a central groove in the road where the source of current was hidden from the public.

 The Conduit at the Holborn Entrance today

In 1937, the rebuilding of Waterloo Bridge necessitated movement of the southern entrance/exit to the tunnel.  This required its repositioning to a new position centrally underneath the bridge.  The newly built entrance/exit was opened for service on 21st November, 1937.

 Kingsway Tramway Tunnel undergoing changes to allow passage to double-decker trams.
Photograph provided by Leonard Bentley.

The tunnel was to have intermediate stations along Kingsway, which could be accessed by stairs.  Stations were built at Holborn and Aldwych, but others although proposed were never built.

 Holborn Tramway Station

The Kingsway Tramway Subway opened to public access on 24th February, 1906 with a service between The Angel and The Aldwych.  In November, the route was extended to Highbury Station, and in April 1908, routes were extended to Tower Bridge, Kennington and the Elephant and Castle

 The Kingsway Tramway Tunnel soon after opening day
Top: Holborn/Southampton Row entrance; Bottom: Embankment/Waterloo Bridge entrance

Some drivers experienced major difficulties managing the northern approach of the tunnel at Southampton Row.  The approach was 170 feet in length with a 1:10 gradient and this could prove problematic to manipulate by inexperienced drivers and trams were occasional seen rolling backwards.   Later, only operators with at least two years duty on other services were allowed to work on routes traveling through the tunnel.

 Note the 1:10 Gradient at the Holborn entrance of the Subway

In 1933, the LCC tram service was taken over by the London Passenger Transport Board.  The newly formed organisation quickly made the decision that all London trams should be replaced with more modern vehicles.  Trams began to be replaced in 1935 and were mostly replaced with trolleybuses.  By 1940, only trams in South London and on those routes traveling through the Kingsway Tunnel, routes 31, 33 and 35, were still in operation.

Left: Tram Route 33 at Aldwych Station; Right: Tram Route 31 at Holborn Station

The first route using the tunnel to be withdrawn was route 31 on 1st October, 1950.  However the tunnel remained in operation until 1952 with the last tram in regular service passed through it on Saturday, 5th April.  However there were two specials soon after midnight for members of the public wishing to say their goodbyes.  During the early hours of the next morning, the remaining trams still in North London passed through the tunnel and were driven to depots in South London.
(Unfortunately, I can find no photographs noting this event.)

At the height of its popularity, London’s network of trams covered much of the inner city and reached into the suburbs.  Assisted by the Kingsway Tunnel, the longest tram route in London was able to operate some 16 miles.  This was a weekend service that ran between Archway and Downham passing through Brockley.

The Archway

Top: Archway Bridge also known as Suicide Bridge, as it is a favourite venue for such occurrences
Bottom: left, view from the bridge; centre, Samaritans information on the bridge; and right, bus sign

It was at the Archway that Dick Whittington heard the sound of Bow Bells
urging him to turn again and return to London where he was to become Lord Mayor.

The last tram ran in London on 5th July, 1952 and the tracks were quickly removed except for those in the Kingsway Tunnel.  

 Last Tram Week in London - last tram ran on 5th July, 1952

The tunnel was now without a use, but in 1953, the  London Transport Executive used it to store 120 buses and coaches for possible use during The Coronation.  Various proposals were next put forward for future use of the tunnel.  These included converting it into a car park, a film studio and a storage facility.  The area was leased to a storage company in October 1957 for a while.
It seems likely that there was once a plan that trolleybuses should pass through the tunnel.  Trolleybus number 1379 was built especially for testing.  Testing proved unsuccessful since trolleybuses would need to run on battery power when traveling through the tunnel, as headroom restriction precluded the use of overhead wires carrying current.  This bus had exits with folding door on both sides and went into normal service on other routes once the plan was abandoned.

 Trolleybus Number 1379

The LCC proposed using part of the tunnel for light traffic in June 1958.  In the hope of reducing traffic congestion from Waterloo Bridge at The Strand, it was suggested that the southern region of the tunnel be used as an Underpass.  Permission was granted in April 1962 and construction began on the conversion in September and the Strand Underpass was opened to traffic on 21st January, 1964.

The Strand Underpass
Right: Entrance at The Strand; Left: Exit at Kingsway, close to where the Stoll Theatre once stood

The remaining southern section of the tunnel between the Embankment and The Strand was subsequently abandoned and the entrance/exit under Waterloo Bridge was closed by heavy metal doors.  The doors remained in place until 2007 when a branch of the Buddha Bar chain of bar/restaurants opened.  Conversion of the area into a bar/restaurant required extensive work involving the demolition of the pedestrian subways under the bridge and extensive reconstruction of the area under the bridge.

 The erstwhile southern entrance of the Kingsway Tramway Subway under Waterloo Bridge.
This area was converted into a Buddha Bar Restaurant.  
In early 2013, I have heard that it is now up for sale.

At present, the northern entrance/exit of the ex-Kingsway Tramway Subway is still there, but remains locked and bolted.  The 1:10 gradient is still impressive with the roadway complete with tracks and conduit plunges down to the metal grill and then into the dark under Kingsway.

Top: the northern entrance/exit of the ex-Kingsway Tramway Subway;
Bottom: the region of the Tunnel to the Aldwych station

The region down to the old Aldwych station is currently abandoned although parts of it have been used from time to time including the housing of a portable building to serve as the headquarters of flood control for the Greater London Council until the opening of the Thames Barrier in 1984.

  The Portable Headquarters of Flood Control of the Greater London Council housed in the tunnel prior to the construction of the Thames Barrier.  Photograph reproduced with permission of Nick Catford

It has also been a storage area of old road signs belonging to the  Camden Borough Council; as a site-specific art installation called Chord by Conrad Shawcross between October and November 2009; and as a possible part of the Cross River Tram Project, which would have seen trams once again in Central London and linking north and south areas.  Sadly the project was cancelled in 2008.  

Part of Chord by Conrad Shawcross (Upper left)

Recently Camden Borough Council leased the northern section of the tunnel to BAM/Ferrovial/Kier (BFK), the company contracted to build the tunnels for CrossrailCrossrail is a proposed railway system of 73 miles (118 kilometres) currently under construction in South East England that will link the counties of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire with London and on to the county of Essex.  The rail system requires 31 miles (50 kilometres) of new tunnels.  A new railway tunnel is being constructed under the Kingsway Tunnel, which requires consolidation of the ground beneath it, hence the necessity to lease the northern section of the tunnel where a shaft has been sunk and grout introduced.  Apparently once the new Crossrail tunnel has been constructed, the contractors have said that they will return the Kingsway Tunnel to its present condition. 

Cross Rail employees at work building a tunnel under The Tunnel

One hopes that something will be done with this section of the tunnel in the future.  I would think that it would make an excellent adjunct to the Transport for London Museum.  I cannot believe that they are displaying everything they have at their Covent Garden and Acton venues.


Kingsway in the 1920s

I have always liked Kingsway.  It was an impressive road and once the widest in London.  The first time I actually remember going there was when I was taken at a very young age to the Stoll Theatre to see Oklahoma!  The Stoll was a magnificent theatre that graced this once magnificent thoroughfare.  Kingsway had been built in the early 1900s as part of a major redevelopment of the area in order to clear the slums present between High Holborn and The Strand.  It is hard to believe now that slums once covered this area of London.

The London Opera House opened on Kingsway on 13th November, 1911.  It was built by Bertie Crewe in Beaux-Arts style for Oscar Hammerstein I and was purchased by Sir Oswald Stoll in 1916 who changed its name to The Stoll Theatre. 

 The theatre suffered from being out of the mainstream of theatres but did present a number of successful productions before its closure on 4th August, 1957 and subsequent demolition.

The theatre was replaced by an office block with a smaller theatre in its basement.

Some of the productions presented at The Stoll Theatre

Top Row: posters for Oklahoma!  Oklahoma! transferred here from the Theatre Royal Drury Lane with Howard Keel (top right) in the cast

Bottom Row:  Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, founders of The Festival Ballet, presented Where the Rainbow ends at the Theatre

Other presentations included Kismet (the longest running show here), Wild Violets and Porgy and Bess

In addition to The Stoll, the road was once the site of the Kingsway Hall, a Methodist Chapel that also served as a concert hall and recording venue.  Both of these glorious buildings have since been demolished and replaced by an office building with a small theatre-cum-cinema-cum-lecture hall in the case of the Stoll and a hotel in the case of Kingsway Hall.

Left: auditorium of The Stoll Theatre (reproduced with permission from K. Roe)
Right top: The Peacock Theatre; Right lower: office building that replaced The Stoll

Unfortunately, I do not have any photographs of Kingsway Hall. Those that do exist are apparently subject to copyright restriction.

The Kingsway Hall was built in 1912 and was the West London Mission of the Methodist Church.  From 1936 until his retirement in 1978, Donald Soper was its superintendent.  Dr. Soper’s father was a Methodist, a Liberal and an active member of the Temperance Society and his mother was a supporter of the Women’s Social and Political Union, who were the first group to be known as suffragettes.   As a result, he grew up in a home where his parents held strict views against alcohol, gambling and blood sports, which he held throughout his life.  After seeing so much poverty in Britain, he became a socialist and he began fiercely preaching against capitalism, the arms trade, blood sports, child labour and the inadequate state help for the poor.  Dr. Soper was a remarkable orator and during his tenure at Kingsway Hall, over 400 attending service each Sunday morning and over 1,000 during the evening.  These numbers continued up to the early 1960s.  He was a pacifist and in 1937 joined the Peace Pledge Union.  This led to his being banned from the BBC during the war years since he was considered too persuasive a preacher to be allowed on the radio.  Dr. Soper retired in 1978 and the West London Mission moved to the church on Hindle Street in Marylebone with a branch in Kings Cross where a large Chinese contingent is among the congregation.  Although officially retired, Dr. Soper continued his criticism of society including the Royal Family for their love of horse racing.  He died on 22nd December, 1998.  

 Top middle: Dr. Donald Soper; Top left: West London Mission, Hindle Street, Marylebone

In March 1983, the Greater London Council bought Kingsway Hall.  However, the building was in a poor state at this time, and since nothing significant about it could be found about it at this time, it was demolished in 1998 and the Kingsway Hall Hotel was built on the site.

Left: Kingsway Hall Hotel; Middle: also on the site of the Hall (at 75 Kingsway); Left: 77 Kingsway

Examples of other buildings in Kingsway

Like so much else today, what is left of Kingsway is but a mere shadow of its former self.  However, if you had asked my father what was it about this road that appealed to him, his answer, without hesitation, would have been the Kingsway Tramway Tunnel.

 Southampton Row Entrance to the erstwhile Kingsway Tramway Subway in 2011

Another great wonder of the area close to the Tramway entrance on Southampton Row, Sicilian Avenue

This small walkway was built in 1905 and designed by Worleys and Armstrong.  It was originally named Vernon Arcade, but changed to Sicilian Avenue in 1909 as a result of the Sicilian limestone
used in its construction.
(Information provided by Camden Coucil, Local History)

I have found that people who knew the old London trams either loved them or loathed them.  I was still very young when trams came to the end of their time on London streets and so my memory of them is somewhat clouded and limited.  While I was not especially fond of them, my father found it a delight to ride on them.  He loved to take us to the Elephant and Castle in South London by tram and show us where he had grown up.  I found the tram and the journey on it to be somewhat frightening.  Firstly, I found trams to be huge hulking vehicles and to be remarkably noisy; secondly, they shook and clattered as they moved along their tracks; and thirdly, the lighting was forever going off as they rumbled and clattered along.  However, what I disliked the most was when we stood at the Elephant and watched these great beasts lumber and splutter over the points.  As its pole passed over the points at the junction of overhead wires, sparks would flash and fly and I always believed that the tram was about to explode in flames.  My father dismissed my fears and saw these flashes in the same way others saw a fireworks display. 

Bottom right: Cover of the book North London Trams by Dr. Robert J. Harley showing a tram at Archway.

These journeys to the Elephant meant a ride through the Kingsway Tunnel.  As I said, I was very young at the time of these outings and did not quite understand why we were being thrown down that enormous gradient at the northern end of the tunnel and then being plunged into darkness for the lighting of the tram always seemed to go out as we did.  Of course, I cannot totally trust my memory here, but even if the lights went out only once, the event was sufficiently traumatic to me that I now remember every journey beginning in this way!

  Boarding the tram at the Holborn Tramway Station to the Elephant

I have a memory of travelling through the tunnel on a trolleybus and, for years, I swore to the truth of this.  However, I fear that this memory is based on a dream rather than in reality.  There was one trolleybus, number 1379, which was especially built for feasibility testing to see if trolleybuses could be used in the tunnel.  This trolleybus was built and tested sometime before I was born and so it would appear that my remembrance is more ethereal than substantial. 

 Trollybus Number 1379

From the feasibility studies, it was concluded that trolleybuses could not function efficiently in the tunnel.  Apparently there was not enough space for the bus to proceed with ease along its length and not enough height to allow overhead live wires.  One would have thought that had someone and a colleague with a tape measure had gone into the tunnel and taken a few simple measurements, the company could have saved on the cost of building a special trolleybus to learn the same!  After testing, the right folding rear door of the special trolleybus was sealed shut and then entered regular service.  As a child I remember seeing it often and even riding on it a few times when it was in service on route 653, Aldgate to Tottenham Court Road.  I remember the folding door at the rear and the position of the stairs to the upper deck being a few steps into the lower deck and not at the rear as with other buses.

I remember my father discovering that the tunnel was to close.  He read the report aloud from one of the evening newspapers.  At that time, London had three evening newspaper, The Star, The Evening News and The Evening Standard, which cost one old penny each.  I can remember my father’s reaction.  He was not pleased, while my mother and I just said and listened.  The full impact of the closure was totally lost on me, I fear, but not on my father.  He complained bitterly and was very annoyed.  Eventually my mother stepped in, but her comments only made things worse and he went into one of his sulks.  When he went into such a mood, his only solace came from going down to the shop (my parents managed a pie ‘n’ mash shop at the time) and talk to his dog!  Fortunately my father was an animal person and I never knew a dog that did not warm to him.  Our dog of the moment was especially good at consoling my father.  We lived on a very dangerous major artery out of London with constant heavy traffic.  Despite all efforts, our dogs insisted on waiting at the entrance to the shop for my father whenever he went out.  Each one enjoyed racing towards him when they sensed his return.   Sadly, their enthusiasm to rejoin my father often led proved to their untimely deaths, as they raced into the road oblivious of the on-coming traffic.  I cannot begin to recount the trauma that this caused.  I feel as if I spent most of my childhood in mourning!  Anyway, despite the sadness, on the following Sunday morning my father was off to Club Row Market to find another companion.

Club Row Dogs
A puppy could be had for Five Shillings (25 new pence) - most dogs were mongrels  despite what 
The R.S.P.C.A. eventually had the market closed down in 1983 -  a sad day for all dog lovers.

Once my father returned from being comforted by our dog, he announced that we had to go for one more ride through the tunnel.  I am sure that my mother’s heart sunk, as did mine, but who were we to deny him this one last joy?  And so we went.  I have no recall of this final voyage, but I am sure that the tram spluttered and clanged its way through the tunnel and I breathed a sigh of relief once we came out onto the Embankment.

Time has the ability to cause us to rethink our past viewpoints.  Naturally, my opinion of the Kingsway Tram Tunnel has been revised and I now consider myself lucky to have traveled through it.  I like to think that I had been too young to appreciate the journey and, at times, I can even make myself believe that it wasn’t so bad and that I exaggerated my dislike simply to make the trip sound amusing to those listening to me.  However, if truth be told, the journey through the tunnel was totally wasted on me and I regret not being of an age to share its joys with my father.




Postcard showing the Old Waterloo Bridge

The bridge was designed by John Rennie of the Strand Bridge Company and opened in 1817.
It was originally a toll bridge.
An unusual artistic postcard view of the old Waterloo Bridge viewed from the south side of the river near to where the National Theatre now stands.  The view is upriver to the west and is from the early 1900’s.  This was during the heyday of the picture postcard, which was a few years after its introduction.

The soaring spires of the National Liberal Club are seen on the right.  The Houses of Parliament are seen in the distance are on the river’s North Bank, but because of the bends in the river, appear to be on the South Bank.  Initially, the South Bank was home to London’s fleshpots once they were outlawed from the City and West End.  Later, the South Bank became an industrial site, as indicated by the barges beneath the bridge.  Although the river’s barges have gone, both the National Liberal Club and the Houses of Parliament remain.

The tower in front of the Houses of Parliament is one of many shot towers that were once on the South Bank.  From the top of the tower liquid lead was dropped into water, forming perfectly spherical lead shot for guns.  This shot tower survived the clearance of this area for the temporary installation of the building housing the Festival of Britain in 1951.  During the Festival, a radio antenna was mounted atop to broadcast programmes.  It was demolished once the Royal Festival Hall, the only permanent building from the Festival, was completed.

If one looks closely beneath the clock face of Big Ben, one can see the silhouette of an animal. This was the reflection of the stone lion present above the Red Lion Brewery, which was present on the South Bank at the time.  The Lion was cast in nearby Lambeth from Coade stone.  This stone was an artificial stone created by Mrs. Eleanor Coade in about 1770.  The stone was used widely and is usage may be seen at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, The Royal Pavilion, Brighton and the Royal Navel College, Greenwich.   Coade Stone became obsolete once Portland cement was produced in 1842.

The Red Lion Brewery, Lambeth
Demolished in 1950
The Lion was also removed in 1949 in preparation for the Festival of Britain.  It was first moved to Waterloo Station, but was then stored.  Apparently, there was some doubt about its future, but eventually it was cleaned of its red paint and installed the south side of Westminster Bridge close to County Hall.  The Lion has in fact travelled only about half-a-mile from its original position.

Old Waterloo Bridge was built by the engineer John Rennie and was completed in 1817.  The bridge was of nine granite arches and was greatly admired.  By 1884, problems with the bridge’s foundations had developed.   These problems stemmed from the increase in river flow caused by the removal of old London Bridge in 1831.  In 1924 the bridge was closed for several months until a bailey bridge was erected across it.  Although London County Council agreed to the construction of a new bridge, its construction was held up as money was tight in the depressed 1930's. 

Old Waterloo Bridge from The South Bank with Somerset House on the right

Both Constable (1832) and Monet (1903) immortalised Old Waterloo Bridge. 

There were many proposals to replace the old Waterloo bridge, but it was not until 1934 that demolition finally began. The new bridge was planned to be complete by 1940, but this was delayed by the war and the new bridge did not open for traffic until 1942 with the bailey bridge being removed in 1943 after nineteen years of service. According to HP Clunn in his book, The Face of London, published in 1951, parts of the bailey bridge were stored and after D Day transported to the continent where they were available for use when the last bridge across the Rhine (at Remagen) failed.

Old Waterloo Bridge with the Bailey Bridge in place

The new Waterloo Bridge was completed in 1945 and incidently was the only London bridge to be damaged during the Second World War. It is believed that this bridge was built mainly by women and for this reason it is sometimes referred to as The Ladies’ Bridge.

Waterloo Bridge has been the setting for four films, the most successful and perhaps the most romantic of which was produced in 1940 and starred Vivian Leigh and Robert TaylorIt is also the setting of a poem by Wendy Cape, which was set to music by Jools Holland & Louise Marshall.  Ray Davies, with The Kinks, wrote about it, along with Terry & Julie, in his song, Waterloo Sunset.

The new Waterloo Bridge today:
The bridge was opened in 1942 and completed in 1945;
it was the only London bridge demaged in World War II.

The view eastwards from the bridge

Early morning views from the bridge
Left: view westward; Upper right: view north-west; Lower right: south

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Postcard detailing King George V placing the first wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph on November 11th, 1919. 

The monarch has continued this tradition each year since then together with the laying of wreaths by other dignitaries including various members of the Royal Family, the Government and members of the Opposition, religious leaders, representatives from allied countries.  
Perhaps the most moving part of the Ceremony comes towards the end once all the dignitaries have left and when members of the waiting and watching public file past and lay their flowers and notes in remembrance of the loved ones that fell in battle over the years.  Their tribute is accompanied musically by the Band of the Royal Marines who play hymns and tunes of the First World War as the procession continues.

On the previous evening, a Festival of Rembrance takes place at The Royal Albert Hall where the climax of the evening comes when one million poppies made by disabled veterans.
The Cenotaph was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens as part of the Peace Celebrations which took place on the June 28th 1919.  Troops of the victorious armies, French, Belgian and American together with the British army marched down Whitehall, past the Cenotaph and then up the Mall to be reviewed by the King from a temporary dais outside Buckingham Palace.
The structures including the Cenotaph were made of wood and plaster and were planned to be temporary.  Their construction was achieved within a few weeks and the plan was to remove them, however the simple Cenotaph caught the imagination of the man-in-the-street and quickly gained approval as a suitable focus for the nation’s remembrance.  Men doffed their hats to it (remember in the 1920’s and 30’s everybody wore a hat!) as they passed it.   Bus and taxi drivers who passed it many times a day would do so each time. Although there were plans in the works to ensure that war memorials were constructed in most towns and villages together with the foundation of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in France and elsewhere, along with the placing of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, the Cenotaph became the centre of the nation’s commemoration of the war dead.

The plaque associated with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Westminster Abbey 
By public demand, the temporary Cenotaph was replaced by a permanent stone one made from Portland Stone and was unveiled by the King in 1920 on what was to become Remembrance Day, 11th November.  The ceremony was planned to coincide with the internment of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey.  Today, after a nearly 100 years, the Cenotaph remains the focus of Remembrance Day and many people will make a pilgrimage to Whitehall on the nearest Sunday to 11th November in order to salute it and remember the fallen.

The Cenotaph at the time of its inarguration (left) & in 2009 (middle & right)

Peace Day Celebrations. Scene at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, 19 July 1919

Permission to reproduce this photograph granted by the Imperial War Museum, London

Special thanks to Ms Helen Mavin for her patience and help.


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Trafalgar Square Today

Trafalgar Square has been the site of many celebrations and demonstrations since it was completed in 1845.  The site replaced Kings Mews in Charing Cross, which had been present since the time of Edward I.  The square was eventually named for the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) where England’s greatest seaman, Admiral Horatio Nelson, R.N., died.  It was redeveloped in the 1820s by John Nash, the architect, and later modified by Sir Charles Barry and completed in 1845.  Nelson’s Column and the four lion statues at the base dominate the centre of the square today along together with the two great foundations.  The column was raised in 1843 while the lion statues were not added until 1867.  In addition, around the square there are statues of numerous military men.

The square has been the site of V.E. Day, political demonstrations, religious revival (Billy Graham Crusade, 1954) and New Year events and celebrations.  Since 1947, the people of Oslo have sent a Norwegian Spruce or Fir, as a token of gratitude for British support and for offering shelter to members of their Royal Family and Government during the Second World War.  The tree is installed in the square and remains in place until Twelfth Night, January 6th.  In addition to these events, the square has also been the site of a number of unexpected and oftentimes unusual spectacles.

Trafalgar Square was the site of V-E Day Celebrations & New Year Celebrations until
the London Eye was built.  It is also the site where the Christmas Tree, a gift from the people
of Norway, is placed each year. 

Billy Gramham Crusade, 1954

The square has been used to celebrate and to watch thanks to the installation of huge video screens numerous sporting events and parades.  It has also seen the start of the Tour de France in 2007 and was chosen as the site to official announcement that Britain was to host the 2012 Olympic Games An official Countdown Clock was unveiled on the northern side in March 2011. 

On 5th July 2012, one hundred costumed pandas invaded the square to help publicize Panda Awareness Week, but you may think that the oddest scene that Nelson on his column must have stared down occurred in 2007 was when the complete square was temporarily grassed over to promote green areas in London.  As odd as this is, I think otherwise. 

During the First World War, the square was temporarily transformed to resemble a French village ruined by the German military in order to help raise money to Feed the Guns. 

The transformation included a damaged farm, church and windmill along with other shell-damaged buildings.  There was a diorama around the square to complete the effect.  This event took place in October 1918 shortly before the Armistice.  Evidently, it was by no means clear even at this time, that the Allies would win the war. 

I also wonder what Nelson would have thought of the statues

The statues on the three plinths

The Fourth Plinth on the North-West corner of the Square has been empty since being constructued, but in 1998, it has been used to display specially commissioned exhibits.

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When you mention Charlie Brown, most people immediately think of the Schultz cartoon character and the Peanuts gang.  A few may even think of The Coasters.  However long before Mr. Schultz drew his first character, the name Charlie Brown meant to many in the East End of London the landlord of a public house in Limehouse, which was officially known as The Railway Tavern.  Mr. Brown was its landlord from 1893 until his death in 1932 at the age of 73.  As The Railway Tavern was close to the docks, it was popular with sailors and dockworkers who took to referring to the establishment as Charlie Brown’s.  With time, the name stuck!

Mr. Brown was an interesting man as illustrated by his hobby, which was collecting treasures.  These treasures were gathered from his clientele in exchange for drinks whenever they were short of money.  He also added to his treasure trove by buying additional objet d’art from respectable antique dealers.  His treasures were displayed in the pub and became both a big draw and a talking point by the public.

When Mr. Brown died, his treasures were divided between his daughter and son.  His daughter took over the license of the pub upon her father’s death and became its landlady for a number of years.  Incidentally Mr. Brown’s son ran a public house situated on the opposite side of the road to The Railway Tavern and which he also called Charlie Brown.

By 1932, the traditionally huge Victorian funerals of old had declined.  However, in contrast with the current fashion, Mr. Brown’s funeral was large in attracting 6,000 people to Bow Cemetery.  This number was only recently equaled with the funeral of Ronnie Kray, one of the infamous brothers that helped terrorize the East End during the 1960s.

When the Dockland Light Railway was built in 1989 the pubic house, and that of Mr. Brown’s son, were demolished.  Whatever happened to the Charlie Brown Treasures and their exact whereabouts are mysteries and so it would seem that this little bit of history was now lost and forgotten.  However, interestingly enough, with the rebuilding of the area, a roundabout was found to be necessary at the junction of the North Circular Road and the M11, which is now always referred to in the radio traffic reports as Charlie Brown’s!  It would seem Charlie Brown lives on, albeit in another incarnation.

The two postcards shown here were probably produced by a local photographer and not by a national publisher and were perhaps on sale at the pub.

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