London Bridge, the first railway station in London, opened in 1836. Originally the terminus to a line from Deptford, two years later the line had extended to Greenwich. Its been said this original London Bridge station was merely the end of a long viaduct that cut through Bermondsey with railway offices and booking offices below. In 1839 the London to Croydon Railway started operation sharing some of the tracks that led into London Bridge station and had its own station at London Bridge with a wooden trussed roof.

The two stations joined together in 1844 but were demolished six years later. The early history of London Bridge station is confusing as other companies began operation and built their own stations but a full history can be found here.

In the mid 1840s, Parliament set up a Royal Commission to prevent the railway companies building through the centre of London unrestrained which looked into the building of railways within the West End and City. Every proposed new line required a Private Act to allow this construction and the necessary compulsory purchase of land. By this time, there was a great need for an extension that served the City and the West end as the congestion in the streets made the journey time to those parts of London longer than the journey in from the suburbs or even from Brighton. There was great rivalry between the railway companies to be the one to build this extension.

Bubble wrap

'Bubble Wrap' Installed by Southwark Council to discourage graffiti and fly-tipping, and to cheer up a dismal arch under the railway in Southwark Street, Borough High Street end.

The Charing Cross Railway Company, an arm of South Eastern Railways who took over the operation of the railway upon completion, originally estimated the works would cost 1,070,000, but like the numbers of people they estimated would become homeless as a result of the scheme, massaged the figure when presenting it to Parliament, stating they estimated costs would be 800,000. The final bill was in the region of 3,000,000.


Arial view of the Cannon Street Triangle


Just behind the Charing Cross Railway Company in the race to build a line from the South that could access the City was the London Chatham and Dover Line which in 1860 was permitted by Act of Parliament to build a railway line to Farringdon where it would be possible to connect to the Metropolitan Line then under construction. The line, built on a brick viaduct, had reached Elephant and Castle by 1862 and by 1864 had reached the River Thames, a little to the East of Blackfriars Road Bridge, where a station, Blackfriars Bridge was built. Its estimated that about 1,000 people were displaced in Bankside and St Georges Fields by the construction of this railway, but like the figures put forward by the Charing Cross Railway Company for their line, this is likely to be a gross under-estimation. A new station, Borough (not to be confused with todays Northern Line station) was built at the junction of Borough Road and Southwark Bridge Road but was closed in 1907.

Poured Lines

'Poured Lines' Installed by Southwark Council in Southwark Street, Blackfriars Road end.


Parliamentary Archives: HL/PO/PB/3/plan1859/L26
London Illustrated News: 27 December 1862; 7 February 1863; 3 October 1863; 17 October 1863

Edwin Course, London Railways1962
John R Kellett, Railways and Victorian Cities 1969
Leonard Reilly and Geoff Marshall, The Story of Bankside2001
David Wragg, Commuter City: How the Railways Shaped London 2010