Wednesday 22 August 2012

London Bridge Station roof

Industrial Archaeology News is published quarterly as the newsletter of the Association for Industrial Archaeology.
Inevitably, as all us London industrial historians, know - London gets a bit left out in most of such circles. Few people outside of the lower Thames or the Lea Valley actually believe there ever was any industry in London. 
The current issue however has an article, by Dr. Robert Carr, on the situation at London Bridge Station -  there is always a time delay in such things getting written and into print, so perhaps someone will  update us on the situation.

Robert Carr says@

London Bridge railway station is one of the oldest in the world, the first part opening in 1836. Following numerous stages of rebuilding the station now occupies a large area on two levels immediately south-east of London Bridge. At least the fourth-busiest rail terminal in London, it is to be completely rebuilt as part of a masterplan.           
Currently the planned rebuilding will involve the  demolition of the large LBSCR (London Brighton and South Coast Railway) train shed covering  platforms 9 -16 to the southeast of the site. Built during 1864 - 67, the engineer for this Brighton terminus was F D Banister (1823-1897) with C H Driver (1832-1900) as architect. Although listed grade 11, English Heritage and the Victorian Society have decided not to oppose demolition.  

It is intended to integrate London Bridge as a whole so that at long last it will serve as a single station rather than being two awkward parts as now. As well as the LBSCR terminus there are the  former South Eastern Railway through platforms  for services from Charing Cross, Waterloo East,  Blackfriars and Cannon Street to south east  England. These three island platforms are to the north of the train shed at a higher level and very intensely used. The through platforms have just simple canopies of recent date to keep the rain off. The spacious and quieter Brighton terminus with an overall roof is to the south. As at St Pancras the train shed, and the rest of the station, is elevated well above the original ground level on brick vaults. It is said that the 1860s roof of the LBSCR terminus must go as the new tracks to be laid through it have to run at a different angle - not along the old alignment. At Victoria station for example, the old South Eastern Railway train shed did not impede the present day operation of the station and there it has been possible to retain it.  
Over the years a considerable amount of repair and renewal has taken place at London Bridge as would be expected for a railway station of this age. At one time the Brighton station had 10-11 platforms; there now are eight. Part of the LBSCR train shed roof to the east was rebuilt
following World War 2 bomb damage. The 1860s part of this roof which is listed grade II is essentially at the west end. This is considered to be structurally weak as there are insufficient wrought-iron tie rods and the roof presently functions as an arch rather than a truss. The least altered part of the original roof is at the widest part of the station where as part of the planned redevelopment it is essential to insert escalators.

 Banister's design for the London Bridge  LBSCR train shed roof was based on a 'nave and  aisles' plan, with a large barrelled roof running  longitudinally and two aisles, originally flat  roofed, flanking this central structure. The nave was based on a 'crescent roof' design and is the last of its kind in London. There were once similar roofs at Cannon Street, Blackfriars, Charing Cross, Birmingham New Street and Liverpool Lime Street. The roof in Liverpool is the only other example to survive. The train shed at London Bridge Station is of national importance.  
However since there is no officially  recognised opposition or even coordinated  protest the removal of this great Victorian train  shed now seems inevitable and the question  arises as to whether it might be relocated.  Rail world at Peterborough have put in an offer but could railway enthusiasts raise the huge sum of money that would be needed? It is unlikely. In any case could they maintain it subsequently, and isn’t a train shed at least eight platforms wide too big for Peterborough anyway? A more sensible suggestion is that it might be re-erected as a grand market hall, perhaps as part of some big urban development. Following closure of the 1850s Les Halles market in central Paris about forty years ago, some of the massive iron and glass building by Victor Baltard was moved to Nugent-sur-Marne. Have any readers visited Nogent recently and is the Pavilion Baltard there a success?  

There is also the issue of the South Eastern Railway offices. Formerly in competition, the South Eastern Railway (SER) and the London Chatham and Dover Railway (LC&DR) came to a mutual agreement at the end of the nineteenth century and formed a Joint Management Committee in January 1899. To avoid the financial cost and risks of a formal merger the two companies remained officially separate until the Grouping in 1923, with the receipts split 59% to SER and 41 % to LC&DR.  Joint offices were built at 64 - 84 Tooley Street close to London Bridge station to the northeast. The building work occupied 1897- 1900 and the architect is believed to have been Charles Barry junior (1823-1900). If so, this is his only surviving commercial building, a distinctive polychrome edifice, listed locally, still in use and in good condition. The exterior has recently been  refurbished. These offices are likely to be demolished as part of the London Bridge redevelopment and this IS a matter of contention.  
One reason for the demolition is that a brick building close to the road is seen as a potential danger should a terrorist bomb be detonated in a road vehicle parked at the kerbside. It is recommended that for small cars there should be a clear distance of 30 metres from the kerb to the nearest building.  

A number of documents articulate the importance of security in design, including the RIBA Guidance on Designing for Counterterrorism (2010) and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure's, Integrated Security, a     Public Realm Design Guide for Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (2010). An outcome is the following  statement:-  'The identification and mitigation of terrorist  threats is not an exact science but one which  requires all those involved in the planning  process to make reasonable efforts to manage  risk. We believe the reduction in blast stand-off which would necessarily result from the retention of 64-84 Tooley Street would result in a materially different environment, such that the public benefit of a secure station would not be delivered to a similar extent through an alternative design proposal. ‘Dr lan Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society, said that 'to knock this attractive historic building down to create a wider pavement is unnecessary and wasteful.'

 It was reported in February that the Mayor of London Mr Boris Johnson told local activists he would like to prevent the demolition of the South Eastern Railway office building in Tooley Street.  We await developments.

Robert Carr
Industrial Archaeology News  162 Autumn 2012

More info - should you want to find out more about AIA and perhaps teach them more about London industry  - they are anxious to gain more members and to spread the news of their work.

Information about the News and the Annual Review from Liaison Officer, AIA Liaison Office, The Ironbridge Institute, Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Coalbrookedale, Telford TF8 7DX  01325 359846

Hope that's all ok


Alan Burkitt-Gray said...

Much as I love old buildings and industrial archaeology, I have also been a commuter from London Bridge for 39 years, both the overcrowded high level and the desperately gloomy low level platforms.
Sorry, but we need a new station there. The 1970s rebuild of the WW2-bomb-damaged mess (I watched them pour the concrete while commuting to Woolwich Arsenal) was a failure.
London Bridge fails as a station. Stand on the overbridge in the morning, trying to decide whether the next train to Cannon St goes from platform 2 or 3. Stand on the concourse or the crossover at the top of the escalators from the tube at 18.30 and try to spot the first train to Lewisham or Blackheath or wherever.
The much-delayed Thameslink project will do an enormous amount to improve the train service to and from S and SE London. But with that project has to be a complete rebuild of this wreck of a station.

Anonymous said...

No one is doubting that a major rebuild is neccesary, but while the roof has to go, do all the supporting walls have to as well? The SER offices? And does the roof need to be scrapped rather than a new home found, as originally planned?