Pier in middle of Leman Street

1853–5, stone and brick pier supporting the London and Blackwall Railway viaduct

London and Blackwall Railway
Contributed by Rebecca Preston on May 11, 2020

By 1835 there were two competing schemes for a railway line between the City of London and the West India and East India Docks – one planned by the Commercial Railway Company and the other by the London and Blackwall Railway and Steam Navigation Depot Company.1 The Commercial Railway’s route was to run eastwards from three possible starting points including Crutched Friars, just short of the site of what became Fenchurch Street Station, and to be carried on a viaduct through Whitechapel just north of what is now Royal Mint Street – that is the line that was eventually built. The other company’s railway was to run in a brick cutting or ‘trench’ further north, beginning near Leadenhall Street and progressing north-east parallel with Aldgate High Street before crossing Whitechapel High Street and White Church Lane and then continuing parallel with Commercial Road on its north side.2 Both ended close to Brunswick Wharf in Blackwall. (Sir) John Rennie, the son of an eminent dock engineer who had an interest in the East India Docks and who had been involved with earlier unsuccessful proposals for a London to Blackwall railway, surveyed the southern line. The northern route was surveyed by George and Robert Stephenson, father and son, who were all but ubiquitous in railway schemes of the 1830s, assisted by George Parker Bidder. By his own account, Rennie had long proposed a railway line between Fenchurch Street and Blackwall and, seeing the importance of this, Robert Stephenson ‘started another in opposition, which was defeated in Parliament and my line was carried; but my party was not strong enough to carry it into effect; Mr Stephenson’s was, therefore they took up my line, and he was appointed the chief engineer’.3

Of the two schemes, the northern route had an estimated greater cost because of its 12ft-deep cuttings (referred to by advocates of the rival scheme as ‘ditches’) to keep the carriages ‘entirely out of view’, whereas Rennie proposed a viaduct on the southern route, a cheaper way to carry trains through a built-up area.4 Another distinguishing feature of Robert Stephenson’s northerly scheme was the use of stationary steam engines, to minimize inconvenience to adjacent properties, in preference to locomotives, which, it was argued, would be dangerous and an ‘intolerable nuisance’. Moreover, in addition to the southern line’s other supposed disadvantages, the nature of the ground there would make it, opponents alleged, ‘indispensable’ that the railway should be carried on a viaduct upon arches of a ‘very great height’.5  However, George Stephenson, who had been invited to compare the two schemes in 1835, found that unless the value of property along the southern route should prove to be higher, that line was the more eligible of the two.6

In May 1836 the secretaries of both companies published a joint notice that, at the suggestion of the Parliamentary Committee, an amicable arrangement had been entered into enabling the Committee to decide on the best route and also to appoint the engineer and surveyor. Three months later an Act to unite the two companies gained royal assent.7 Despite ongoing opposition, Rennie’s elevated southern route was selected, but, eventually, with the stationary engines that had formed part of the rival scheme. William Tite, the Commercial Company’s surveyor, was appointed Architect and Surveyor to the joint company in August 1836 and shortly afterwards William Cubitt, independent of both former companies, accepted the post of consulting engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel having declined the post. Cubitt was thanked in January 1837 for his work ‘in removing any doubts as to the practicability of forming with advantage a Railway on Arches between London & Blackwall’.8 The similarly devised London and Greenwich Railway was then complete as far as Deptford. Cubitt departed and, after an interim arrangement whereby Tite also looked after engineering, in January 1838 George Stephenson and Bidder resurfaced as joint engineers, Tite returning to his original post.9

Tite, whose architectural practice was largely railways based, was responsible for valuations and property acquisition along the route and for the architectural parts of the railway. He had also been set to design the arches and bridges, but when George Stephenson and Bidder were appointed this became their responsibility. Both Stephensons were immediately requested to comment on adopting a plan recommended by Bidder, who probably actually designed the viaduct and bridges. It was certainly Bidder who, with George Phipps, detailed a trussed girder bridge over the Minories for the later extension to Fenchurch Street.10

Robert Stephenson and George Bidder had advised in relation to the northern trench scheme that locomotive engines should not be used because of the risk from sparks to boats in the Regent’s Canal’s Limehouse Basin and to timber and rope yards adjoining the railway. A report by George Stephenson and Bidder in January 1838 took forward the recommendation that the railway be conducted by stationary engines powered by cable haulage. This method, preferred to a four- track locomotive line that had been proposed by Cubitt, was also employed on the Stephensons’ recently completed London and Birmingham Railway extension between Camden Town and Euston. It was calculated that the rope system could match a locomotive in achieving the desirable twelve-minute journey between the termini. In June 1838, Robert Stephenson reported that the contracts for the engines should be entered into and that the plans and specifications were ready to view.11 Robert Stephenson and Bidder restated the dangers of locomotives in 1839, now focussing on the risk to people rather than property. Stationary steam engines and rope traction were stated to be more suitable in populous areas, to avoid annoyance from noise, smoke and billowing steam. This was quite against the advice of Rennie, who, having been pushed aside, was reluctant to surrender his original survey drawings. In 1849, after the rope- traction system failed and locomotives were adopted, Rennie could not resist the observation that the line would have been much more profitable had his plan been adopted in the first place; he also noted the folly of ignoring his idea for making the Blackwall railway the main trunk for eastern counties’ traffic.12 The individual involvement of George and Robert Stephenson changed over time and at some points their roles are difficult to untangle. It is probably safe to say that both Stephensons were responsible for the London and Blackwall Railway, with Robert as the lead engineer. Thus whilst George Bidder and George Stephenson were the main consultants, Robert Stephenson oversaw the contracts and progress of the engines and related equipment and is said also to have maintained overall supervision. In addition to George and Robert Stephenson, Bidder, Tite, Rennie and Cubitt, others involved at the early stages of the railway’s planning included James Urpeth Rastrick, William Chadwell Mylne and George Leather, engineers who gave evidence, and Dr Dionysius Lardner, a scientific writer who prepared a promotional pamphlet.13

The bill for the formation of the line from Blackwall to the Minories in the City Liberties had passed in 1837. In August 1839 a further Act, which had been fiercely opposed by the Corporation of London and others, authorised the London and Blackwall Railway Company, now so-called, to assume the powers granted to the Commercial Railway Company in 1836 and to extend the line by 415 yards to the Leadenhall Street site formerly occupied by East India House, thereby permitting the first railway terminus within the City of London.14

Building the line

By September 1836 Tite had decided on the passage of the railway and begun to serve notice on property holders within fifty feet of the line. His survey was confirmed by James W. Higgins of Furnival’s Inn, who estimated that the cost of the land to be compulsorily purchased would not exceed £216,000 because ‘on a large portion of the line the property is of a very inferior character’.15 Under Tite’s direction, the Commercial Railway Company bought up property in and around Cable Street, Chamber Street, (Back) Church Lane, White Lion Street and elsewhere along the line beyond Whitechapel.16

Already in late 1836, Tite and Higgins surveyed the ground and drew up plans for the hoped-for extension from the Minories into the City. At around the same time Edward I’Anson, who later designed the interior of Tite’s Royal Exchange (1840–4), was paid £105 (to Tite’s £214), probably for work on the Commercial Railway Company’s new offices at 34 Cornhill.17 Robert Stephenson and Tite collaborated on plans for the Blackwall terminus that were settled in November 1839. Tite himself designed the City terminus, the first Fenchurch Street Station, in 1840–1, enabling him to supervise work at the Royal Exchange at the same time.18

The railway was planned at the same time as was the Commissioners of Woods and Forests’ scheme for making a new road from the London Docks to Spitalfields via Leman Street, planned in 1836–40, but not seen through at the south end until 1845–6. Injunctions to co-operative liberality did not prevent clashes, as over the crossing of what became the south end of Leman Street (see below).19

George and Robert Webb were the railway’s first contractors, responsible for building the centre portion of the line. Thomas Jackson built the London end, the remainder to the east was constructed by Grissell and Peto. The Webbs began work on 1 October 1838 and had completed nearly half the foundations for the whole viaduct by February 1839 when Bidder and George Stephenson calculated that the Webbs would be able to turn seven arches a week. The Webbs and Jackson were also the contractors at the Royal Exchange.20

The London and Blackwall Railway opened with a 5ft gauge (with only one track) on 4 July 1840, the second track was brought into use on 3 August, at which time Stepney Station also opened. The line was claimed as both a public necessity and an economic opportunity, as it would unite the docks, goods and passengers, ‘directly with the heart of London’.21 As the Morning Chronicle put it, this represented ‘an immense saving of time, risk and expense’.22

By June 1840 the cost of property had amounted to £330,814 of total expenditure thus far of £643,343. Because the inner part of the route, including across Whitechapel, was already built up with streets and houses, the width of the railway land was restricted to twenty-five yards except where particular installations, passing places or loading points were required. Even allowing for the width restriction, the viaduct was costly due to the generous compensation allowed by the 1836 Act. Although by early 1839 the amount paid for land was said to be some £40,000 less than the estimate because it had been made for a greater width of line than had been found necessary, the costs had mounted to more than the company was prepared to admit publicly. The estimate did not however take into account the value of the arches. Supposedly watertight, these were, the engineers reported, suitable for stabling, workshops and stores – the company had already received rental applications. Surplus property, seventy-four freehold dwelling houses and several plots of building land, was sold off in 1841–2. Arches were available for rent, at least some on 999-year leases.23

Tite reported to the House of Commons in 1846 that the whole of the railway, which had opened to Fenchurch Street on 2 August 1841, had cost £1m. He claimed ‘it was better to spend the million to run to Fenchurch Street, than to spend £750,000 to stop at the Minories’.24

Working the line

The railway was worked by two pairs of stationary steam engines, of 400-horsepower and 200-horsepower, located respectively at the Minories and Blackwall termini to drive the winding gear. Robert Stephenson recommended and issued contracts to Maudslay, Sons and Field for the large engines and the Horseley Company of Tipton for the small engines. Appointed and overseen by Robert Stephenson, A. Moser (or Mozer), ‘designed the whole of the machinery executed by Maudslay and Field’.25 Fire safety, proximity of a terminus to the City and the hoped-for extension within its boundary had been factors in the choice of stationary engines; the absence of steam and relative silence of the system were again stressed in the proposal to extend the line into the City.26

The trains were hauled on a cable made of hemp rope measuring 5¾ inches in diameter, onto which the carriages were locked; this was in two parts, one for propelling carriages in each direction. The cable was made by Sir Joseph Huddart and Co. of Limehouse, supplier to the East India Company’s ships, and cost upwards of £1,200.27 The cable operating system has been lucidly described: ‘At each terminus a train of seven carriages would be waiting and at the intermediate stations a single coach stood on each track. At a signal by the electric telegraph both engines would start winding: the carriages from the local stations then travelled singly to their respective termini, followed by the main train which would deposit five of its coaches at stations along the way. On arrival at the terminus the remainder of the train would join the waiting five carriages from the intermediate stations to form a complete train, and the cycle would be repeated.’28 George Parker Bidder, who had the reputation of being a ‘calculating genius’, designed the method of disconnecting a carriage at each station while the rest of the train went on without stopping. The hemp ropes broke after a short time and were replaced with wire ropes of different kinds; these presented other problems due to twisting.29

Bidder was also instrumental in the London and Blackwall Railway Company’s adoption of electric telegraphy and a pivotal figure in the early development of that technology. William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone’s patent for use on English railways had been taken out in 1837 and used for the first time on the Great Western Railway, and for the second time by the London and Blackwall, thought to be the first company to have used the system for the entire length of its railway. The telegraph instruments, which enabled the stationary engine system to be worked safely, were enclosed in neat mahogany cases with bells to announce when the trains were to start.30

Once both lines were working services ran every fifteen minutes between 8.30am and 8.45pm. Soon, the railway became known as the ‘four-penny rope’, after the price of a second-class standing ticket. It had been hoped that the dock proprietors might use the railway for transporting goods. They initially showed interest but then refused to pay for rail connections into the docks. Thus in its early years the line’s traffic consisted almost exclusively of passengers using the steamboats which called at Brunswick Wharf.31 Jehangeer Nowrojee and Hirjeebhoy Merwanjee, Bombay naval architects studying at Chatham Dockyard in 1841, reported that those wishing to avoid the Pool of London, or who were ‘in a hurry to reach a dinner of white bait, can be whirled from the City to Blackwall by the Blackwall railroad’.32 In the seven weeks following the opening of the railway on 6 July 1840, the number of passengers was 334,354, thought disappointing though not far short of the daily traffic of 8,000 passengers hoped for in 1838. The Fenchurch Street terminus did little to improve numbers. Hopes for greater traffic had been based upon replacing horse buses and steamers at greater speed so that people would travel by rail to join steamers at Blackwall.33 Some two million passengers were carried on the line in 1841 but, partly because steamboat owners were reluctant to link their services with the railway at Gravesend, the railway company struggled to make the line pay. It soon saw the necessity of modernising the system by standardising the gauge and using locomotives to connect the London and Blackwall Railway with other lines.34 At this experimental stage of railway construction there was no standard gauge and the London and Blackwall track was wider than usual at 5ft. This and the cumbersome cable-haulage system put the railway at a serious disadvantage, since it could not be connected with and its trains could not run on most other lines.35An Act authorising a junction line from Stepney Station to the Eastern Counties Railway, which did also have a 5ft gauge, was passed in 1845 and, in spite of dock-company opposition, the associated London and Blackwall Railway (Widening) Act passed in 1846. Tite set about acquiring property on the north side of the line required for widening or likely to be rendered unusable by the proximity of heretofore absent locomotives; in Whitechapel this included the Little Prescot Street Baptist chapel.36

The London and Blackwall Railway Company invited Joseph Locke to investigate the best means of altering the gauge of the rails and shortly afterwards to consider a report from Arthur Wightman, the company manager, on the adoption of locomotive instead of stationary power. Locke reported in February 1847 that it would be better to make the changes in tandem. He stressed that ‘you cannot (so long as you continue the present system) make the Blackwall Railway other than it is – a merely local and isolated line. … if you intend to extend or enlarge this railway, you must either make a new railway alongside, or otherwise adapt it to the exigencies of those requirements’.37

The Eastern Counties Railway track was converted to the now national standard gauge of 4ft 8½in. by 1847 and the London and Blackwall followed in 1849 when the conversion to locomotive operation was also completed. Six small Crewe- type engines, painted blue, were named Stepney, Shadwell, Blackwall, London, Bow and Thames; one worked the line until 1883.38

The railway was reported to have a large passenger traffic by 1850, especially in the summer months, to and from the terminus at Blackwall, where the train met steamboats leaving for Greenwich, Woolwich, Gravesend, Margate and elsewhere in the estuary. But much of that traffic was soon lost to the Eastern Counties Railway’s North Woolwich line and the South Eastern Railway’s Gravesend line, which carried passengers direct.39 In 1851, the new East and West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway (the North London Railway from 1853), opened a junction with the London and Blackwall. In the first half of the year over 1,750,000 passengers caught the train, ‘much to the delight of the London and Blackwall’.40 The Illustrated London News reported a sixpenny second-class return journey from Fenchurch Street, marvelling at the direct communication created between the east of London and the northern suburbs:

Through the windows we had a glimpse of the Tower of London; but soon emerged from the covered way, amid roofs of houses, an ocean of pantiles, and groves of chimneys. We passed the sugar-baking district of Goodman’s-fields, the London Docks, Wapping, St George’s-in-the-East – a neighbourhood crowded with a busy, dingy, working- or sea-going population.41

The ‘covered way’ referred to the Fenchurch Street to Minories extension. The Minories bridge was covered with slates and corrugated iron lit by side windows on a wooden framework, reportedly for the comfort of passengers and neighbouring occupants, probably also to conceal the passage of trains into the City of London.42

The London and Blackwall and Eastern Counties companies launched a joint venture in 1852 as the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Company (LTSR), whose line between Forest Gate and Tilbury Fort opened in 1854. Soon after, that line was leased to its builders, Peto, Brassey and Betts, for twenty-one years. When their lease expired, the LTSR took on the working and soon after became independent. It was originally intended that this railway would carry Londoners to and from Tilbury, from where they would be ferried to the pleasure gardens at Rosherville, Gravesend. It was also hoped that the line would transport imported goods from Thames Haven, further east on the Essex side of the estuary. However, it was the growth of Southend as a tourist attraction that ensured its future as a successful commercial venture. In return, the railway, which from 1877 had a station at Leman Street (see below), was instrumental in establishing Southend as ‘London-on-Sea’, the fabled resort of East Enders. As a LTSR advertisement put it in 1887, the line from Fenchurch Street was ‘the shortest, quickest, and cheapest route to Gravesend, Rosherville Gardens, Southend-on-Sea, and Shoeburyness’.43

The Eastern Counties Railway was absorbed by the Great Eastern Railway Company in 1862 and negotiations led to an Act of 1865 authorizing the London and Blackwall Railway Company to lease the line to the Great Eastern Railway Company for 999 years. The London and Blackwall Railway thus became part of the Great Eastern system, but it remained independent until 1923 when it became part of the London and North Eastern Railway.44

Passenger traffic between Fenchurch Street and Blackwall slowed in the early twentieth century, as steamers were replaced by train services and people moved further out into distant eastern suburbs. John Betjeman later recalled ‘the frequent and quite empty trains of the Blackwall Railway {that} ran from a special platform of Fenchurch Street. I remember them well. Like stage- coaches they rumbled slowly past East-End chimney pots, wharves and shipping, stopping at black and empty stations.’45 The service to Blackwall ceased altogether during the General Strike in May 1926, but the former LTSR services from Fenchurch Street to Stepney continued to carry a heavy volume of traffic on the viaduct, including trippers on cheap tickets to Southend and Ramsgate. British Railways electrified the former LTSR line from 1959 and in 1961 steam locomotives ceased.46


The viaduct of 1838–40 was 20ft high with a 4,020-yard (3,676m) run of around 285 semi-elliptical or three-centred arches, mostly 30ft in span, extending from the Minories to West India Dock Road. It was built of yellow-stock brick with a continuous corbelled stone cornice above the arcade. Slightly projecting piers were mostly 3ft 6in. wide, broader beside road bridges. Much of it can still be seen, though in Whitechapel it is largely hidden behind recent structures.47 In addition to the termini, intermediate stations were provided at the Minories (closed 1853), Shadwell, Cannon Street Road (closed 1848), Stepney, Limehouse, West India Dock and Poplar. Until the opening of Leman Street Station in 1877, Whitechapel had no passenger station.Bidder and Robert Stephenson had substituted concrete for puddled gravel in the foundations (saving £2,500), and overseen aspects of the viaduct’s external appearance, suggesting a ‘somewhat less sightly’ form of stone coping (saving £1,700), and that abutments and piers in ‘conspicuous situations’ at White Lion Street (subsequently removed during road widening to form the south end of Leman Street), Old Church Lane (later Back Church Lane), and elsewhere should be faced in malm bricks to render them ‘more ornamental than they otherwise would be’, at an extra cost of about £25 per bridge.48 The ‘stone-weathered cornice, of bold outline’ supported the standards of cast- iron railings of ‘neat design, with pedimented caps’. This ‘light and ornamental iron palisade’ was said to be an aesthetic and acoustic improvement on the solid parapet of the London and Greenwich Railway.49 But railings were soon replaced with parapet walls, in some places as early as 1849, during alterations for the conversion to locomotive power.50

The overall elegance of the viaduct was soon obscured. Arches were let and fenced in (see below), though some did remain open. Perhaps for this reason, perhaps on account of the short length of the line through an already built-up district, this, the world’s second elevated railway, did not attract as many painters or photographers as did the slightly earlier London and Greenwich viaduct. Thus, with the exception of engravings of the stations and termini and the wider arches over the Regent’s Canal, there is little detailed surviving early visual record.

Widening and other alterations

The London and Blackwall Railway (Widening) Act had passed in 1846, but this phase of widening, surveyed by Joseph Locke, was not completed until a decade later, by when it had become increasingly necessary due to growing traffic arising from junction with the Eastern Counties Railway in 1851 and the opening of a branch line to the new London and North Western Railway goods depot at Haydon Square in 1853. The main line from Minories to Stepney was widened on its north side by 15ft west of Leman Street, and by 8ft 6in. to the east in works of 1853–5, further legislation up to the London and Blackwall Railway Act of 1855 extending powers granted in 1846. Locke’s plans of 1845 were slightly revised in 1854 by (Sir) George Berkley, who suggested further widening on the south side beside Royal Mint Street. That followed in 1862 as sidings for a Midland Railway Company goods depot.51 Along with this and the spur to the Haydon Square depot of 1853, other sections of widening on the line’s south side created sidings for other facilities (see below): south of Mansell Street for a Great Northern Railway Company depot in 1857 and 1862; and flanking Leman Street for the Great Eastern Railway Company’s London Docks branch viaduct up to 1864, and for Leman Street Station from 1872. These south-side improvements were in effect partial realization of an otherwise abortive scheme of 1859 for improved links to the docks.52

Further increases in traffic, improved dock linkages and the building of the LTSR Commercial Road Goods Depot led the Great Eastern Railway Company and the LTSR to agree in 1884 on the necessity of again widening the London and Blackwall line. A fourth track on the north side was sanctioned with the passing of the London and Blackwall Railway Act of 1885. The Great Eastern Railway Company began acquiring property, including Imperial Warehouses (or Buildings) on the south side of the junction of Leman Street and Chamber Street, but the project was held up by differences over which company should pay. David Lyell, on the staff of the Great Eastern’s engineer John Wilson, had joint responsibility for the project with Berkley, the London and Blackwall’s engineer. Lyell was appointed resident engineer in 1891, when drawings and specifications were completed. The work was carried out in 1892–3, but the additional down line did not open until March 1896. The improvement, which doubled the width of the railway through Whitechapel, involved new lengths of viaduct on the line’s north side, along Chamber Street and from Leman Street to Back Church Lane, with steel or wrought-iron girders on brick piers, the engineering brick detailed so as to differ markedly from the brickwork of 1839–40 and alterations of 1853–5.53  The base of the Haydon Square Junction signal box, dating from the 1892–3 widening of the mainline viaduct, can still be seen on the south side of Chamber Street, almost opposite Magdalen Passage. This signal box, which controlled traffic into Fenchurch Street Station as well as to the Haydon Square depot, was made redundant in 1935. The remnants at street level were in use in 2019–20 as a works entrance for the Royal Mint Gardens development.54


Twenty-five cast-iron girder bridges carried the London and Blackwall Railway across roads. There were originally two iron bridges over roads at least partially in Whitechapel, over White Lion Street and Back Church Lane; narrower thoroughfares were crossed by the brick arches of the viaduct, but two of those were before long replaced or supplemented by girder bridges. Bridges on the Great Eastern Railway network including the London and Blackwall line were numbered in a system dating from 1911 and still in use.

On the west side of the parish, Bridge 500, over Mansell Street was preceded in 1839–40 by a brick arch over Little Prescot Street, Bidder having made arrangements for an intended bridge to be substituted by an arch. Little Prescot Street was greatly widened as an extension of Mansell Street in the Tower Bridge Approach road scheme and the present 60ft-span plate-girder bridge was installed in 1905–6.55

Bridge 503 over Leman Street was preceded in 1839–40 by two ‘arches’. To the east, over White Lion Street, an ‘iron arch’ of 40ft span that incorporated cast-iron girders was measured askew at the request of Whitechapel parish. There was another standard 30ft-wide brick arch to its west. Road widening here was already in view and in March 1840, prior to the opening of the railway, Bidder, James Pennethorne and Thomas Chawner, surveyors for the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, were interviewed as to the practicability of reconstruction with a wider iron bridge. Costs were no doubt prohibitive and nothing happened in the short run.56 In 1846 Pennethorne complained that the passage of the railway across White Lion Street had ‘greatly interfered’ with the widening there of what had become the south end of Leman Street.57 Accordingly, the 1846 Act for widening the railway provided for the formation of a wider bridge over Leman Street to designs approved by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. It specified that the new bridge would be supported in the centre by a pier faced in stone. The north-side line widening was carried through in 1853–5, with the succeeding Act of 1855 including provision for the Leman Street pier. The arch to the west was duly replaced with a horizontal bridge supported by a stone-faced pier. The semi-triangular masonry island of 1853–5 survives to support the railway across Leman Street. General strengthening of bridges to support locomotives was intended in 1847, but the original bridge of 1839–40 was not strengthened until 1869 when cast- iron girders were replaced in wrought iron. The whole bridge was rebuilt during the line widening of 1892–3 when the sections of 1839–40 and 1853–5 were removed. Three wrought-iron main girders introduced in 1869 were reused, with new cross girders and longitudinal troughing and a robust cast-iron column north of Leman Street’s masonry pier.58

After what local papers reported as a long and well-ventilated discussion, Whitechapel District Board of Works agreed in 1858 to erect a urinal under the railway in Leman Street. This was placed within the pier’s south side and underground. Stepney Borough Council improved and extended the Leman Street public conveniences in 1923–4. They appear to have been removed in the 1980s when the Docklands Light Railway’s viaduct was built.59

The next bridge to the east, No. 505, crosses Mill Yard. On the south side, the original brick arch of 1839–40 was widened in 1853–5. On the north side, a 27ft-span plate-girder bridge of 1892–3 forms part of a continuous metal viaduct with jack arching.

Bridge 506 stands over Back Church Lane. The original cast-iron bridge, strengthened in wrought iron in 1869, has been replaced by a 35ft-span plate- girder bridge, probably datable to 1892–3. To its north, another 27ft-span plate-girder bridge is certainly part of the 1892–3 widening. On the south side, yet another girder bridge of 1892–3 has been removed.60 Chamber Street was spanned only by the Haydon Square branch-line bridge of 1851–3 until mainline widening in 1892–3. An additional plate-girder span was then introduced, in part supported on another large cast-iron column, and the old bridge was replaced.61


Railway arches created a new kind of sheltered space in London and other cities and quickly came to be employed for a range of purposes. George Stephenson had foreseen the potential in 1835, proposing that the London and Blackwall line’s arches would be ‘most valuable as Depots and Dwellings places’.62 Two years later, William Cubitt repeated the notion that arches could serve for housing – in the event, this was only put into practice in a short run in Limehouse. Even before the London and Blackwall Railway opened there were enquiries about renting arches and in September 1840 they were advertised as to let.63

Arches in Whitechapel were used by railway companies for storage, depots and stabling. At Leman Street Station, as at other stations further down the line, one was fashioned into an entrance and booking hall. They were also leased to other parties for stabling, workshops and warehouses and let or sub-let with land and house or other property attached, as for example in Chamber Street. In some cases arches were given up during the building of the viaduct to lessen claims for compulsory purchase compensation.64

By 1846, virtually all the arches were occupied, often by sub-lessees and mostly for storage or as workshops. In 1843, temperance meetings were held in an arch reached through a coffee shop in Rosemary Lane (later Royal Mint Street). Schools were built into the viaduct east of Whitechapel, while educational use of the arches within the parish was confined to the forming of two playgrounds for St Mark’s National School (see p.xx). There was a skittle ground next to Swallow’s Gardens, and stabling, cowhouses and sheep pens lay between Mill Yard and Back Church Lane, probably as relocations of a complex of cow yards and sheds displaced by the building of the railway. In 1848 seventeen cows, six horses and some pigs were kept in one arch at Mill Yard.65 Arches were also used in more makeshift ways and, as Henry Mayhew reported in 1849, families could be found ‘nestling under the arches of the Blackwall Railway … children cradled as it were in vice and crime, cheek by jowl with the vilest prostitutes and the meanest thieves’.66

The Act of 1855 that enabled widening of the line specified that if the works obstructed light in Little Prescot Street, Chamber Street and Swallow’s Gardens the railway company would be obliged to provide gas lamps in the arches. There were, however, complaints about water dripping through the arches.67 From the 1850s stabling, often for goods depots, became more widespread. Private individuals and companies also rented arches for stabling. Samuel Blow, a builder, converted four arches to stable use in 1881. Stables occupied most of the arches beneath the East Smithfield branch viaduct.68

From about 1920 motor garages began to replace stables, as for the Lep Transport Company, the Sun Transport Company, City & East London Service Garages Ltd and the Co-operative Wholesale Society. The International Bottle Co. Ltd and J. Walker & Co. had bottle stores.69 Among the more unusual possible uses recorded in the twentieth century was an application of 1906 for an arch in Chamber Street from V. Chautard & Christensen and John Scholes Ltd on behalf of the Mermaid Theatre Company.70 During the Second World War, Stepney’s public air-raid shelters included sandbagged arches beneath the main line near Leman Street Station and under branch lines, at least some of which remained unaltered until the 1950s.71

  1. The following account is based on research and text prepared for the Survey of London by Rebecca Preston. We would like also to acknowledge help from Robert Thorne, Tim Smith and Peter Kay. 

  2. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), MR/U/P/0158–9: British Library (BL), Maps 3535.(2.) 

  3. John Rennie, Autobiography of Sir John Rennie, FRS, 1875, p. 293: John Cordy Jeaffreson with William Pole, The Life of Robert Stephenson, FRS, vol. 1, 1864, pp. 228–9; Report of the Trustees of the Commercial Road to the Proprietors, affording a comparative view of the capabilities of the Commercial and East India Dock Roads with Reference to the Railways to the East and West India Docks and Blackwall, 1835, pp. 1–6 

  4. Statements Illustrative of the Necessity for Additional Means of Communication between London and Blackwall, 1836, pp. 22–3 

  5. Statements Illustrative, pp. 13–14, 19: House of Commons Committee on the London and Blackwall Railway Bills, 17 May 1836, p. 22: The National Archives (TNA), RAIL385/73, 5 Aug 1835 

  6. Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 8 Oct 1835, p.2: TNA, RAIL385/73, 5 Aug 1835 

  7. Morning Post, 18 May 1836, p. 1; The Standard, 15 Aug 1836, p. 1 

  8. TNA, RAIL385/1, 5–30 Aug 1836, 24 Jan 1837 

  9. TNA, RAIL385/1, 26 Dec 1837, 2–9 Jan 1838 

  10. TNA, RAIL385/1–4 Jan 1838: Railway Times, 23 Feb 1839, p. 157; 4 May 1839, p. 360: Francis Wishaw, The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland, 2nd edn, 1842, p. 269: Peter Kay, London’s Railway Heritage, vol. 1: East, 2012, p. 4: Mike Chrimes and Robert Thomas, ‘Railway Building’, in Bailey (ed.), Stephenson, p. 278 

  11. House of Commons Committee on the London and Blackwall Railway Bills, 1836, pp. 20–1, 24–5: TNA, RAIL385/1, 13 Sept and 22 Nov 1836, 24 Jan, 31 Oct and 26 Dec 1837, 2–4 Jan and 12 June 1838: RAIL 385/76: Michael Bailey, ‘The Mechanical Business’, in Bailey (ed.), Robert Stephenson, pp. 193–5: George Stephenson and G. P. Bidder, London & Blackwall Commercial Railway, 1838, pp. 9, 13 

  12. TNA, RAIL385/1, 28 Feb 1839: Autobiography of Sir John Rennie, pp. 293–4 

  13. TNA, RAIL385/1, 20 Sept 1836: Chrimes and Thomas, ‘Railway Building’, in Bailey (ed.), _Robert Stephens_on, pp. 263–4 

  14. J. E. Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway: A History of the London and Blackwall System, 1984, p. 20: Donald J. Grant, Directory of the Railway Companies of Great Britain, 2017, p. 328: Wishaw, Railways, p. 257: F. H. W. Sheppard, London, 1808–1870: The Infernal Wen, 1971, p. 129: House of Lords Debates, 9 July 1839, vol. 49, cc74–6, London and Blackwall Railway: ‘Report on the opening of the Blackwall Railway Extension’, 29 July 1841, Parliamentary Papers (PP), vol. 41, 1842, p. 153 

  15. TNA, RAIL385/1, 20 Sept 1836 

  16. TNA, RAIL385/1, 23 Aug, 13 and 19 Sept 1836: London Evening Standard, 4 Oct 1838, p. 4: Railway Times, 27 July 1839, p. 579: LMA, SC/PM/ST/01/002: Geoffrey Body and Robert L. Eastleigh, The London & Blackwall Railway, c.1964, p. 2 

  17. TNA, RAIL385/1, 1 and 8 Nov and 6 and 15 Dec 1836: LMA, SC/GL/PR/LC/48/5/p7502182; SC/GL/PR/WM/011/ALD/k1289238 

  18. TNA, RAIL385/73, 7 Nov 1839: RAIL385/1, 18 March 1840: Stephen Porter (ed.), Survey of London, vol. 44: Poplar, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs, 1994, p. 597 

  19. Second Report from Select Committee on Metropolis Improvements, 1838, pp. 95–8: First Report from Select Committee on Metropolis Improvement, 1840, pp. 23–7: TNA, RAIL385/1, 4 Dec 1839 

  20. TNA, RAIL385/1, 28 Feb and 4 Sept 1839, 18 March 1840: The Times, 6 July 1840, p. 14: Bell’s New Weekly Messenger, 23 Jan 1842, p. 3 

  21. TNA, RAIL385/1, 28 Feb 1839: Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, p. 20 

  22. Morning Chronicle, 6 July 1840, p. 4 

  23. TNA, RAIL385/1, 28 Feb 1839: Morning Advertiser, 23 Jan 1841, p. 4; 6 June 1842, p. 4: Wishaw, Railways, p. 268: Kellett, Railways, pp. 259–60; Alan A. Jackson, London’s Local Railways, 1978, p. 163 

  24. As quoted in Kellett, Railways, pp. 41–2: Wishaw, Railways, pp. 257–8; Body and Eastleigh, Railway, p. 2 

  25. TNA, RAIL385/1, 12 June and 10 July 1838, 27 March and 3 April 1839: Wishaw, Railways, p. 263: Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), vol. 5, 1846, p. 159: Body and Eastleigh, Railway, p. 2 

  26. TNA, RAIL385/1, 28 Feb 1839: Jackson, London’s Local Railways, pp. 161, 164–5; J. E. Connor, London’s Disused Railway Stations: the East End, 2018, p. 47 

  27. Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, p. 17: Body and Eastleigh, Railway, p. 2: Morning Chronicle, 6 July 1840, p. 4: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), L/SGE/A/5/3, House of Commons Committee on the London and Blackwall Railway Bills, 17 May 1836, p. 12 

  28. The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, 1997, p. 282: Wishaw, Railways, p. 265 

  29. Minutes of Proceedings of the ICE, vol. 5, 1846, pp. 143–60: TNA, RAIL385/1; 23 Sept 1840: Body and Eastleigh, Railway, p. 4 

  30. Stephen Edward Murfitt, ‘The English Patent System and Early Railway Technology 1800–1852’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of York, 2017, p. 176: Morning Post, 16 Jan 1846, p. 6: A. J. Robertson, ‘Description of the Machinery Erected by Messrs Maudslay, Son, and Field at the Minories Station’, Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, vol. 5, 1846, pp. 143–55; Jackson, London’s Local Railways, p. 164; John Small (ed.), A Hundred Wonders of the World in Nature and Art, 1876, p. 498; Connor, Fenchurch Street to Stepney, p. v: Morning Chronicle, 6 July 1840, p. 4 

  31. Jackson, London’s Local Railways, p. 164: Wishaw, Railways, p. 265: Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, p. 24: Porter (ed.), Survey of London: vol. 43, p. 13 

  32. Jehangeer Nowrojee and Hirjeebhoy Merwanjee, Journal of a Residence of Two Years and a Half in Great Britain, 1841, p. 84 

  33. Body and Eastleigh, Railway, pp. 3, 6: Wishaw, Railways, pp. 267–8 

  34. Sheppard, London, pp. 128–9: Body and Eastleigh, Railway, pp. 11–13; Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, p. 30 

  35. Morning Chronicle, 6 July 1840, p. 4: Weale et alEnsamples, p. xli: Porter (ed.), Survey of London: vol. 43, p. 13 

  36. Journals of the House of Commons, vol. 101/2, 19 June 1846, p. 903: TNA, RAIL385/75: An Abstract of the Special Acts Authorizing the Construction of Railways, 1847, pp. 574–6: London Evening Standard, 29 May 1846, p. 8 

  37. Railway Times, 27 Feb 1847, p. 284 

  38. Globe, 8 July 1845, p. 3: Parliamentary Archives (PA), HC/CL/PB/2/14/9, pp. 7–8, 21–22: Historic England Archives (HEA), London Historians’ File, TH38: Bailey, ‘Mechanical Business’, in Bailey, Stephenson, pp. 195–6: Body and Eastleigh, Railway, p. 14: Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, p. 35: Jackson, London’s Local Railways, p. 166 

  39. Pictorial Half-Hours of London Topography, 1850, p. 231: Body and Eastleigh, Railway, p. 9 

  40. Sheppard, London, p. 131 

  41. Illustrated London News (ILN), 15 Nov 1851, p. 601 

  42. ‘Report on the opening of the Blackwall Railway Extension’, 29 July 1841, PP, vol. 41, 1842, p. 154: J. E. Connor, Fenchurch Street to Barking, 1998, p. xi 

  43. T. Cook, Cook’s Handbook for London, 1887, p. 105: H. D. Welch, The London Tilbury & Southend Railway, 1950 (edn 1963), p. 1 

  44. 28 Vic cap.100: Jackson, London’s Local Railways, p. 167: Grant, Directory, p. 328 

  45. John Betjeman, ‘London Railway Stations’, First and Last Loves, 1952, p. 79 

  46. T. Rowland Powel, ‘London’s Loneliest Line’, The Railway Magazine, July 1936, p. 47: Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, pp. 83, 94: Jackson, London’s Local Railways, p. 170: api.parliament.uk/historic- hansard/commons/1960/jan/27/fenchurch-street-tilbury-southend- line 

  47. Wishaw, Railways, p. 259: John Weale, Benjamin Franklin Isherwood, Edward Dobson, Ensamples of Railway Making, 1843, p. xxxii: Body and Eastleigh, Railway, p. 3 

  48. TNA, RAIL385/1, 6 Nov 1838 

  49. Wishaw,Railways, p. 259: Mechanic and Chemist, 18 July 1840, p. 95 

  50. Kay, Railway Heritage, p. 5 

  51. PA, HL/PO/PB/3/plan1846/L109; HL/PO/PB/3/plan1855/L7: An Abstract of the Special Acts Authorizing the Construction of Railways, 1847, pp. 574–6: 18 & 19 Vic., c. xc: Morning Chronicle, 16 Feb 1853, p. 7: Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, p. 108: Kay, Railway Heritage, p. 12 

  52. Morning Advertiser, 19 Sept 1857, p. 1: Ordance Survey (OS) map of c._1851–5 via Old-Maps.co.uk: PA, HL/PO/PB/3/plan1860/L24: _London Gazette, 22 Nov 1859, pp. 4209–10: Kay, Railway Heritage, p. 12 

  53. TNA, HO45/9476/1081F: Journal of the ICE, vol. 16, March 1941, p. 81: Minutes of the Proceedings of the ICE, vol. 15, 1894, pp. 382–5: Kay, Railway Heritage, pp. 13–14: Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, p. 68: Connor, ‘Recalling Leman Street’, pp. 50–1 

  54. Kay, Railway Heritage, p. 20: Connor, Fenchurch Street to Barking: Ian Baker, ‘Tracing Earlier Railway Remnants near the DLR’, London Railway Record, Oct 2002, pp. 266–7 

  55. TNA, RAIL385/1, 4 Dec 1839: Kay, Railway Heritage, pp. 3–4, 9, 18–19 

  56. First Report from Select Committee on Metropolis Improvement, 1840, pp. 23–7 

  57. Morning Advertiser, 2 July 1846, p. 3 

  58. An Abstract of the Special Acts Authorizing the Construction of Railways, 1847, p. 575: 18 & 19 Vic., cap. xc, p. 1241: TNA, RAIL385/48: Railway Times, 27 Feb 1847, p. 284: Kay, Railway Heritage, pp. 5, 9, 18 

  59. East London Observer (ELO), 20 March 1858, p. 2: OS 1873: LMA, GLC/TD/PM/CDO/05/133974; District Surveyors' Returns (DSR): THLHLA, L/THL/D/2/30/88 

  60. Kay, Railway Heritage, pp .20–21 

  61. TNA, RAIL385/48: Kay, Railway Heritage, p. 19 

  62. TNA, RAIL385/73, 5 Aug 1835 

  63. London & North Eastern Railway Magazine, vol. 27, 1937, p. 336: THLHLA, P/MIS/87: Kay, Railway Heritage, pp. 4–5 

  64. TNA, RAIL385/1, 20 Sept 1836: Morning Advertiser, 10 June 1841, p. 1 

  65. Globe, 25 May 1840, p .3: Morning Advertiser, 5 Dec 1843, p. 4: PA, Hl/PO/PB/3/plan1846/L109, pp. 12, 21–3: LMA, MR/U/P/0158: Morning Advertiser, 17 Oct 1848, p. 4 

  66. Morning Chronicle, 6 Nov 1849, p. 4: TNA, MEPO3/140 

  67. 18 & 19 Vic., cap. xc, p. 1242: Wishaw, Railways, p. 258: The Sun, 9 Dec 1854, p. 4: Morning Advertiser, 2 April 1856, p. 6: ELO, 7 Nov 1857, p. 2 

  68. DSR: Goad insurance plan, 1887: TNA, RAIL1189/1299 

  69. DSR: THLHLA, L/SMB/C/1/3, pp.39–40 

  70. TNA, RAIL1189/1297 

  71. THLHLA, LCM/1677: TNA, HO207/862: National Railway Museum, CIVE/15/2/14 

Leman Street Station
Contributed by Rebecca Preston on May 11, 2020

Until the 1870s there was no station on the London and Blackwall line in Whitechapel; the first passenger station after Fenchurch Street was Shadwell. The Great Eastern Railway Company first mooted a station at Leman Street in 1871 and works began in 1872 under George Berkley, the Great Eastern’s engineer. Patrick & Son were the contractors. The station was sited east of the branch line to the East Smithfield depot, with its entrance south of the main line at the foot of Leman Street’s east side. However, access was poor, the footbridge stairs were too close to the platform edge and there was not enough clearance between platforms. To rectify this, the viaduct had to be extended outwards beyond its existing overhang to the south and across Leman Street for the up platform. This arrangement was agreed in January 1875 but the opposite platform also needed lengthening and it was not until June 1877 that the station finally opened. There was additional access to the platforms via Mill Yard. The booking hall and parcels office were on the south side near the junction of Cable Street and Leman Street.1

When the viaduct was widened in 1892–3, the station was rebuilt in red brick, with additional access created beneath new arches to the north. From this time non-stopping trains ran on the new north side of the viaduct, and local services on the south side. Henceforward Leman Street Station only had a platform on that side.2

London experienced its first Zeppelin raids in 1915 when bombs were dropped on a swathe of East London including Whitechapel. The track north of Royal Mint Street was damaged, and on 13 October, a high-explosive bomb hit the north side of the railway in Mill Yard, knocking down a wall within the station and breaking its windows. The station closed hereafter until July 1919. It was again damaged in the Blitz and closed permanently on 7 July 1941.3  Much of the station was demolished during electrification in 1959–61. After road widening in the 1960s, remnants of the former station entrance lingered at the junction with Cable Street. The last station structures including the booking hall were demolished in the 1980s for the building of the Docklands Light Railway. A bricked-up entrance can still be seen on the east side of Leman Street in the brick abutment beneath the line of 1892–3.4

  1. The National Archives (TNA), MT6/180/16: Metropolitan Board of Works Minutes, 1 and 29 Nov 1872, pp. 489, 610: Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PB/3/plan1874/L10; HL/PO/PB/3/plan1876/L13: J. E. Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway: A History of the London and Blackwall System, 1984, p. 100: J. E. Connor, ‘Recalling Leman Street’, London Railway Record, April 1998, pp. 45–53 

  2. Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, pp. 68–9 

  3. Jerry White, Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War, 2014, pp. 125–6: Ian Jones, London: Bombed Blitzed and Blown Up: The British Capital Under Attack Since 1867, 2016, p. 81: Ian Castle, Zeppelin Onslaught: The Forgotten Blitz 1914–1915, 1918: Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, pp. 73–4, 87: Geoffrey Body and Robert L. Eastleigh, The London & Blackwall Railwayc.1964, p. 27 

  4. TNA, MT114/533:  J. E. Connor, London’s Disused Railway Stations: the East End, 2018, p. 55: Connor, Stepney’s Own Railway, pp. 91, 100 

Docklands Light Railway
Contributed by Survey of London on May 11, 2020

When the Docklands Light Railway opened in 1987, it reused much of the London and Blackwall Railway line between Westferry Road to the east and Cannon Street Road, from where it branched off to run parallel to the south through Whitechapel to the Minories. The initiative for the light railway grew out of ideas of the 1960s and ’70s for improving connections to and boosting redevelopment in London’s Docklands. The London Docklands Development Corporation, formed in 1981 to secure regeneration, co-sponsored a report of 1982 with the Greater London Council, London Transport, and the Departments of Transport, the Environment and Industry. This recommended two light-railway routes, Ted Hollamby, the LDDC’s director of Architecture and Planning being a strong advocate. Government funding was quickly forthcoming and Parliamentary approval followed in April 1984. London Transport took responsibility for planning, construction and the running of the railway. The main route was settled as running east–west, largely on the London and Blackwall line, to connect the Isle of Dogs to Tower Hill, in fact stopping on the east side of Minories at a terminus named Tower Gateway.

Designs for stations and other structures, trains and signs were prepared by Arup Associates in conjunction with G. Maunsell & Partners, the engineering firm known for the use of prestressed concrete in bridges, Kennedy & Donkin and Henderson Busby, railway and electrical engineers, Design House and Pentagram, design consultants. Building and equipment was by a consortium formed by GEC and John Mowlem. A new concrete viaduct on tall white columns was built for the westerly stretch, running through Whitechapel on the north side of Cable Street and Royal Mint Street. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Docklands Light Railway on 30 July 1987 and regular services with automatically driven trains on standard-gauge track started a month later. The line was extended westwards into the City to Bank Station in 1991. This involved a southwards doubling of the viaduct in the Whitechapel part of the line, the new railway going into tunnel just within the parish on the site of the former Midland Railway City Goods Station, since built over for Royal Mint Gardens.1

In 1997–9 One Mile East, a public art trail from Mansell Street to Cable Street funded by numerous public bodies and development firms, included the brightly coloured painting of the DLR’s columns around Leman Street. This was done by artists, led by Zoe Benbow, and local residents, including some from the Aldgate Hostel (now Wombat’s) for homeless people. Ceramic signage was made by Duncan Hooson.

  1. Stephen Porter (ed.), Survey of London, vol.44: Poplar, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs, 1994, pp. 689–90 

Royal Mint Gardens
Contributed by Survey of London on May 1, 2019

The north side of Royal Mint Street was clear in the 1970s save for car parking and the survival next to Mansell Street of a hydraulic accumulator tower of 1894 and 1913 from the Midland Railway Company’s depot. With the formation through this site of the Docklands Light Railway in the 1980s, the British Rail Property Board, as landowner, planned to develop the remaining ground, which widened to the west, employing Watkins Gray International (Ivor Berresford) as architects, working with Ove Arup & Partners, and contemplating air rights over the railways. The Royal Fine Art Commission judged an office scheme, which rose to ten storeys at its west end, unacceptably bulky in 1989. Revised plans from Oxford Real Estates Ltd and the same architects up to 1996 were consistently rejected by the Commission, whose Deputy Secretary, Richard Coleman, noted ‘The site requires the skills of an architect of immense ingenuity and a developer with deep pockets and considerable nerve.’1

Even so, the ten-storey office and retail scheme gained planning permission in 1998. It was amended in 2003–4, but again deferred. From 2008 the project and planning consents were taken forward by Zog Brownfield Ventures Ltd, a joint venture between the Zog Group, a consortium of property companies, and HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland) that had been incorporated in 2007, employing GML Architects Ltd. Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, which had inherited the freehold, granted ZBV (RMS) Ltd an option on a 999-year lease on the 2.7 acre site and air rights. In 2011–12 this was assigned to IJM Land, a major Malaysian construction and property company, which had formed another joint venture, IJM Land Berhad/RMS (England) Ltd. This new developer employed Broadway Malyan to design a new and differently purposed complex. This proposed a twelve-storey block to the west for a 236-room hotel with 33 apart- hotel spaces and 79 flats, and, further east beyond open ground connecting Royal Mint Street and Chamber Street, three fifteen-storey blocks for 266 flats above shops and offices, all cantilevered over the railways as far as Chamber Street, where use would be made of the London and Blackwall Railway viaduct’s arches. This huge project, which can only be described as bulky, was deemed acceptable. Farrells (London) LLP were engaged as architects, working with AKT II as structural engineers, and Chris Blandford Associates as landscape designer. Reworked plans for what was named Royal Mint Gardens were advanced and agreed in 2014–15. The eastern section was taken forward first, revised as 254 mixed-tenure flats in fourteen-storey blocks, incorporating ground-floor shops and first- and second-floor offices, with central gardens at third- and fifth-floor levels, and is being built in 2018–19 by the JRL Group’s Midgard Ltd. The western hotel block is set to follow.2

  1. London Metropolitan Archives, LMA/4625/C/02/036 

  2. New London Architecture – Project Showcase, New Ideas for Housing, 2015, p. 86: Tower Hamlets planning applications online 

Public lavatory and cattle trough at the south end of Leman Street, 1967
Contributed by Survey of London on Feb. 16, 2017

This colour slide is from the collection of the Tower Hamlets Archives, and shows the 1920s entrance to the public lavatories built against south side of the pier supporting the railway line (formerly the London & Blackwall Railway) that crosses the south end of Leman Street, and the cattle trough, one of many installed by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association between 1867 and 1936. The WCs and presumably the trough were later removed, probably around 1986 during construction of the support piers for the Docklands Light Railway, which runs immediately to the south side of the old railway bridge. With thanks to members of the Living in Stepney Facebook Group for confirming the exact location of this image.




Philip Davies, Troughs and Drinking Fountains, London, 1989

London Metropolitan Archives, District Surveyor's Returns

Railway pier on Leman Street from the south-west in 2017
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Former entrance to Leman Street railway station
Contributed by duncan2

Royal Mint Gardens under construction in February 2019, view from the southeast
Contributed by Derek Kendall

DLR viaduct construction over Leman Street
Contributed by danny

One Mile East ceramic plaque in 2017
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Building the Docklands Light Railway, c. 1985
Contributed by danny

Leman Street station buildings 1978
Contributed by danny