Posts Tagged ‘Liverpool Street Station’

Remembering a friend

Saturday, 21 June 2008

One that got away, Sir John Betjeman at Broad Street Station, photo Lord Snowdon (click for picture in original context)

A friend has died. We never met face to face, but used to chat by e-mail because our posts in another place often saw eye to eye. He liked steam and contributed the log of his voyage down the Thames in a small open steam boat to “If Not Duffers…” one of my early blogs. He sailed on the East Coast and was involved in the restoration of a much bigger steam boat, the herring drifter Lydia Eva, and invited me to visit the boat with him. Sadly, other things got in the way and my visit never took place. Today’s post about Sir John Betjeman is dedicated to the memory of Laurence Monkhouse.

Essex by Sir John Betjeman

“The vagrant visitor erstwhile,”
My colour-plate book says to me,
“Could wend by hedgerow-side and stile,
From Benfleet down to Leigh-on-Sea.”

And as I turn the colour-plates
Edwardian Essex opens wide,
Mirrored in ponds and seen through gates,
Sweet uneventful countryside.

Like streams the little by-roads run
Through oats and barley round a hill
To where blue willows catch the sun
By some white weather-boarded mill.

“A Summer Idyll Matching Tye”
“At Havering-atte-Bower, the Stocks”
And cobbled pathways lead the eye
To cottage doors and hollyhocks.

Far Essex, – fifty miles away
The level wastes of sucking mud
Where distant barges high with hay
Come sailing in upon the flood.

Near Essex of the River Lea
And anglers out with hook and worm
And Epping Forest glades where we
Had beanfeasts with my father’s firm.

At huge and convoluted pubs
They used to set us down from brakes
In that half-land of football clubs
Which London near the Forest makes.

The deepest Essex few explore
Where steepest thatch is sunk in flowers
And out of elm and sycamore
Rise flinty fifteenth-century towers.

I see the little branch line go
By white farms roofed in red and brown,
The old Great Eastern winding slow
To some forgotten country town.

Now yarrow chokes the railway track,
Brambles obliterate the stile,
No motor coach can take me back
To that Edwardian “erstwhile”.

Sir John Betjeman not only wrote about railways in his poems, he also made TV programmes about them and campaigned actively to popularise Victorian architecture. Sadly his work came too late to save the old Euston Station, but the survival of St Pancras Station virtually intact and much of Liverpool Street Station owes a great deal to his influence. He also helped railway groups, such as the Swanage Railway Society, with their campaigns to save their local branch lines. Now if only we had a person of Sir John’s calibre in Poland to campaign about Polish railway heritage.

More John Betjeman (on You Tube):

A modest success!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Liverpool Street Station: Sunday, 21st May 1922. Photo courtesy GER Society archive.

Similar view today: Improvement?

Euston: Down the rabbit hole

Victorian railway engineers scuIpted enormous iron and glass cathedrals enclosing huge volumes of space. The great railway terminii celebrated the new world being created by the web of steel that was to cover the globe. In the 1960s and 1970s, in the UK – the birthplace of the world’s railways – the officers of the British Railways Property Board regarded railway terminii as so much real estate, useful for car parking in the short-term, and even more useful for lucrative property development contracts in the future. Liverpool Street and Broad Street stations, neighbours on the edge of the City of London, were prime targets. Broad Street was lost altogether, the railway ripped up, its passengers forced to make alternative, and less convenient travel arrangements. Liverpool Street couldn’t be abolished entirely, so it was decided to give it the ‘rabbbit hole’ makeover first tried out at Euston Station in the 60s.

The Liverpool Street Station Campaign was formed in 1974 to oppose BR’s plans and to campaign for a sensitive redevelopment at Liverpool Street Station. Along with public meetings, petitions and publications, the Campaign also prepared alternative redevelopment schemes which would generate revenue for BR while maintaining the complex of historic Victorian railway buildings. The Campaign’s president was Sir John Betjeman, with Vice-Presidents including Spike Milligan, Patrick Cormack and Andrew Faulds.

Liverpool Street Station was saved, and later on, similar campaigns saved St Pancras Station and span 4 of Brunel’s magnificent Paddington Station.

So if a multi-million pound development can be stopped because enough people care about conserving railway heritage – stopping the Mayor of Krosniewice’s squalid little plan to destroy the Krosniewice Railway and demolish its workshops should be easy! Have you written your letter of protest yet? If you haven’t, please stop reading this and do so now.

(Photos from top: Great Eastern Railway Society, Aim for the Ace blog, Jeff & Josh Lubchansky Train Site. Click on the pictures to link to sources.)

Krosniewice campaign latest news is here. Earlier report (with links to previous posts about the Krosniewice Railway) is here.