5th December 1964. Disaster at Shoreditch.
The Great Eastern Railway, Chairman in the late 19th century used to sit on the footbridge of Liverpool Street Station with his gold-hunter watch in his hand, and called for those engine drivers who were late on schedule.
Shoreditch Station, London, was built for the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) in 1840 to serve as a permanent terminus when the railway extended west-ward from the early terminus at Devonshire Street near Mile End. It was renamed Bishopsgate in 1846.(1)
In 1862 the ECR with routes to Norwich and King’s Lynn, amalgamated with number of other East Anglian rail companies to form The Great Eastern (GE) which for a time used Fenchurch Street as a terminus.
However lack of capacity led the GE to build a new terminus at Liverpool Street, opened in 1874, which was away from the slums of Shoreditch and more central for the City of London.
It was known as the ‘poor man’s line’ owing to the cheap fares which were introduced when the Company was required by the 1864 Act to run low-cost workmen’s trains.
This was to compensate for the widespread disruption when the line to Liverpool Street was built which had required 7,000 being displaced from their tenements, the demolition of the City of London Theatre and the Gas Works.
Bishopgate was closed to passenger traffic in November 1875 and reconstructed 1878-1880 to become a Goods Station with the old facade and side walls removed, with a passenger station called Bishopsgate Low-Level providing a new route to Liverpool Street.
The Bishopsgate Depot was extended in 1914 with a frontage of 300ft and depth of 600ft.
However disaster struck Today in 1964, when at 0620 on a Saturday the London Fire Brigade received a call that Bishopsgate Depot and Station was on fire.
In the disaster two customs officers were killed, and it required 235 firefighters, 22 pumps, 19 pump escapes, 12 turntables to deal with the fire which took days to deal with.
The cost ran to millions damaging as it did 300 rail wagons and 60 vehicles as well as the loss of the immense amount of goods in the depot. The site was now unusable and only in recent times have measures been taken to redevelop the area with concerns to protect the listed Braithwaite Arches and other features.
(1) Opened on 1.7.1840. Renamed 27.7.1846.
(2) Liverpool Street opened 2.2.1874.