Blackfriars Station Place Names

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Above: The large stone ‘wall’ inscribed with destinations of English and Continental destinations.

At one time the name Blackfriars Station referred to a railway terminus on the south side of the Thames, built over the western end of Bankside (Street), just beside the road leading south off Blackfriars Bridge (which, of course, is a road bridge). On 1 October 1885 the original terminus on the south bank of the Thames was closed to passengers and subsequently converted to a freight terminal. It was not until 10 May 1886 that a new station, on the north bank of the river, was opened to passengers, reached by a seven-track railway bridge.

After many alterations, Blackfriars Station was becoming very cramped and dowdy and an unusual plan was decided on. A new station would be built slightly to the south, not on the land of the north bank of the Thames but actually on Blackfriars Railway Bridge itself. While doing that, plans were also drawn up for Blackfriars Underground Station to be integrated into the new railway concourse at the north end of the new station.

The unique design was completed in 2011 and opened for public access to the new station and also the underground station. The old railway station entrance from Queen Victoria Street was rebuilt along with all of the station roofs over the platforms.

One interesting feature was retained and that was a ‘wall’ of stone plaques that was part of the original facade. The ‘wall’ is inscribed with an unusual collection of place names. Some are quite close to Central London, some are towns and cities to the south of London, others are seaside towns along the SE and south coast and a final selection are towns and cities in France and Germany.  The names on the stones had become black from years of pollution.

The ‘wall’ was restored by Rupert Harris Conservation. The destination wall was carved with the names of 54 stations, of which each is lettered on separate sandstone block. These blocks were removed from top to bottom, one-by-one, by chiselling the mortar joints between each stone. The lightest stone weighs 54 kg and the heaviest stone about 120 kg. The lettering on the sandstone was gilded with 24 carat gold leaf before it was rebuilt in the new location.

The stone plaques are now in a new position inside the main concourse. What is unusual about the individual plaques is that, as you read the names, you realise that a distant place name in France or Germany lies beside a rather more humble place name in South London or in Kent. A few examples are shown below.

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Above: Pairs of place names photographed from the large selection on the ‘wall’ of names. The list of names is still in their original order. That order is not alphabetical and there seems no obvious reason for how they were arranged. Looking at the pairs of names makes fascinating reading. Taking the first example shown, for example, why was Berlin listed next to Bickley or were those who had it made just having a laugh ?


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