Leinster Terrace

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Above: The fake frontage (Nos 23 and 24) of a terrace of houses in Leinster Gardens seen from a side road opposite called Craven Hill Gardens. The two large black ‘doorways’ and the grey painted windows are the two false houses. The ‘gap’ is also noticeable by looking at the roofline.

It is surprising what lies below your feet as you walk around London. There are water pipes and gas pipes, of course, as well as sewage pipes, electricity cables and telephone cables. In many parts of London there are also underground lines which some people call ‘The Tube’. The first ‘underground lines’ were laid out by digging a wide trench in the ground and running the trains with the tops of the carriages just below ground level. The method of construction was called ‘cut and cover’ because the ground was opened up by digging a large trench which, when it had been cut out of the ground, it was then often covered over with arches so that buildings could be erected on top of it. As time went by, new ‘underground lines’ were constructed at a much deeper level in the ground so that they did not cross the path of ‘cut and cover’ lines. The deeper lines – for example, the Bakerloo Line – were in tunnels far below the surface of the ground and it was these lines that gave rise to the nickname of ‘The Tube’.

Digging cut and cover lines often meant removing houses or gardens that were on the route and it caused great inconvenience to traffic using any road that lay on that route while construction work was in progress. Cut and cover lines often left large gaps between houses or offices – where the sub-surface ‘underground’ trains were running.

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Above: Part of the Transport for London street map of Bayswater Station. Leinster Gardens (top right) shows the track shown running behind the two houses. Bayswater Station is also shown towards the left. The route of the underground line can be deduced from the two pieces of track shown on the map.

The street called Leinster Gardens is a case that illustrates an interesting compromise in the cut and cover technique. The street runs north of Bayswater Road (from Leinster Terrace). In 1868 Bayswater Station was opened on a new line operated by steam engines pulling the carriages along a newly built ‘cut and cover’ line. The Bayswater area – which is part of Paddington – was already developed with streets lined with quite imposing houses. To obtain the land for the line, many houses were compulsorily purchased and, of course, compensation had to be paid to the owners. The cut and cover line runs at right-angles to the houses in Leinster Gardens in a trench 42 feet (13 m) deep, being excavated and then supported with brick retaining walls. Most of the trench was then roofed over with brick arches to allow building work above. In order to keep the façade of the elegant terrace complete – without having a gap of two whole houses where the trench had been cut – an ingenious solution was devised so that visually the terrace looked complete. The façade above the trench is only five feet deep. All the false windows have been painted grey and there are two false doors which have no letter-boxes.

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Above: The rear of the false wall seen from the back (in Porchester Terrace). The grey centre part is where the false wall stands. Below are the two underground lines running below the wall, supported by an arch.

At the rear, the two houses were demolished and the cutting in the ground still remains open to the sky. The street running parallel to Leinster Terrace (to the west) is called Porchester Terrace and that has a gap in the houses where the cutting runs. There is a wall beside the pavement which is quite high. It is just possible to take a photograph over the top of it – revealing the railway cutting and the steel supports for the side of the trench.

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Above: Standing on the eastbound platform of Queensway Station and looking at the stairs leading from street level (just above the westbound train) to platform level.

The open cutting is just a short distance east of Queensway Station which, as can be seen from the short flights of stairs leading down to the platforms, is still in its ‘cut and cover’ state with daylight coming through the glass roof.

Leinster Gardens is the only terrace of houses in London where the facade has been retained in this way and it is, therefore, a curio for those interested in London’s railways as well as those who are interested in unusual architecture.

In passing it should be noted that of the Sherlock Holmes stories, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one was called ‘The Bruce-Partington Plans’ which first appeared in 1895. Solving the crime hinged on Holmes discovering a ‘cut and cover’ underground line in Central London. Of recent times Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat – who write the new ‘Sherlock’ television series – wanted to make use of the idiosyncratic location of Leinster Gardens in one of their stories. The events in the episode called ‘His Last Vow’ gave them the perfect opportunity to bring the location to a wider audience.

-ENDS-

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