Site Records

Site Name: Bishopsgate Goods Station (Goodsyard)

Shoreditch High Street
London, E1
OS Grid Ref: TQ335822

Sub Brit site visit 1967, 1969, February 1982 & September 1995

[Source: Nick Catford]

An Act of Parliament passed in 1836 authorised the building of the Eastern Counties Railway between London and Great Yarmouth. The London section of the line opened in June 1839 from a temporary terminus at Mile End to a temporary station at Romford. The following summer it was extended to a permanent terminus at Shoreditch which opened on 1st July 1840. The railway was also extended into East Anglia, reaching Colchester in March 1843. Shoreditch Station was renamed Bishopsgate on the 27th July 1846.

The company never reached its Great Yarmouth destination; the Eastern Counties merged with other lines to form the Great Eastern Railway in 1862. Initially the Great Eastern used Fenchurch Street as its City terminus but this lacked the capacity to deal with increasing suburban traffic so a new city site was selected adjacent to the North London Railway's Broad Street Station facing on to Liverpool Street. In order to reach the new terminus a new line diverged on the north side of the viaduct into Bishopsgate curving round under Bishopsgate and into the new terminus at Liverpool Street.

To accommodate Bishopsgate's passengers, new low level platforms were constructed at Bishopsgate, one underneath the existing station and the other on the south side of the old terminus. Bishopsgate Low Level as it was known opened on 4th November 1872

When platforms 1 to 10 at Liverpool Street station (West Side and Main Line) were brought into use on 2nd February 1874, Bishopsgate became redundant as a passenger terminus. The station was closed on 1st November 1875 although some trains continued to use it until 1879, at the same time Bishopsgate Low Level Station was renamed Bishopsgate.

Photo:The main entrance on Shoreditch High Street

Work immediately started on rebuilding and extending Bishopsgate as a massive goods station to supplement the earlier Brick Lane Goods Station (later renamed Spitalfields Goods Station); and together they were to become one of the largest in London handling the majority of the goods traffic to and from the east of England. The new station was available for goods traffic from 1881. Over the years many alterations and additions to the building were made with little evidence remaining of its former use as a passenger station.

The goods station (or goodsyards as it was often known) was on three levels, two having road access and served by railway tracks with the third upper level warehouse.

The street-level offices and rest rooms were located in the arches carrying the upper rail level and warehouse structures.

The Braithwaite Viaduct
Eight road entrances were provided, the main entrance was at the corner of Shoreditch High Street and Commercial Street, there were four entrances in Wheler Street which passed transversely under the station and two in Brick Lane at the eastern end.

Encapsulated within the extensive 1870s work, between Wheler Street and Brick Lane, is 850 feet of the original viaduct of the Eastern Counties Railway. This is now referred to as the Braithwaite Viaduct, after John Braithwaite, the ECR's engineer. It has shallow, semi-elliptical brick arches, as do other sections further east, but the width here is greater, 50 feet or so front to back, as the tracks multiplied on approach to the terminus. So the piers are divided by cross-passages, with distinctive two-centred 'pointed' arches. Over the years the original viaduct has been successively widened.

Plan of the upper (top) and lower rail levels. Click here for a high resolution version of this plan. This plan is very large (2.3M) and download will be very slow without broadband.

The lower rail level was about 400 feet wide and 1500 feet long and was provided with a longitudinal railway track on the south side and three tracks in the middle, with transverse lines, mostly short, but including several extending the whole width of the station. By means of turntables and capstans, wagons could be shifted as required around the station or moved to or from one or other of the three hydraulic wagon hoists which provided communication with the rail-level lines above. There was no direct rail connection between the lower rail level and the main line, the only way wagons could be moved to the lower rail level was by means of the three hoists which were powered by two large hydraulic accumulators located on the south side of the station. A hydraulic accumulator is an energy storage device; a pressure storage reservoir in which a non-compressible hydraulic fluid is held under pressure from an external source. That external source can be a spring or as at Bishopsgate a raised weight.

Photo:One of the two Hydraulic Accumulators seen in 1995
Photo by Nick Catford

There were two road approaches to the station one ascending from Wheler Street, alongside but outside the station, to reach the main entrance over the street-level entrance on Shoreditch High Street; the other ramp ran up adjacent to the street-level entrance, rising to pass round the station premises on the north side and reaching rail level near the west end of the goods shed; this also served the goods yard to the east.


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[Source: Nick Catford]

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