Site Records

Site Name: King William Street Station

King William Street

[Source: Andy Emmerson]

Not many illustrations survive of the station in operation but here are two, both from the book London City (published in 1903).

This is the original layout of the station, with one track and two platforms (for departing passengers on the left and arrivals on the right). This was altered to two tracks and a single island platform on 22nd December 1895.

The line was inaugurated on 4th November 1890, from King William Street to Stockwell. The Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII. performed the opening ceremony. On 18th December the line was opened to the public. Less than ten years afterwards the line was extended northwards to Moorgate Street, and when this was opened on 24th February 1900, new tunnels were brought into service from the Borough, and the original section abandoned. The old city terminus was most awkwardly placed as regards train running, as it faced almost due west and curved sharply to the left under Swan Pier, crossing the river under the up­stream side of London Bridge. There was no intermediate station between King William Street and Borough, which meant that there was no interchange station for London Bridge main line and suburban station . In the case of the down line from King William Street this involved a sharp curve and a gradient of 1 in 30 upon leaving the station, while the up line was still steeper, 1 in 14, through the up line crossing over the down line.

Today the City & South London forms part of the Northern Line of the Underground, with the exception of the bypassed King William Street station and the empty tunnels leading to the abandoned station.

The complete line as originally built.
Source: Die Londoner Untergrundbahnen, Troske, 1892, reprinted 1896.

This is Stockwell station, not King William Street, but we have used this picture because it illustrates rather well the so-called 'padded cell' coaches and the small 4-wheeled electric locomotives that hauled them.

It was assumed passengers would have no interest in looking out at blank tunnel walls on their journey, so only small slit windows were provided. The name of each station was called out when the train stopped. Passengers entered and left these carriages through the 'lift gates' operated by 'gatemen'.

Although the subject of this postcard (right)is the Monument the boarded-up entrance to the old station is visible at bottom right. One of the posters appears to be advertising trips to Paris and the sign inviting people to book here for Royal Sovereign may be for steamer trips.

In 1930 the Underground took steps to dispose of the old station building at King William Street and shortly after this, the old station and office buildings were demolished to make way for a new block known as Regis House. Before this happened, however, the eminent transport historian and journalist, the late Charles E. Lee, paid a visit to the station in 1930, along with the Daily Mirror. Most likely this press tour was instigated by Lee and then taken up by the Underground. In addition, on 28th March 1930 a number of official photographs were taken and these are still available for purchase from London's Transport Museum. This is Lee's description of his visit (Railway Magazine, September 1930, pp 197-199)

The present means of access is through what was formerly the emergency staircase, and this is reached from a cellar under 46, King William Street, the premises which constituted the booking office of the original terminal station. Descending this gloomy circular stairway by the light of two acetylene flares, our party reached the old platform level with the feeling of having turned back a page of history and recalled those sensations, forgotten by the present generation, which were experienced by the inaugural party through this, the world's first electric tube railway, some forty years ago. As now existing, the old station still retains sufficient traces of its former equipment to enable a fair idea to be gained of its working condition, although the tracks have been entirely, and the platform partially, removed.

At the platform level the station consists of a circular brick tunnel, with a centre platform and the sites of the lines on either side. Openings give access to the old lift shaft, which formerly contained two hydraulic lifts. The shaft has been covered over and the top portion now is utilised for shop premises. Remains of gas fixtures are a. reminder that the stations were lighted by gas during the first ten years of the railway's existence, electricity being introduced gradually thereafter. at first only on the newer stations. The 'King William Street' station names are still in position in two or three places. At the end of the platform is the remains of the signal box. still containing its 22 hand-operated levers. Three of the two-position semaphores are in position. one, at least. of which it may be hoped will be preserved in the company's museum. Beyond the station, the brick tunnel ceases and the line enters the two iron tubes. Our party proceeded along the left-hand tube. The point where the other tube crosses over is easily noticed. and the two tracks are connected by an iron ladder.

Further on we joined the other tube through a narrow connecting passage on the left and returned to the station. At the mouth of the tubes a much faded board can still be deciphered, notifying "Speed not to exceed 5 miles per hour." Although all traces of the surface station equipment have long since disappeared, this glimpse into the past may be completed by adding that the original charge of 2d. ordinary fare for any distance was collected by means of turnstiles; and that this system was maintained until the extension to Moorgate Street made it necessary to introduce fares graduated according to distance.

For further information and pictures of King William Street click here

[Source: Andy Emmerson]

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Last updated: 04 01 2011
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