Site Records

Site Name: Snow Hill/Holborn Viaduct Low Level Station

Holborn Viaduct/Snow Hill
EC 1
OS Grid Ref: TQ316815

Sub Brit site visit December 1980, April 1981, June 1981, December 1985 and December 1986

[Source: Nick Catford]

Snow Hill station was opened by the London Chatham & Dover Railway on 1 August 1874 on the existing City Line between Ludgate Hill and Farringdon Street. It was renamed Holborn Viaduct Low Level 1.5.1912. The main entrance was on the north side of the viaduct consisting of a four storey building with a single storey above viaduct level. The booking hall was at basement level sandwiched between the road level and the trains below. A separate entrance was provided on Snow Hill from where a footpath led up to the east side of the station building. A covered way and a flight of steps linked the Low Level and High Level Stations.

The entrance on Snow Hill in about 1901
The station was never well used and a census taken in 1911 showed there were fewer arrivals than at any other city station.

After the station had closed, trains were occasionally diverted by error into the Low Level platforms and access was initially maintained from the High Level station. The station entrance from Holborn Viaduct had become a tobacconist's shop by 1926 and the basement level was then in use as a warehouse. By 1938, the Snow Hill entrance had been utilised to build a single storey cafe.

The 1940-1941 blitz flattened most of the block east of the railway including the four storey station building leaving just part of the station's basement floor level, with a brick wall supported by the girders over the railway. These remains were removed completely around 1955, in preparation for roofing over the site prior to the building of a new office block over the site in the early 1960's.

When the Greater London Council proposed to reopen the City Line in 1984 the proposal included a new Snow Hill station with a single island platform, to be sited between the running lines at this point, somewhat north of the original station site


Snow Hill Station in April 1954 after the partial removal of the bomb damaged station building
Photo by R C Riley

The Metropolitan Extensions Act of 1860 gave the London Chatham & Dover Railway access to the City, authorizing a 4.5 mile line from Herne Hill across the river to join the Metropolitan Railway at Farringdon Street.

The 'City Line' was far more than the Chatham could cope with financially, but the possibilities for through traffic were vast. To the north the G N R and the Midland could be reached and to the south were the L B S C R and L S W R at Clapham Junction from where the G W R and L N W R could be reached via the West London Line. All these companies were approached to partake financially and all eventually profited from the scheme gaining the right to work trains to their own goods and coal depots in South London.

The line from Herne Hill to the Elephant and Castle was opened on 6 October 1862 and on to Blackfriars Bridge on 1 June 1864. Intermediate stations were initially provided at Camberwell, Walworth Road and Borough Road and later at Loughborough Junction.

The Thames was eventually bridged and by 21 December 1864 a temporary station at Ludgate Hill was in use, a permanent station being opened on 1st June 1865. It had two narrow island platforms but the station was rebuilt in 1910 with a single broader island platform.

On 1st January 1866, L C D R passenger trains began running into the Metropolitan's Farringdon Street station and the connection was soon carrying a wide variety of passenger and freight services. Then, by an Act of 13 July 1871, the Chatham became committed to yet another project. A nominally independent Holborn Viaduct Station Company (for the bankrupt Chatham was not allowed to raise capital) was authorized to build a 292 yard branch from the Ludgate - Farringdon line to a new terminus, complete with hotel, fronting on the new thoroughfare of Holborn Viaduct. It was opened on 2nd March 1874.

On 1st August 1874 a low-level station, Snow Hill ('Holborn Viaduct Low Level' from 1912), was opened at the foot of the 1 in 39 incline.

Snow Hill Station looking south in December 1985
hoto by Nick Catford

Finally, on 10th May 1886 a parallel bridge across the Thames was opened with, at the northern end, yet another new station, St. Paul's, the original Blackfriars Bridge being closed. St. Paul's was renamed Blackfriars on 1st February 1937. The existing layout was completed when the South Eastern Railway opened the Union Street spur on 1st June 1878 creating a through route into Charing Cross.

Click here for more information and pictures of Snow Hill Station

[Source:Nick Catford]

Home Page
Last updated: 04 01 2011
©1998- 2018 Subterranea Britannica