Home » London Transport » A Short Guide to Charing Cross Railway Station

A Short Guide to Charing Cross Railway Station

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Charing Cross railway station was planned as the London terminus of the South Eastern Railway (SER), it was built on the site of the former Hungerford Market next to The Strand. It was decided that the station would be directly connected to Waterloo by a new bridge which was completed in 1863.

The station was designed by Sir John Hawkshaw, and featured a single span wrought iron roof, 510 feet (155 m) long and 164 feet (50 m) wide, over six platforms. The station was built on a brick arched viaduct and the space below the station has been used for a variety of uses.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Charing Cross station opened in 1864 and The Charing Cross Railway company became part of South Eastern Railway. The frontage of the station was taken up by the Charing Cross Hotel which was designed by Edward Middleton Barry and opened in 1865. The hotel had 250 bedrooms spread over seven floors and extended along Villiers Street. Its location led to its success and a 90-bedroom annexe was built on the other side of Villiers Street which opening in 1878. A bridge over the street connected the two parts of the hotel together.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In 1887, Hungerford Bridge was widened to provide three more tracks into the station. In 1899, the SER merged with the London, Chatham and Dover Railway to form the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR). At roughly the same time as the building of the hotel, a replica of the Eleanor Cross designed by Edward Middleton Barry was commissioned for the station forecourt. The original Eleanor Cross was built in 1291 and demolished in 1647 and distances in London are officially measured from the original site of the cross. That site now has a statue of Charles I and is still considered the centre of London.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

After its opening, Charing Cross became the main terminus of all SER services including boat trains to Continental Europe. Along with Victoria, it became the main departure point from London to overseas destinations. In 1913 it was possible to travel from Charing Cross to Paris in six and a half hours.

In 1905, the station was the scene of a tragic incident when a 70-foot part of the original roof collapsed, it was possible for the trains and platforms to be evacuated before the roof and girders crashed to the floor. The collapse of part of the wall through the roof of the neighbouring Royal Avenue Theatre caused six fatalities.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Due to its international connections, Charing Cross played an important part in World War I as the main departure point for the military towards the Western Front. The station was also used to receive the sick and wounded before sending them to hospitals around the country.  On 26 December 1918, shortly after the war, the US President Woodrow Wilson met King George V at Charing Cross and there is a plaque to mark this meeting. After the First World War, Charing Cross declined as an international terminal.

Since the late 19th century, people had suggested Charing Cross should be demolished for the valuable land to be reused. In the 1920s, plans were put forward to move the station to the south side of the Thames. Charing Cross sustained considerable damage during the Second World War and was forced to close on a number of occasions. Despite these setbacks, Charing Cross has survived into the 21st century  and is now an important part of the London transport network.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

From the 1970s and 1980s, the station has been modernised with much of the area developed into a office and shopping complex designed by Terry Farrell.

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