Give my regards (to Broad Street)

Give my regards (to Broad Street)

Forty years ago in 1983 a noted pop star gave his regards to Broad Street! The iconic London railway terminus was given a few minutes of fame just a couple of years before bulldozers moved in and razed the entire station to the ground. Give My Regards to Broad Street (released 1984) and starring Paul McCartney, his wife Linda, Ringo Starr, somehow managed to capture the evocative and considerably down at heel appearance of the station during its final years. These scenes were taken at night which makes it all the more interesting as a extra dimension of dreariness was added to the station. Essentially these are quite historic scenes and in a special sense too because few other images captured the last days of Broad Street station in such dramatic ways.

Ex Beatles Paul McCartney arrives at Broad Street station in his Ford Popular. The station’s lamented classic staircase is seen here. It appears these scenes were done in early 1983. Youtube.

In a couple of parts of the film the famous Broad Street station war memorial can be seen. This is essentially the only bit of the station to be seen these days – however its actually sited some distance further north outside Hoxton station itself. It can be seen on Google Streets.

The film used scenes involving a tramp who raised his glass to acknowledge Paul McCartney’s presence. These scenes considerably highlighted the station’s utterly run down state. British Rail knew the building’s time was up as redevelopment had been announced as early as 1979 and practically no sort of maintenance was exercised apart from perhaps where safety was concerned. Even in the 1980s railway stations in the UK could be seen in such abject states of disrepair – and Broad Street in 1983 was no different.

By the way how would one know the filming was done in 1983? From the researching of images featuring the station in 1982 and 1983 its clear the advert in the background belonging to Vandyke Builders wasn’t there when work started on the movie in November 1982. The advert appeared in 1983 and this is evident in some photographs as well as in another music video ‘Get Out Of London’ by Intaferon which according to several sources was filmed in April 1983.

The station’s less that salubrious atmosphere is considerably well portrayed in the film. This is the main concourse with its memorial visible in the background. Youtube.

Despite a somewhat dramatic portrayal of Broad Street station itself, the film wasn’t much of a success (the music track fared much better as a separate album) and was slated by critics for having an almost non-existent plot. It was described as an ‘ill-conceived’ film originally intended as a made for TV movie but later expanded for the cinema circuit. McCartney recognised the film was a flop and insisted that ‘I don’t make any sort of great claims of Broad Street as a great Shakespearean effort…’ Out of all the films McCartney had been in, this was no doubt seen as the worst of all – surpassing even Magical Mystery Tour.

Its sad in a way because the movie does features London’s Broad Street station quite well and it perhaps carries the best scenes in the film with some splendid camera work – yet it merits barely any credence in the annals of Britain’s railway history – unlike London’s Marylebone station which featured prominently in A Hard Day’s Night.

Paul McCartney at a deserted, rainy, Broad Street station after midnight. The station’s roof had been cut back a few years beforehand and several of the platforms had their tracks removed. These added an extra dimension of desolation to this once splendid London terminus. Youtube.

I remember Broad Street station very well, but alas I never took any pictures. I wasn’t a particularly avid photographer at the time. I did take some photos but these were in fact taken from top of the Nat West Tower which hadn’t been open that long! This, at the time, London’s tallest skyscraper, offered great views of the lines radiating out of Liverpool and Broad Streets in the days before those huge developments took place. However Broad Street station looked quite small in the two shots I did which was on a very dull day so its not brilliant in terms of clarity or detail. When they started knocking down Broad Street station I rather rued the fact I had been in the station a number of times and had not even taken a single picture.

Broad Street Station

Broad Street station in May 1981. As the photographer concerned had observed at the time, the station ‘was about as run-down as it was possible to get. The roof leaked, the seat broken, weeds sprouted through the patched platforms it was, in short, a dump’. The 600ft high National Westminster Tower (aka Tower 42 these days) had just been completed and it would be opened a couple of weeks later. Flickr.

This short series of posts is in a sense my very own Give My Regards to Broad Street! Of course the London railway terminus no longer exists so what could I do other than to write a history about it? Well how about a post on what is left of Broad Street station? Yes I know people wil think I’m mad cos there’s absolutely nothing left of Broad Street station or its approach viaducts – but let’s not give up just yet for there’s some surprises to be had!

1) Give my regards to the GER’s power station.

The most substantial building associated with Broad Street in any way these days happens to be the Light Bar in Shoreditch. Despite people may be wondering how a GER building could have anything to do with the Broad Street lines, well the two shared a common construction where necessary especially at the northern end of Liverpool Street where the tall wall along its west side actually was the boundary wall of Broad Street station! Thus both the GER and the LNWR shared some common property. Quite easily the rearward part of the power station faced the Broad Street viaduct. Not only that access from the rear was afforded via an access road alongside the Broad Street viaduct! The image shown below dates from 1947 and depicts this clearly.

Worship Street bridge in 1947 showing a gateway (at bottom left) and access road/route alongside the North London Railway’s viaduct to new premises where the GER once had its sidings for the power station. The power station area itself (top right) has been expanded too for railway purposes. Evidently access to these was either via Shoreditch High Street or via Worship Street. Image enhanced from Britain From Above.

In the next image the same gateway (and the girder bridge too) seen in the 1947 picture can be seen. Not only that the same wall with the same drop can also be seen in both. Its not certain if there was a ramp or steps at that point. The Broad Street viaduct would have immediately been on the left towering above Worship Street and the tracks into Liverpool Street.

Its interesting this particular arrangement which was that the tracks into Liverpool Street remained in the open until 2008/2009 when the final section to have a view to the skies was roofed over to form the Principal Place development. The tracks to the south had been roofed over in earlier years in various stages as the new developments along Bishopsgate were built – around the mid to late 1990s.

Worship Street in 2008 showing the steel gates and ramp or steps down to what is now a vanished access route to the GER depot and former power station – which can just be seen at right. This image is two stitched together from Google Streets.

Worship Street in November 2023 showing the same gated location. The original gateway remained until 2008/2009. Curiously in its place its an emergency exit leading from the subterranean environs of Liverpool Street station – thus even in 2023 there’s still a gate at the same exact spot!

The Light Bar, Shoreditch, aka the former GER power station. The tracks into Liverpool Street are directly below the adjacent square at this point.

The lifting gear that was once used to service the power station’s generators.

The splendid builder’s plate which can be seen on the lifting gear inside the building.

Evidently the access point enabled railway staff to reach the lower part of the North London’s viaduct arches but also the Great Eastern’s Electric Light Generating Station (aka Norton Folgate Power Station). In later years this was building that served as a signalling and engineers depot for the Great Eastern/LNER and ultimately BR Eastern Region. The original electricity depot existed in the early years of the 20th Century but had closed by 1932. It was after then that the use of the premises was altered and the buildings were thence extended across where the tracks leading to the power station’s coal staithe once stood.

The venue’s website has this picture which shows wagons on the siding serving the power station. Light Bar.

In terms of redevelopment the whole area is practically untouched. Even adjacent Norton Folgate largely got the chop save for a core selection of buildings which were renovated. The rapid development along Bishopsgate and at Broad Street no doubt has developers wanting more – and that quest hasn’t ended yet – not even in 2023 for developers have extremely controversial plans to redevelop Liverpool Street station – and that just 30 years after the site was first redeveloped!

The GER power station too was seen as a prime site for development. This would have occurred along with the Bishopsgate yards across the road. Nevertheless substantial objections put both sites on hold. Modified plans were submitted for the power station side with a view to retaining that building. As for Bishopsgate Goods Yard, well even though plans have apparently been approved things are still on hold no doubt due to objections and challenges. The scale of the development is the issue for it is seen as gigantic and therefore out of proportion with the historic Bishopsgate site.

2008 plans for the original Bishops Quarter which extended from Bishopsgate through to Norton Folgate which would have seen the GER power station demolished. Open Shoreditch.

The Light Bar in Shoreditch is of course the sole remaining building from that. A substantial part of the premises to the rear has disappeared and these were what were once accessed from that northern gate in Worship Street or by way of the power station’s main yard on Shoreditch High Street. Much of the premises was extant until 2007 when proposals were drawn up to demolish the entire lot and build a new lot known as the Bishop Place Development. This was actually part of a comprehensive plan which would see the power station demolished. As history has shown things have since progressed with a modified development known as Principal Place and Principal Place Tower. This enabled the main structure of the electricity station to be saved. The bit that was lost was in fact the boiler house.

Great Eastern Electric Light Generating Station aka Norton Folgate Power Station – now The Light Bar – seen in its complete structural state (including boiler rooms) during 2007. Note the railway tunnels at left. Part of the Broad Street viaduct can be seen in the background. Open Shoreditch.

What follows next is a lengthy description of the new (or rather rebuilt) electricity generating premises. This was written in 1894 and that, along with substantial drawings, provided an insight into the Great Eastern’s efforts to supply its station and environs with electric lighting.

THE ELECTRIC LIGHT INSTALLATION AT GREAT EASTERN RAILWAY TERMINUS, LIVERPOOL STREET.

The arc lamp is by no means a stranger to the frequenters of Liverpool-street Station; indeed, the platforms have been lighted by electricity for some years wirh success and economy.

The enormous extensions that are in process of being carried out on the area of land between the old station and Bishopsgate street Without (practically amounting to an increase of the terminus capacity and space by 100 per cent.) has necessitated a complete remodelling of the electric lighting plant, with an even greater increase in its output; and a special building has been erected just outside the station to accommodate boilers, engines, and dynamos.

This new erection-as may be seen from the annexed illustrations — is of a very complete and extensive character – large enough, in fact, to suffice for a small very complete and extensive town, the total capacity being not less than 1,200 h.p. in an area of 90ft. by 50ft. It stands fronting the main street, just at the point where the Great Eastern Company’s main lines pass underneath the roadway at an angle near the junction of Norton Folgate and Shoreditch. It is built partly on a triangular plot of land at the ground-level, and partly on the railway arches themselves. The building is of red brick faced with stone, and presents a very handsome appearance from the roadway. The front of the engine-room abuts upon the pavement of Norton Folgate, and has massive entrance doors in the centre.

The steam engines employed are eight in number- four of 200 i.h.p. each, and four of half that capacity. They are of the inverted vertical compound type, coupled direct to dynamo generators of Crompton and Co.’s make. The engines are by Davey, Paxman, and Co., who also have provided the boilers–five in number-of which only four at present are erected. The boilers are of the Lancashire type, with mechanical stokers, and underground flues leading into the base of a large brick chimney stack just outside, 150ft. high.

The engine-room has a height of 20ft. clear to the ceiling, and is provided in each of its two bays with light steel rails on a bracket gauntry way for an overhead travelling crane, by which the heavy parts of engines or dynamos are lifted as required.

On the first floor, above the engine-room, is a chamber of equal area intended for use as an accumulator-room, and approached from below by means of a circular iron staircase. The roof of this room, and also of the boiler house is provided with adjustable louvre ventilators to allow the escape of smoke, heat, and fumes. As shown in the drawings, two cross-lattice girders, 3ft. 3in. deep, serve to sustain the boiler-house roof.

The current from the main switchboards – which occupy nearly all one side of the engine-room-is led along the railway lines to the station, where a large number of arc lamps light up the 17 platforms (involving nearly six miles of track), also the station halls and large areas. Then a great many incandescent lights are installed in the station offices, in the Great Eastern Company’s executive offices, the hotel close adjacent, and a number of shops and offices on the ground floor of the fine buildings with which the company has replaced the blocks of old houses formerly fronting on Bishopsgate-street.

Source: The Electrical Engineer January-June 1894.

Give my regards continues in part two.