Up and down the City Road

This entry may be a little brief, for which I apologise. I found myself on an unexpected evening out with Teachmaster D, the Catlady, Mistress Bitch and Mistress Bitch’s boyfriend, among others. It was a surprisingly eventful evening in which the Archies somehow became associated with Holocaust denial.

The Archies

You bastards.

That being said, here is the entry for today, such as it is.

I’ve always been a bit sceptical about those people who claim there’s something mystical about wandering about the city. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice and all, but let’s not pretend it’s anything other than a pleasant way to fill a boring afternoon. Still, yesterday I had a trip out that did rather make me wonder.

You see, I set out with no particular goal in mind. It’s quite often how I roll on a boring weekend – jump on a train and see where I end up. As the train rolled into London Bridge, it occurred to me that it might be quite pleasant to head over to Islington and have a look down Camden Passage. Cass Art have a very large shop there, and I felt I could justify a visit.

While there, I remembered a thing I’d seen a couple of weeks ago on the walk described in the entry I tastefully titled ‘Canal Penetration.’ Opposite the towpath, I’d seen an old factory converted into offices, complete with what looked like an elderly crane. I have a strange fascination with old machinery, so I thought I’d see if I could get any closer, as I was in the area and all. I’d been meaning to.

I was therefore surprised to see that, as part of the Open House weekend, about which I’d entirely forgotten, the normally-closed-off wharf was open. It’s just weird to me that the one day I decide, randomly, to check this out on the offchance is the one day that I actually can check it out. No doubt the statisticians will tell me that actually there’s nothing weird about that, but boo.

I managed to get plenty of photos of the factory and the crane. The crane appears to have had its cabin replaced, judging by the neatness of the wood.

I was also quite interested to note that there is what looks like an abandoned railway on the wharfside. It’s a narrow gauge railway, as was once common in industry in Britain. A few old trucks had also survived and were dotted about the place.

Narrow gauge railway, IslingtonI took many photos, most of which would be of interest only to nerds like me. But check out the picture on the left. A pillar of the factory goes straight through the railway track, suggesting to me that the line pre-dates the factory (or at least, that part of it).

The trucks have had their bodies replaced, so even if we assume they’re original, it’s hard to tell what they would have looked like during their working lives. However, they were very light to push over cobbles, and even with their original bodies I suspect they would not have been difficult to move on rails. Long story short, I don’t think this railway would ever have been locomotive worked, although I suspect it would once have been longer. Two tracks are in situ, one of which I suspect would have been a siding used for storage. Unfortunately, I’ve been able to find nothing on Google about this railway, and the rest of the area has been built over.

City Road BasinI had a quick shufti at the City Road Basin, seen on the right. This was once an important industrial site, built in 1820 (was this the date when our mystery railway appeared?) and the closest canal basin to the City. Despite its profitable location, like the rest of Britain’s canal system, it’s become more-or-less obsolete in recent years. There have been some residential developments, but even on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the place had an air of quiet loneliness about it.

Bantam tug, City Road BasinThe little boat on the left deserves some brief attention. It’s a Bantam tug. These were built in Brentford in the 1950s and 60s to push and pull barges on the canals. Several have been preserved and several more remain in service. Life is obviously slower on the waterways. Or they’re just pretty good tugboats.

City Road Underground StationAs I turned on to City Road, the building on the right caught my eye. At first glance, it’s just your standard common-or-garden eyesore. It looks like an ancillary building for the tower block behind. Yet there were one or two things that made me wonder. For instance, it looks like there’s quite a large door that’s been boarded over at the front. And though it’s not entirely clear in this photo, there’s some architectural detail that seems a little fancy for the rough-and-ready architecture on display behind.

My suspicions were confirmed when I got home. This is, in fact, an abandoned Tube station, or as much as survives. It’s City Road, opened by the City and South London Railway in 1901. It lay between Angel and Old Street on what is now the Northern Line, City Branch. It was never a very popular station, and to be honest even today it’s not hard to see why. It’s only about 15-20 minutes gentle stroll from Angel to Old Street, and it’s not like there’s anything around here that really justifies a whole Tube station.

When rebuilding work was carried out on the stations of the C&SLR in the 1920s, the Company decided to cut their losses and simply shut the station down rather than waste money bringing it up to then-modern standards. Aside from being used as an air raid shelter, the station saw no further use after 1924. The only reason there’s anything above ground at all is because it was decided to convert the old lift shafts into ventilation shafts – what survives is the brickwork that once surrounded those shafts, the rest having been demolished. There are also remains at platform level, though I’ll own I’ve not seen them myself.

Honestly, this place is pretty good if you like your abandoned transport systems. If T. S. Eliot was an industrial archaeologist, he’d probably write a poem about it.

Further Reading

http://www.abandonedstations.org.uk/City_Road_station.html – An excellent feature showing the below-ground remains of City Road.

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2 Comments

Filed under 19th century, 20th Century, Buildings and architecture, Camden, Canals and Waterways, Geography, History, Islington, London, London Underground, Photos, Psychogeography, Shoreditch, The City, Transport

2 responses to “Up and down the City Road

  1. Pingback: Good Friday? I’ll say! | London Particulars

  2. Pingback: What’s wrong with hipsters? | London Particulars

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