London and the railway have a rich, intertwined history that dates back over 170 years. However, there are some underground stations with a hidden purpose, and the London Necropolis Railway Station is one of them. This peculiar railway station was used to transport up to 2,000 bodies each year from Waterloo Station to Brookwood Cemetery near Woking, Surrey, between 1854 and 1941.
In this article, we will uncover the history of the London Necropolis Railway Station and explore why it is worth a visit. From its creepy past to practical information, we will provide all the details you need to know before planning a trip to this unique and historic site.
- 1 Why Visit London Necropolis Railway Station?
- 2 History of the London Necropolis Railway
- 3 London Necropolis Railway Station: Practical Information
- The London Necropolis Railway Station was used to transport up to 2,000 bodies each year to Brookwood Cemetery between 1854 and 1941.
- Although this may seem creepy, the station has a rich history that dates back over 170 years and is worth a visit for anyone interested in London’s history.
- This article will provide all the practical information you need to plan your visit to the London Necropolis Railway Station.
Why Visit London Necropolis Railway Station?
Where to See the Station
Despite the fact that much of the London Necropolis Railway Station was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940 and 1941, there are still a few places where parts of the railway can be seen today. One such place is Brookwood Cemetery, where the remains of the South station are now part of the Russian Orthodox monastery on the site. Visitors can see these remains and get a sense of what the station would have looked like during its heyday.
The North station, on the other hand, is now hidden from public view by Leylandii planted across the former line to the mausoleum of Sharif Al-Hussein Ben Ali. However, visitors to the area can still see the facade of the building that contained the offices of the London Necropolis Company. This building, which also serves as the first-class entrance to the second London Terminus, built in 1902, is a fascinating piece of history that visitors won’t want to miss.
Another interesting place to visit is 121 Westminster Bridge Road, now known as Westminster Bridge House. This building, located near Lambeth North Station on the Bakerloo Line, is a Grade II listed building by Historic England and one of the most beautiful examples of an early 20th-century office building available in London today. Visitors can admire the stunning architecture and get a sense of what life would have been like for those who worked in the offices of the London Necropolis Company.
Overall, there are several places where visitors can see remnants of the London Necropolis Railway Station and get a sense of what it would have been like during its heyday. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply want to see something unique, a visit to one of these locations is sure to be a memorable experience.
History of the London Necropolis Railway
In the mid-19th century, the population of London doubled between 1801 and 1851, leading to overcrowding in the capital’s churchyards. This overcrowding caused the effluvium from decaying corpses to contaminate London’s water supply, leading to the deaths of more residents, which further worsened the situation. The cholera epidemic between 1846 and 1849 that killed over 14,500 Londoners was the tipping point.
1851 Burials Act
In response to the situation, Parliament passed the 1851 Burials Act, which forbade new burials in central London. However, people were still dying, and vast cemeteries were established in what is now the Greenbelt. One such burial yard was established by the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company (LNC) in 1852, with a mandate to develop Woking Common at Brookwood in Surrey, 23 miles from London.
The LNC initially rejected the idea of transporting coffins by horse and hearse, leading to the idea of building a special railway service to carry the deceased and mourners from London to Brookwood. However, many people raised objections to the idea of trains being incompatible with Christian funeral services. The LNC agreed to introduce three passenger classes, first, second, and third, and fully segregate each class at stations at each end of the line and on the train.
The Operation Begins
Building the London terminus began in June 1854 at 188 Westminster Bridge Road, allowing services to start in November. The station was built over multiple floors, with mourners entering on the ground level before moving upstairs to a waiting room for first and second-class mourners and a smaller hall for third-class grievers. Most of the ground floor was occupied by two mortuaries where bodies were stored until boarding the train.
A New Station for London
The London and South Western Railway (LSWR) significantly expanded Waterloo Station during the 1890s and made an offer to the LNC for their current terminus. The LCN was given autonomy over the design of the new station, which was completed on 8th February 1902.
Hitting the Buffers
Competition from other cemeteries run by London councils and the increasing use of cars led to dwindling demand for the railway. Sunday services ended in October 1900, and by the 1930s, the number of services dropped to services running once or twice a week. On Friday, 11th 1941, Edward Irish, a Chelsea Pensioner, boarded the train for his final journey, leaving London Necropolis Station to his burial place at Brookwood. Few onlookers knew this would be the last departure from the London Necropolis station. The following week, a heavy German bombing raid destroyed the rolling stock, and the station was closed on 11th May 1941.
The Terminus building was sold after the Second World War, and there was no appetite to resurrect the station or the Brookwood line. The building remains one of the most beautiful and complete historical buildings illustrating one of London’s secret railways, which is well worth a visit and a nose around.
London Necropolis Railway Station: Practical Information
London Necropolis Railway Station was a train station that operated from 1854 to 1941. It was primarily used to transport the deceased and their mourners to Brookwood Cemetery, which was located in Surrey. Today, the station no longer exists, but its history and legacy continue to fascinate many.
Here is some practical information about the London Necropolis Railway Station:
- Location: The station was located in the London Borough of Southwark, near the current site of Waterloo Station.
- Services: The station provided funeral trains that transported the deceased and their mourners to Brookwood Cemetery. The trains operated on a regular schedule and were available to people of all social classes.
- Facilities: The station had a waiting room for mourners, as well as a chapel where funeral services could be held. The chapel was capable of accommodating up to 200 people.
- Ticketing: Tickets for the funeral trains were sold at the station, and prices varied depending on the class of service. The cheapest tickets were for third-class service, while the most expensive tickets were for first-class service.
- Closure: The station was closed in 1941 during World War II due to damage sustained during the Blitz. The station building was eventually demolished, but the platforms and tracks remained in place until the 1960s.
Overall, the London Necropolis Railway Station served an important function in Victorian society by providing a unique and efficient means of transporting the deceased and their mourners to their final resting place. While the station no longer exists, its legacy continues to be remembered and celebrated by those interested in its history.