Broad Street was a major terminal station in the City of London, adjacent to Liverpool Street station. Broad Street was opened in 1865 as the main terminus of the North London Railway network of suburban services.
It closed in 1986 following years of diminishing passenger usage.
The extension of the North London Railway (NLR) to Broad Street (via the Kingsland Viaduct) was authorised by the North London Railway Act of 22 July 1861. The station was opened on 1 November 1865 as the terminus of a network of commuter railways linking east and west London via the looping route of the NLR, originally with seven platforms and three approach lines. A goods station was situated next to the passenger station, and that opened to traffic on 18 May 1868. It was built on a deck and a lift was provided to move wagons down to warehouses below. The deck was not strong enough to carry locomotives, so shunting was done by rope and capstan.
Expansion and development
A fourth approach line was added in 1874, a further (eighth) platform in 1891, and a final (ninth) platform in 1913. At its peak, Broad Street was the third-busiest station in London (after Liverpool Street and Victoria). At the start of the 20th century, more than one train per minute arrived or departed Broad Street during rush hour, with over 27 million passengers in 1902. The Great Northern Railway also used Broad Street as a supplement to its King’s Cross terminal some miles to the west.
In the early years of the 20th century the North London Line suffered a drastic loss in passengers and, especially, revenue, owing to the expansion of the bus, tram and Underground networks. For example, from 1900 to 1905, passengers dropped by 4 per cent and 13.4 per cent; by 1913 numbers had dropped to 44.6 per cent compared to 1900, and by 1921 to only 23.3 percent. The patronage of Broad Street station declined accordingly. This was not helped by the fact that on 8 September 1915 the station was damaged by an enemy Zeppelin attack.
In the face of the competition, the governing board finally decided to electrify the NLR, on the two conductor rail at 600 V DC system, and electrified services started on 1 October 1916, using Oerlikon stock, though the Watford service was not electrified until 10 July 1922. At the terminus only the western five lines were ever electrified. After 1922 the NLR was fully absorbed into the London and North Western Company, and disaggregated figures are not available; however, electrification appears to have at least stemmed the tide of passenger losses.
The station was badly damaged during the Second World War and was never fully repaired. Local services to Poplar were withdrawn on 14 May 1944 and never reinstated. The main station building closed in 1956 with passengers being directed to a new concourse level building at the platform entrance to buy tickets.
Curving around the north of London before turning south into the City, the North London Line was, for most passengers, a slower route into the financial district than alternative options like taking the Underground or changing at Euston or King’s Cross. By 1960, only 41 trains carrying 6,400 passengers arrived at Broad Street in the three morning peak hours. The line and station were earmarked for closure under the Beeching cuts of 1963, but local opposition persuaded the government to give it a reprieve. However, the station was gradually run down and the level of service was steadily reduced. In 1967 the major part of the train shed roof was removed, having become unsafe, whilst four of the nine platforms were taken out of use in 1969, the same year that the Broad Street goods yard closed. In 1976, peak hour services to the Eastern Region via the Canonbury Spur were withdrawn with the opening of the Northern City Line, and a further platform was disconnected. The station was now very dilapidated, with trees growing between disused platforms. The crumbling facade and the cavernous, dark interior (including a disused buffet and ticket office) were fascinating yet forbidding.
By 1985, only 6,000 passengers per week were using Broad Street station and only about 300 arrived daily in the morning peak. As property prices grew in the bull market of the mid-1980s, British Rail was keen to sell the site for office use. From 13 May 1985 the service to Richmond was diverted away from Broad Street, leaving only the peak hour Watford Junction services. It was agreed that Broad Street would be closed with the last remaining trains diverted to Liverpool Street once a new connecting chord was built from the North London Line. Until this was done, it was possible to accommodate this last service from the outer end of one platform, and therefore in November that year demolition of the station began. The remaining single platform was used until the last train left on 27 June 1986, when the station was formally closed on 30 June 1986 along with Dalston Junction, the other remaining station on the North London Line’s City branch. Demolition of the station was completed by the end of 1986. The services from Watford to Liverpool Street were slow and unpopular, and were withdrawn in 1992. (Primrose Hill station, the only station solely on the route from Watford to the City, was closed at the same time.)
Broad Street was replaced by the vast Broadgate office and shopping complex and nothing remains of the station. However, three giant girders which formerly supported a now-demolished part of the Kingsland Viaduct approaching Broad Street form a feature at the Broadgate entrance to Liverpool Street (at the corner of Eldon Street and Blomfield Street). Nonetheless, most of this viaduct, leading to the North London Line, remains largely intact, and has been restored to carry the London Overground along the old trackbed as far as Highbury & Islington. The former line over the Great Eastern Street viaduct to Broad Street has been utilised as a location for artists’ studios, housed in converted Jubilee line Underground trains
The Crossrail project, which is seeing a new underground railway line built through central London, will have one of its new stations at Liverpool Street. A new ticket hall serving the Crossrail station will be built within the old Underground ticket hall with its entrance at 100 Liverpool Street, the old entrance to the Underground that served Broad Street, with the platforms themselves under the Broadgate complex.
An often overlooked feature of the concourse was a 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) war memorial made of white marble, that was installed on 10 February 1921 and containing inscriptions of 64 names. The memorial commemorated the workers of the North London Railway company who lost their lives in ‘The Great War’. Upon closure the memorial was put in store at Richmond station in 1989. On 7 June 2011 it was rededicated outside Hoxton Overground Station by Rev James Westcott of St. Chad’s Church and London’s transport commissioner Peter Hendy. The Bishop of Stepney, Rt Rev Adrian Newman, Rev Graham Hunter, vicar of St John’s Hoxton, and various other local clergy as well as MP Meg Hillier were in attendance at the new Hoxton War Memorial’s inaugural Armistice Day service on 11 November 2011.