Notes: The Eastern Counties Railway was incorporated in 1836 to link London with Ipswich via Colchester, and then extend to Norwich and Yarmouth. At that time this was the longest line sanctioned by a single Act of Parliament with a total length of 126 miles.
Construction began in late March 1837 on the first nine miles at the London end. John Braithwaite was the as engineer and the gauge was set at 5ft compared to the national standard of 4ft 8½ in. Progress east of Stratford was relatively easy as the land was largely arable. West of Stratford, the line had to cross the unstable Bow Marshes and after that the built-up nature of the area meant that the railway had to be built on expensive viaducts.
The double-track railway opened on 20 June 1839 from a temporary terminus at Devonshire Street in Mile End, as far as Romford in Essex. On 1 July 1840 the ECR opened an extension at the London end to its permanent terminus at Shoreditch (renamed Bishopsgate in 1846) and at the country end to Brentwood. Mile End was retained as an intermediate station although re-sited from the original terminus at Devonshire Street.
By 1840 it was clear that additional money would be required to complete the ECR line to Colchester. On 25 February 1843 a special inspection train left Shoreditch for Colchester. However, the train was stopped at Brentwood as a timber viaduct at Mountnessing had subsided and it was unsafe to continue. On 7 March 1843 goods trains started operation followed by the commencement of passenger services on 29 March 1843.
Robert Stephenson advised a change of gauge to the national standard of 4ft 8½in. Conversion of the line to this gauge was completed in two months from September to October 1844.
In about 1850 the ECR opened the Devonshire Street goods and coal depot immediately west of the Regents Canal. The main line was built on a viaduct at this point; the viaduct was widened on the south side and by the 1860s this carried eight sidings. These were constructed as coal drops with a coal depot being sited beneath the viaduct. A signal box was provided at the west end of the yard on the up side. A continuous pilot coaling stage was built on the embankment at the west end of the yard in 1888. It remained in use until c1957 when diesel shunters took over from steam.
By the 1870s an incline had been built reached from points trailing in the down direction at the east end of the yard and running down to ground level to serve the area on the north side of the main line. A conventional goods yard was established here with five sidings interconnected with wagon turntables at each end of the yard and in the centre. At the west end of the yard, a siding, connected by two wagon turntables ran north to a wharf alongside the Regents Canal to allow interchange between the ECR and canal boats. The road entrance to the goods yard was at the end of William Street.
In 1862 the ECR merged with a number of other companies to form the Great Eastern Railway. As the East End of London expanded two new stations between Shoreditch and Stratford were opened: Old Ford (later renamed Coborn Road), opened on 1 February 1865 with Bethnal Green opening as a replacement for Mile End on 24 May 1872 to coincide with the opening of the Stoke Newington line. Two years later, the main line was extended a short distance from Bishopsgate to Liverpool Street on 2 February 1874.
In 1879 the GER was planning to quadruple the line between James Street and Bow Junction by widening the viaduct on the north side. On 17 July 1883 the contract for this work was approved at a cost of £31,585; it was awarded to Perry and Co who stated that they would complete within 23 weeks. As part of this work, a further intermediate station between Old Ford and Bethnal Green was authorised by the GER. The station, which was originally to be known as Devonshire Street, would be provided with platforms on the slow lines as at nearby Coborn Road and would have an entrance at both ends.
On 28 June 1884 the new station was inspected by Major C S Hutchinson on behalf of the Board of Trade. In his report, he described it as having ‘a very elaborate character’. On 29 June, the quadrupled line was brought into use and on 1 July 1884 Globe Road & Devonshire Street station was opened; it was 1 mile 54 chains east from Liverpool Street and close to the site of the former Devonshire Street terminus which had closed in 1840.
As part of the quadrupling retaining walls were built to contain the incline down to the ground level part of Devonshire Street goods yard and the new lines were carried over the foot of the incline on a girder bridge. The incline was rebuilt to the west of its original position. Further sidings and sheds were also added at ground level.
Globe Road & Devonshire Street station was provided with two facing platforms with a slight stagger and generous canopies stretched almost the full length of the platforms, built to a style that had been popular with the GER since the 1870s. The structure consisted of a series of ridges and furrows, and the deep, serrated valance mirrored the ridges and furrows with a series of curves which produced a lively and attractive appearance. The canopies were supported by a brick wall topped with terracotta coping to the rear and cast iron columns and spandrels on the platforms.
The Globe Road entrance was on the south side of the road bridge and comprised a pair of cast-iron gates hung from substantial brick pillars; to the west of the gate there were iron railings and a third pillar. Above the gates was a curved cast-iron sign showing the station name in raised lettering; a globular gas lamp was mounted above the sign.
Beyond the gates, the booking hall was located in the first arch which was rendered with Portland cement, and a glazed frontage and a small canopy provided protection from the weather. Once again the station name appeared this time in gilt wood block lettering across the full width of the arch and above it ‘Great Eastern Railway’ in recessed cement letters. The two stairways leading up to the platforms were roofed with panes of rolled ribbed glass.
At track level there was a generous range of facilities on both platforms. The buildings were of timber construction. The up platform had three buildings in which the facilities were, from west to east: gents’ toilet, general waiting room, first/second class waiting room, drinking fountain, bench seat, first class ladies’ room, second class ladies’ room then the stairs down to the Devonshire Street entrance. Beyond the stairs was a third range of buildings which comprised the stationmaster’s office, porters’ room, lamp room, store and another gents’ toilet.
The down platform had two buildings comprising the following facilities from west to east: gents’ toilet, general waiting room, first class waiting room, drinking fountain, bench seat, second class ladies’ room, first class ladies’ room, unknown room and stairs down to the Devonshire Street entrance.
The Devonshire Street entrance was similar to that at Globe Road with the booking hall located in the second arch west of the Morpeth Street bridge. The entrance was also protected by a small canopy and approached through two pairs of gates on the north side of Devonshire Street, diagonally opposite the Carlton public house. An additional entrance gateway, similar to that at Globe Road, was provided on the west side of Morpeth Street on the north side of the line. From here a path ran under the viaduct to the Devonshire Street booking office.
The station was provided with two signal boxes. Grove Road Junction box was sited above the tracks towards the London end of the station in a similar position to the box at Coborn Road. The box was fitted with a McKenzie & Holland frame and Major Hutchinson’s report recorded that it had twenty levers of which four were spare. To the east of the station there have been four Devonshire Street boxes. The first which opened with the yard was just a block hut. The second 10 lever box was moved c1876. It was renewed again in 1877 and again on 29.6.1884 when the line was quarrupled. This new box was built on infill to the east of the up platform between the new viaduct and the original line and was also fitted with a McKenzie & Holland frame with 21 working levers and nine spare. It was enlarged to 33 levers by 1921 and renamed Devonshire Street West in 1929. The box closed 5.9.1948.
There was also a box at the east end of the yard. Canal Box was moved in 1877; at this time it had 13 levers. It was replaced with a 26 lever box as part of the quadrupling immedialy west of the original site on 29.6.1884. It was enlarged to 32 levers in 1927 and renamed Devonshire Street East in 1929. It closed 6.2.1949.
The East London Observer, reported the opening of the station on 5 July 1884. "The station is entered from either Globe-road or Devonshire-street. It is a double station, having a spacious booking office at Devonshire-street and Globe-road respectively. The platforms are approached from the booking offices on street level, by staircases 9 feet in width, constructed of 'Hedges patent wood treads'.
The platforms are 600 feet in length, by an average width of 25 feet, and are covered from end to end by a light ornamental glass, iron and zinc roof. The platforms are paved with 'Victoria Stone' throughout. This material is well-known, but these platforms will serve as an excellent specimen of the pavement. On each platform are well arranged ladies and gentlemen's waiting-rooms for each class of passenger. A drinking fountain for the use of the passengers is placed on each platform. Offices for staff are provided, the platforms are well lighted throughout, and every improvement and modern requirement for a London suburban station, has been carefully studied and provided.
The works have been carried out by Messrs. Perry & Co. contractors, Bow, Messrs. Lead & Co. of Stratford carrying out the gas lighting arrangements. All the works have been designed and executed by the company's engineer-in-chief and staff. There is a very frequent service of trains to Liverpool-street and Stratford, about 80 trains calling at the station on week-days. The journey to Liverpool-street is done in seven or eight minutes, and the return fares are 6d first class, 5d second class, and 4d third class."
This was a significant suburban station for east London and if we assume services were running between 04:00 and midnight, then 80 trains a day is 2 trains an hour to Liverpool Street and the same to Stratford.
In the same newspaper, the results for the first half of 1884 of the North Metropolitan Tramway Company were reported. The area covered by the company included the trams not far from Globe Street and Devonshire Road station. The company had carried 17,428,145 passengers during the half year, however there was an outstanding issue of fares for short journeys and the report in the paper ended with a reference to the new station "We would remind the directors that the subject of penny fares for short distances is a matter worthy of consideration, especially in view of the opening of the new station by the Great Eastern Railway Company at Devonshire-street, Mile End".
At some time the Devonshire Street goods yard was expanded at ground level on the south side of the viaduct. It was entered initially via a wagon turntable giving access to a line that passed through one of the viaduct arches. This was soon replaced by a sharply curving line which passed under the viaduct towards the east end of the yard with a second line passing round the end of the viaduct alongside the Regents Canal. A short elevated line also ran off the end of the viaduct passing over one of the lines running under the viaduct before running south along the canal bank. This served chutes for loading coal directly onto canal boats. Another line ran diagonally under the centre of the viaduct to serve the coal depot that was located beneath the viaduct.
On 20 March 1894, the GER’s Way & Works Committee agreed to the closure of Globe Road Junction signal box with its duties being transferred to the Devonshire Street box. Although the changes would cost the company £235 to implement, the closure of the box would lead to an annual saving of £230 in wages.
Little of any consequence happened at the station other than general maintenance. A contract for £649 was awarded to J Holliday on 4 October 1898 for repairs and repainting. Another contract for £376 was awarded to Osborn on 3 April 1913 for station repairs and painting.
In its early days, the station was well used but this was to be short-lived as other forms of transport began to erode passenger numbers in the early years of the twentieth century. The station’s importance began to decline with the opening of Stepney East station at the junction of Whitechapel and Globe Road in 1902 following the opening of the Whitechapel & Bow Railway. The two-mile-long line opened in linked the Metropolitan District Railway at Whitechapel with the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway at Bow. Traffic was further eroded when the line was electrified in 1905 bringing a fast and convenient route into Central London
In 1908 the first electric trams ran along the Mile End Road. They were not an immediate success as they initially used an experimental and unreliable stud contact system, but once this had been replaced two regular service (routes 61 and 63) between Aldgate and Stratford and beyond started.
The final extension to the goods depot took place just before WW1 when further land on the south side of the viaduct was acquired to provide space for five long sidings served by car roads. Road access to the enlarged yard was from Mile End Road just west of the Globe bridge over the Regents Canal with a secondary entrance at the end of Longnor Road. The yard on the south side handled coal and rough goods such as bricks and other building materials.
The original yard to the north of the viaduct handled general merchandise, perishable goods and traffic to and from the Regents Canal. Heavy machinery could be lifted by means of a 30-ton capacity steam crane, a capacity unrivalled by a fixed crane elsewhere on the GER system. Engines and vans on wheels could also be handled and the depot had the distinction of being the only one in the London area at which fish for manure purposes would be accepted. The yard was worked by small GER Class B77 (LNER classification Y4) 0-4-0T locomotives. These powerful, for an 0-4-0, but somewhat lumbering locomotives warrant further explanation. The first example, No.227, appeared in 1913 with the remaining four of the total of five appearing between 1914 and 1921. These were Nos.210 and 226/8/9 with No.210 actually being the final example despite its lower number. Of these, Nos.226/8 were built with cut-down cabs, domes and chimneys. The original No.227 was classified B74 by the GER with the two 'cut downs' being classified B77. Nos.210/29 were modified to cut down form retrospectively. Sources vary regarding whether No.227 was also similarly modified, although photographs survive showing her in LNER days still in original form. Either way, the entire class of five was lumped together as Class Y4 by the LNER and this was perpetuated by British Railways. At Devonshire Street the Y4s are believed to have replaced the Neilson 'Coffee Pot' 0-4-0STs; GER 209 class, LNER Class Y5.
The need for cut-down locomotives at Devonshire Street was reduced headroom beneath a bridge carrying the main line over the tracks linking the north and south side goods sidings. However, whether this problem existed with just one bridge or all them remains unclear. Also unclear is whether the reduced headroom limited the ground level sidings on the south side to flat and open wagons and this question cannot be answered without knowing how many bridges were affected. One of the Y4s, No.210, was to enter departmental service at Stratford Works. At nationalisation she became British Railways No.68129 and in 1952 became Departmental No.33. She was destined to become the final survivor of the class, the rest having gone between 1955 and 1957, finally bowing out in December 1963. She was also among the final surviving British Railways locomotives to have dumb buffers. Shunting at Devonshire Street, by then known as Mile End Yard, was taken over by examples from the motley collection of diesel shunters on Stratford's books. Photographs of locomotives, steam or diesel, at Devonshire Street/Mile End have proved frustratingly elusive but one of the diesel shunters known to have worked at the location was the Brush 0-4-0 D2999. Others likely to have made appearances are Rustons D2957/8 and Barclays D2953-6; all of these would have been able to negotiate the low bridge(s) and sharp curves found in the yard. Click here to see a photo of a Class Y4.
In 1910 local services between Liverpool Street and lines serving Barking, Chelmsford, Hertford, Ongar and Woolwich called at Globe Road. With the rapid decline in passenger numbers, Globe Road & Devonshire Street was closed as an economy measure during WW1 due to a shortage of staff with many railway workers leaving to serve at the Front. This closure affected a number of inner London stations. Great Eastern Railway records state that the closure was to occur on 1 May 1916 but following some local opposition to the closure, on 29 April a postponement to 22 May was announced. Other East End stations scheduled for closure were Bethnal Green, Coborn Road, Cambridge Heath, London Fields, Leman Street, Shadwell and Bishopsgate Low Level. On 12 May a reprieve was granted for Bethnal Green.
Sir Walter Preston, the MP for the Mile End constituency at the time, asked Sir Eric Campbell-Geddes, the Minister of Transport, if the Railway Executive Committee would consider reopening the station as the closure was causing local people great hardship. While some of the stations that had been closed were reopened after the war, Globe Road & Devonshire Street was not.
The GER renamed the goods depot Mile End & Devonshire Street on 1 September 1922 and the LNER shortened the name to Mile End in 1938. Globe Road & Devonshire station remained largely intact until the spring of 1938 when the platforms and buildings were demolished leaving little evidence that the station had ever existed.
The area around Globe Road and Devonshire Street came through WW2 largely unscathed but the immediate surroundings did not, and railway staff reputedly had to jump into the adjacent canal to avoid fire on one occasion. Damage by conventional HE (High Explosive) bombs and incendiaries was too vast to be detailed here but worthy of mention are attacks by V1 Flying Bombs in the immediate vicinity of the goods yard. There were three such attacks. One V1 decided to dive very close to the south side goods viaduct and destroyed a house on the corner of Bradwell Street and what was then Buckeridge Street (now part of Moody Street) and damaged others to extents varying from serious to minor. Part of the goods viaduct was also damaged but quickly repaired. Another V1 came down on the corner of Bancroft Road and Moody Street destroying at least one house, severely damaging others and causing damage to the Jews' Burial Ground (not to be confused with the nearby Jewish Cemetery). A third V1 came down on the south side of Mile End Hospital, very close to the Jewish Cemetery and the railway sidings on the site of what is now Queen Mary University. Conventional bombings and V1 attacks were horrific enough but fortunately the immediate environs of the Devonshire Street goods yard were to escape attacks by V2 rockets. The first V1 attack on London occurred further east adjacent to Grove Road bridge and not at Globe Road. A blue plaque is fixed to Grove Road bridge and it is not unknown for 'blue plaque tourists' to confuse the locations and erroneously look for a blue plaque at Globe Road
The Mile End goods yard remained operational until 6 November 1967. After closure of the yard at viaduct level, sand and ballast traffic from the Southminster line continued to be handled using the former coal drops. Mile End Sidings, as they were then known, remained in use for sand traffic until the 1980s. A single siding remained, parallel to the main line, used for stabling of on-track plant but this has now been lifted.
The cast-iron name sign above the station entrance gates was removed at the end of 1964 but the gates and brick pillars still survive. At the Devonshire Street entrance ‘Great Eastern Railway’ could still be seen in the cement panel above the entrance arch until the 1970s but this has now disappeared. The entrance gates in Devonshire Street (now Bancroft Road) have gone but on the north side of line the two brick gate pillars were still standing in the 1990s; today only one of them remains.
The south side of the viaduct on the north side of Bancroft Road which includes both entrances arches for Globe Road and Devonshire Street station was Grade II listed by English Heritage on 4 September 2007. The viaduct was built by John Braithwaite, engineer, for the Eastern Counties Railway and comprises a row of ten elliptical arches. The viaduct is among the earliest, and longest, examples of a first-generation railway structure to survive in London. A further section of the viaduct between Globe Road bridge and Cambridge Heath Road was separately Grade II listed at the same time.
An interesting account of an excursion from Globe Road was sent to me today. It was published in East London Observer on the 27 August 1887: "A Mile End Excursion. It was one of the jolliest and most pleasant excursions in which we have ever taken part that started off from Globe-road station, in the very early hours of Tuesday morning. There was nothing stiff and starched about either the excursion or the excursionists - it and they were as delightfully and pleasantly informal as the origin of the Association in whose aid it was held - the Mile End Old Town Victoria Park Hospital Association. It was then the annual excursion which had drawn so many Mile-enders together on the Globe-road Station on Tuesday morning. In point of numbers, the gathering could scarcely be said to equal those of previous years - a result due rather to the vacillation and delay experienced at the hands of a railway company with whom the Association had first attempted to arrange, than to any lack of energy and perseverance on the part of the officers of the Association.
But no regretful consideration such as that was allowed to weigh with the excursionists; they were out for a day's excursion to Harwich and Dovercourt, and like the thoroughly honest and hard working, genial Mile-enders as they were, they were determined to enjoy themselves to the uttermost. And everything on Tuesday seemed to favour that determination.
The day was one of the best and brightest with which the Metropolis has ever been favoured, and the round, red faced sun peered from behind the misty heat, and gave promise of even more charming weather in store. The special train too, hired for the conveyance of the excursionists, seemed to heartily enter into the spirit of the thing, and flew shrieking, past houses, villages, woods, fields and rivers, until, with a snort of satisfaction, it drew up at quiet, sleepy Dovercourt, with its breezy common, its golden sands, and its magnificent stretch of sea."
They spent the day enjoying everything that Dovercourt had to offer before returning to Globe Road Station on their special train, a journey of a couple of hours through the Essex countryside.
Tickets from JE Connor except 3733 Michael Stewart. Bradshaw Nick Catford
Click here for a rear cab view video Mile End - Liverpool made by Nick Belton in June 2017. The sites of Devonshire Street & Mile End goods yard, Devonshire Street station, Globe Road & Devonshire Street station, Mile End station and Bishopsgate Low Level station are all seen.
See Also: Mile End, Devonshire Street, Coborn Road (2nd) & Coborn Road (1st)