Monthly Archives: January, 2016

The Little Station That Could

When one thinks of stations on the tube network, it is the busiest ones that come to mind first: Victoria, Waterloo, King’s Cross, Paddington, London Bridge, Liverpool Street. We know all of these, and more. We’ve probably used them. But there’s one station that I’m almost certain that you’ve never stopped at. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Roding Valley, the least used station on the entire network.

Found on the Hainault loop of the Central line, the tiny station boasts around 260,000 passengers a year, compared to Waterloo that has 90,000,000 a year. This is mostly due to its location and tiny catchment area, meaning only 700 or so people use it each day. To compare this further, roughly the same number of people pass through Roding Valley in a day than do Victoria in ninety seconds.

The tracks were laid in 1903, but the station wasn’t actually opened until 1936 by the London & North Eastern Railway. Since 2006, it it one of the few stations that is permanently unstaffed and one of twelve stations to have no ticket barriers.

This is a terribly short post this week because there’s so little to say about the station, but I wanted to include it simply because it’s remarkable that it is still there at all. It’s not architecturally special, there’s nothing particularly important nearby that you’d need to use it for, but it must be nice knowing you’re one of the few people who use it regularly.

Long may Roding Valley keep up its vigil and show that the tube network works just as well out on the fringes as it does in the city centre.

Where It All Began

Hello! I’m back! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year, and are ready for the next year of London exploration. To kick the year off, we’re going right back to the city’s founding.

The old city (link: http://is.gd/xBboQP)

Londinium, the Roman forerunner to London, was built around 43 AD, meaning that the city is just shy of two thousand years old. But even before this, during the Iron Age, there were settlements up and down the river. Because the English Channel wasn’t fully formed until about 5000 BC, finally cutting Britain off from the mainland, people have travelled freely until that point, and now the British were all but trapped. Despite suggestions to the contrary, it was not Julius Caesar who invaded Britain and founded London. In fact, he didn’t even want the country, being too occupied with taking over France. However, he did visit a couple of times, back in 55 and 54 BC, and it would take almost a hundred years more before the country was finally invaded under instruction of Claudius, with Aulus Plautius leading the army, and Claudius himself later turning up with elephants to help the fight.

The Romans then set about building roads, as they always did, and had to decide where to build their main city. Three major rivers were considered – the Thames, the Severn and the Trent – but the Thames was eventually chosen due to its tidal nature, and because it was the closest to Europe of the three. History would be very different indeed had they picked another river. At the time, the Thames was much shallower and wider, surrounded by marshland framed by two hills, named Ludgate and Cornhill. It was so wide that the crossing that is now London Bridge was once over half a mile across; five times the current width. It’s also interesting to note that because landscapes change so dramatically once humans get involved, that while the river was also a different shape, the Roman streets and buildings would have been around twenty feet below today’s street level.

In around 50 AD, the first settlements had been established for trading purposes, but it would all come to an end just ten years later when the Iceni tribe, led by the fearsome Boudica revolted against the Roman invaders. Angry at the way she had been treated when her husband had died – the Romans had backed out on a deal regarding land, and abused her daughters – she took matters into her own hands and razed the city to the ground. The fire was so disastrous that the entire settlement was burnt and it left a thick layer of burnt clay that was found in later excavations.

So, back to square one. With Boudica soon killed, Julius Alpinus Classicianus stepped in as governor, deciding not to take revenge on the people, but to work up a system of integration. By 70 AD, the first forum had been established, and was soon followed by bath houses and a palace of the governor, which sat below what is now Cannon Street Station. With a fort built in 120 AD, work soon began on a wall to surround the town, a wall that roughly adheres to the boundary of the City of London. The walls were nine feet thick and added to over the centuries, the East wall having been developed in the fourth century in something of a hurry, as it contained tombstones and other items in the construction mix.

The Romans eventually departed from Londinium in 410 AD, deserting the city and leaving it to the elements. Maybe in another timeline that was the end of the city, but thankfully, in this one, it was only the beginning…