Home | Membership | News | Diary | Walks | Calvocoressi Fund | Books | Journals | Links | Database | e-papers | About us

London & Greenwich train trail

In 1986 GLIAS produced this walks leaflet, compiled by David Thomas, Ruth Tuckey and Youla Yates.

We have reproduced it here for historical interest. Links to entries in the GLIAS Database are given.

The London and Greenwich Railway was the capital's first passenger line. The whole length of some four miles is on a viaduct. This gives a good, although brief view of the area through which it passes — the whole journey takes only seven minutes.

This trail points out buildings which can be separately identified with a short history of each. They are mainly industrial. Several were located along the Thames and waterways off it, to make use of these for transport. Three buildings are specifically related to the once important tanning industry of Bermondsey where tidal ditches were used to dispose of the noxious effluent.

Travel forward facing on the left-hand side in each direction.


The idea of a railway between London and Greenwich was proposed in 1831 — one year after the Liverpool and Manchester Railway had been opened — with Parliamentary powers granted in 1833. The line was opened in stages; from London Bridge to Deptford in 1836 and on to Greenwich in 1838. The viaduct of 878 arches required 60 million bricks.

An early attempt to utilise the arches for housing, pioneering domestic gas, was a failure due to unacceptable noise and water seepage. Subsequent commercial use has, however, been successful.

Plans for the line to form part of a main route to Dover did not materialise, and it was not extended eastwards until 1878.

Other railways joined the L&G route into London — from Croydon in 1839, from Gravesend in 1849 and the South London line in 1866. To accommodate the traffic the viaduct was widened to take a total of eleven tracks as far as Corbetts Lane Junction (1842, 1849, 1849/50, 1866 and 1896-1904), with six onwards to North Kent East Junction. The remaining portion to Greenwich remains double track.

The L&G was taken over by the South Eastern Railway in 1845, which in turn amalgamated with the London, Chatham & Dover Railway in 1899. The Southern Railway, formed in 1923, soon implemented plans to electrify south-east London suburban lines, electric trains serving Greenwich from 1926.

In 1864-6 an extension west from London Bridge was built to Cannon Street and Charing Cross, thus serving a far greater area of central London than previously.

Route map


Chamberlain's and Hay's Wharves Between London Bridge station and the Thames are several former warehouses which were incorporated in a major redevelopment in 1984-6. Chamberlain's was built in the mid 1860s. In its early days it was associated with potato imports. It became a private hospital in 1986. The adjacent Hay's Wharf warehouse (GTL00085), rebuilt after a major fire in 1861, with later additions, dealt with a variety of goods, including lard, tea and spirits. The wharves closed to waterborne traffic due to changes in cargo handling and shipping technology.

Chamberlain's Wharf Hay's Wharf

Inter-war and post-war riverside warehouses with HMS Belfast moored alongside.

HMS Belfast

Devon Mansions Six- and seven-storey flats, originally called Hanover Mansions, built as a philanthropic venture in about 1888 to house wharf workers and their families.

Tower Bridge (GTL00001) Opened 1894, with a lifting section for passage of sailing and steam vessels then using the Upper Pool. Machinery to lift the bascules was originally powered by water, pumped under pressure by steam engines. These remain, as part of a museum, under the arches of the southern approach road. The bridge's stone finish hides a steel framework.

Tower Bridge

St Saviour's Dock (GTL00066) A roofline glimpse of warehouses and mills on both sides of a navigable creek. Several are now converted to luxury flats. The tall concrete block contains silos for Vogan's split pea and lentil mill (GTL01541).

St Saviour's Dock

Neckinger Mills (GTL00323) Abbey Street. Four-storey yellow brick building, formerly the offices and showrooms for Bevingtons & Sons' adjacent tannery, itself on the site of earlier mills. Although Bevingtons moved the tanning processes to Deptford in 1936, they retain part as offices.

St James' Church Built 1827-9 to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Waterloo.

Spa Road station (GTL00061) 1867 (rebuilt) - 1915. Parts of the platforms remain between the tracks.

Spa Road station Spa Road station

Peek, Frean & Co. (GTL00811) Peeks, from 1982 part of Nabisco, have baked here since 1866. Parts have been rebuilt over the years, particularly in the 1890s, to allow widening of the viaduct. The oldest building visible from the railway, a five-storey block to the east dates from this time. Further major rebuilding was undertaken in the 1970s. Peeks introduced several biscuits to Britain, including Garibaldi (1861), Marie (1895) and Bourbon (1910).

St Olave's Hospital Beyond post-war flats are two tall brick chimneys. That illustrated was erected for the boiler house of the hospital (1870s); the more distant one, straight-sided, is at the London Hydraulic Power Company's Rotherhithe pumping station (1902) (GTL00307). The site has since been redeveloped as a residential street known as Ann Moss Way

St Olave's Hospital boiler house

Southwark Park station 1902-1915. The viaduct widens to encompass long-removed platforms.

Site of railway Trackbed of a line between the South London and East London lines, closed in 1963. Reopened as London Overground

East London Line Opened 1869. Double track electrified line used by London Underground. It is crossed by a brick bridge (illustrated) which carried the London & Croydon Railway's Deptford Wharf branch. Now London Overground

East London Line

Site of Grand Surrey Canal (GTL00130) The former route of the Canal (1807-1971) is occupied by a 1970s trading estate. Several important chemical and engineering firms once lined the banks.

Workshops (GTL00374) By the railway is a long range of buildings dating from 1901 to 1928. They housed some of the departments of J Stone, a firm internationally known in the fields of mechanical, electrical and hydraulic engineering. It was established in Deptford in 1831, producing copper nails for wooden ships. Later used by Donovan Bros, paper bag manufacturers.

St Paul's Church Constructed between 1714 and 1730. English Renaissance style.

Deptford Power Station The present (1940s) and previous power stations on the site were built alongside the Thames to receive coal by sea and to use river water for cooling purposes. Now disused. The south wall, facing the railway, incorporates the remaining portion of the world's first high pressure electricity generating station, built by Ferranti for the London Electricity Supply Corporation in 1889. Cables from it ran into London along the L&G viaduct. Since demolished

Deptford Creek (GTL00632) The railway bridge, rebuilt in 1963, is designed to lift to allow headroom for shipping serving wharves on the Creek. No longer operational, tracks welded

Deptford Creek, March 1981, RJM Carr

National Enamels A single-storey building near the end of the platform is the former factory of National Enamels. This company, set up in 1929 by the South Metropolitan Gas Company, produced enamel for cooker linings and gas appliances. Production ceased in 1960. Since 1963 occupied by Vickery's Ltd, engineers.

Greenwich station (GTL00243) This dates from 1878 when the through line to Dartford was opened, making redundant the former terminus.

Greenwich station


Lovibond's Brewery (GTL01012) (Illustrated). 1865, with later additions and some war damage repair. Designed, as were many breweries, on the 'tower' principle; ingredients were taken up to the top of the structure and then fell by gravity through the stages of brewing.

Lovibond's Brewery

Sewage Pumping Station (GTL00123) Alongside the bridge over Deptford Creek is a brick building of 1864, part of a major public works programme for London. Here pumps, once steam, now electric, send sewage from a large area of South London onwards to Thames-side treatment works at Crossness (GTL00113). Coal for the boilers was stored in the open-sided shelters which remain on the former wharf.

Mumford's Mill silo (GTL00174) At the head of the Creek is a brick-faced, windowless, silo which served the now-demolished adjacent Mumford's flour mill, 1897. Later work by the architect Aston Webb includes Admiralty Arch.

Chimney Across open land, once used for Deptford Fair, is a free-standing brick chimney. Its history is unknown, but it has been here since before 1890.

Deptford station (GTL00197) 1836, altered 1842 and 1876, partly rebuilt in 1904 and again in 1927.

Arklow Road (GTL00374) 1920s office block for J Stone, engineers. 28 Arklow Road currently derelict

North East Kent Junction Line to Blackheath and Gravesend, opened 1849.

The 'Elizabeth' site The square tower in the distance was part of the Mazawattee Tea Company's factory. The complex extended from the tower to the canal side. For 50 years, from the early 1900s, they prepared and packaged tea, coffee and chocolates. The site is now the Elizabeth Industrial Estate.

Site of Grand Surrey Canal (GTL00130) 1807-1971. The width of the railway formation obscures a view of the road which now occupies the Canal site.

Gas holders (GTL00069) In the distance is a cluster of four gas holders erected between 1867 and 1881 (largest). They mark the site of the South Metropolitan Gas Light and Coke Company's works, situated alongside the Grand Surrey Canal for supply of coal and removal of tars and waste. Production ceased in 1953. One listed gasholder remains

Gas holders

Parallel railway viaduct In about 1900 the capacity of the line was increased by adding further tracks to the south. These needed a separate viaduct for some distance to avoid the existing branch to Bricklayers' Arms goods depot and engine sheds. That line opened in 1849 and closed to all traffic in 1984.

Corbetts Lane Junction London & Croydon Railway, 1839. Further lines link this to the South London line (1866).

Warehouse Close to the viaduct is an early 20th-century warehouse, remnant of a tanning and manufacturing works which produced Lapland Rugs from 1855-1919.

Salvation Army Men's Hostel (GTL01537) Spa Road. Built c1912 to provide accommodation for single men at reasonable cost in clean and comfortable conditions. It was utilised by the Government during the First World War and not reopened as a hostel until 1925. The boiler house chimney is alongside the associated depot for collecting and sorting salvage. Furniture sales are still held. Demolished 2003

Food factory A black chimney rises from a factory built by Lipton's in about 1928 to produce sausages. Partly rebuilt, the site is now part of Trust House Forte.

Leatherseller's College Tower Bridge Road. Opened in 1909 with educational and laboratory facilities. Now in other use. Now General Osteopathic Council, 176 Tower Bridge Road

Vinegar Works (GTL00481) Vinegar-making at this site can be traced back to the 1840s, when the land of the previous works was required to widen the viaduct. Although the trading name, Sarson's, is retained, the owners are Nestlés. Vinegar-brewing is similar in process to that for beer, except the alcohol is 'soured'. The square-shaped brewhouse is amid the line of buildings along the west side of the complex.

Vinegar Yard Warehouse Behind the signal box (1978) is a four-storey warehouse erected in the early 1870s, one of many in the area, to store hops from Kent. The Hop Exchange still stands in Southwark Street (GTL00486).

Vinegar Yard Warehouse hop and malt exchange

London Bridge station (GTL00008) Enlarged several times since the original L&G terminus of 1838. Greenwich line trains use platforms 1-6, on the extension to Cannon Street and Charing Cross, opened 1866. At a lower level, platforms 9-16 are covered by an overall roof; this part was the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway's station, rebuilt in 1866.

London Bridge Station

© GLIAS, 2022