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March 2016
Dear Fellow Member, 

As I'm sure you know, March is Women's History Month and there has been plenty in the media the past 48 hours about London blue plaques with particular reference to the under-representation of women. Having been put on the spot recently live on air and been found wanting, I'm hopeless in these situations at the best of times. But it appears that one of my favourite London women of history - Lady Mary Montagu - lacks commemoration. It could be that there no longer exists an appropriate building, but I shall look into it: she's my nominee. Meantime, one of my favourites is the "ju-jitsu suffragette", Edith Garrud, even if it's a local authority one rather than the canonical Blue, 

Smallish on news and big on articles this month. And what an excellent pair of items, both by fellow members: Christian Wolmar tells us about London's railway terminuses; and Anne Samson writes about how the African theatre during World War One was run and supported from London.  

We enjoyed a super visit to the Charterhouse one evening a few weeks back where Paul Jagger gave a talk to ourselves and the brothers about ancient City institutions in the modern age with particular reference to livery companies. The Clerk there is keen to have us over for an exclusive behind the scenes visit later this year. And as for Paul, ever-efficient he has already delivered next month's newsletter article. It's all about the Hudson Bay Company, an old City stalwart. I'm sure our Canadian members in particular - and they are numerous - will enjoy that especially.

But, of course, before all that, we have the early Easter break. Do enjoy it, and if we don't cross paths meantime, see you on the other side. 

Thanks for your support and very best wishes,
London Historians Events

Visscher Redrawn, 8 March. A week today. Places still available but being picked up briskly. Over a glass of wine, LH member Robin Reynolds will tell us all about the project and explain why Visscher was "such a bastard"! Book your place here

Some additions. 

George Goodwin and the Benjamin Franklin House have kindly agreed a second date for George's talk on Benjamin Franklin in London: 28 April. But already there are only two places remaining. Snap them up here. 

NEW. Through the Stage Door. A behind the scenes tour of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, surely our most historic. That's on 28 March, Easter Monday. Info and booking here. 

Monthly pub meet. Tomorrow evening as always (or more likely tonight if you're reading this on Wednesday!), same place, Hoop and Grapes in Farringdon Street (not Road). Discounts if you are a CAMRA member.

Please see all our events plus selected others here. 
Members' News and Events

A warm welcome to these new London Historians Members: 
Clare Hoare, Carol Crook, Andrew Catto, Liz Simpson, Richard Arnopp, Dave Hughes, Mingzi Wan, Kathryn Elliott, and Olivia Corcoran. 

The Georgian Dining Academy - last shout! Organised by Miss B and Miss Kitty - A week on Thursday that's to say 10 March. As you know, LH Members get special pricing of £55 for £68 tickets. Please contact Tina Baxter to book your place. It'll be my 4th GDA! I hope you can join us. 
But if you can't do the full GDA this time, the two ladies are throwing a pre-dinner Punch Bowl to celebrate their imminent birthdays. Just £10, no fee, here

Angela Buckley will be sharing the dark story of Amelia Dyer, the notorious Victorian baby farmer, at the Whitechapel Society on Sat 2 April at 7.30 pm. Free for WS members and just £5 for guests. All welcome! More details here

Congratulations to Emma Darwin, whose new book Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction, is out on 10th March. "It's published by Teach Yourself/John Murray, and it's designed for people who love history and want to write fiction about it, as well as those who already write fiction and want make the move into this exciting and challenging genre. You can find out more, and download the first chapter for free, from my blog."

Fellow member, Blue Guide and City of London guide Mark King is offering 20% off these two walks during March. 
Apsley House, 5 March.
The Butterworth Charity and City of London ceremonies, Good Friday, 25 March.  

A reminder that our friends at Footprints of London (we have many members in common) offer us 15% off most of their walks when using the code LNDHIST15X5. There are many forthcoming walks to commemorate Women's History Month.

Please share your news, but please submit as you'd like to see it appear, with appropriate urls. Thanks.
3rd Party Events

Within and without the walls: Sources for the history of later medieval and early modern London.
Friday 22 April, 10:15 - 16:30 - conference at the London Metropolitan Archives.
AMARC’s Spring 2016 meeting will explore archival sources for the history of the city and beyond c. 1400-1600, including an opportunity to view some of the earliest documents held by London Metropolitan Archives and to see behind the scenes.
Speakers include: Ian Archer (Oxford), Caroline Barron (RHUL), Charlotte Berry (IHR), Vanessa Harding (Birkbeck) and Linne Mooney (York).
Registration (includes tea, coffee, lunch): £20 (AMARC members), £25 (non-members), £20 (students), £15 (student AMARC members).
Register here. 

Opera Premiere at the Charterhouse
On Thursday 5 May at 7.30pm the Charterhouse is host for one night of the Premiere series of “The Rose and the Ring”.  This is a concert performance of a new opera arranged by Sir Nicholas Jackson, based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s neglected masterpiece of the same name, with adaptation of music by Domenico Scarlatti.  Performed by Concertante of London, it features rising young opera stars and a narration by Nickolas Grace. The Charterhouse is thrilled to be able to host this special performance, particularly as Thackeray was a school boy at the Charterhouse and would have been familiar with the setting.  Indeed he wrote The Newcombes here at the Charterhouse.
We would be delighted if you would join us for this performance and we have been able to secure tickets for the price of £75, which includes a canape and wine reception during the evening. If you would like to purchase tickets, please send a cheque, made payable to “Carthusia Ltd”, to Dawn Woodford, PA to the Master, the Charterhouse, Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6AN.   Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope.  Dawn’s email is


Special Subscription Offer to History Today magazine. One year for £40. That's the lowest sub rate they have anywhere. Usual rate is £62.40 RRP. 

To take this up, please go to this special page. Open until 30 April. 

February Book Competition.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Crowley, who wins a signed copy of London Fog by Christine Corton. 

Thanks everyone for plentiful entries, 

March Book Competition 

A signed copy of Benjamin Franklin in London by LH Member George GoodwinOur review is here. It also featured as Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 recently. And refer back to last month's newsletter to read George's article in case you missed it. 

To enter the prize draw to win this book, simply send us an email with "Franklin" in the Subject line. That's it. 

Competition Rules

1) Closing date is 31 March 2016, midnight.
2) Members Only.

Good Luck!

At the End of the Line: London Terminuses  

by Christian Wolmar

London has a motley bunch of railway terminuses (I eschew the faux Latin termini) -  14 in all, more than any other city. They range from the grand and imperious such as St Pancras and Paddington to the barely noticeable like Cannon Street and Marylebone.  With the exception of Broad Street, once the capital’s third most used, the terminuses have survived through to the 21st century. 

St Pancras Station, woodcut, c1880. Kind permission of Martin Randall Travel. 

The reason for their proliferation in the Victorian era was the result of the way Britain’s railways were developed. Unlike in many other European countries, private companies decided on the route their tracks would take with no state interference. The promoters of a railway in the UK had to get a Bill passed through Parliament, showing that they had enough money to carry out the work and that their project was viable – not that the MPs always got that assessment right – but there was no government involvement. In contrast, on much of the Continent, the state set out the parameters, and sketched out the route, even if, for the most part, it was private companies that eventually carried out the work and ran the railways. 

As in so many ways, the United Kingdom was different. Hence, in what is the most striking example of the emphasis on competition rather than cooperation, there are two highly contrasting stations adjoining each other on the Euston Road: King’s Cross completed by the Great Northern in 1852 and St Pancras which opened 16 years later by the Midland Railway. The two companies had originally shared King’s Cross but as the tenant the Midland had become angered by its mistreatment at the hands of its landlord, who, not surprisingly, prioritised its own trains at the expense of its rivals. So it built a station that was taller, far more ornate given its neo Gothic style which contrasts so sharply with the Italianate clock tower of King’s Cross. Apparently deliberately, the St Pancras clock always gave a slightly different time from that of its rival next door.

In the same way, every train company that sought to tap into the lucrative London market needed a London base and as the network expanded, so did the number of terminuses in the capital. London Bridge, the terminus of the London & Greenwich Railway, a suburban railway completed in 1836 on an astonishing 878 arches, was the first. North of the river Euston, Paddington and Fenchurch Street all appeared by 1841. The stations were constructed on what was then the edge of London’s built up area but several putative railway companies, fuelled by the capital that became available during the Railway Mania of the 1840s, wanted to be more ambitious, sending tracks right into the heart of the capital. 

William Powell Frith's The Railway Station (1862) depicting the interior of Paddington Station. 

There was even a plan for one huge central station located in Farringdon, which would have served destinations on all the compass points.  It was the dream of Charles Pearson, a solicitor for the City of London whose main claim to fame is as the midwife to the Underground. He wanted to link the Underground to the railway network, bringing all the tracks into a central location. In that time-honoured British way, the idea led to the creation of a Commission in 1846 – the Royal Commission on Metropolis Railway Termini – to investigate where they should be built. The Commission made a fundamental error in its conclusion which accounts for the proliferation of terminuses and also still determines the travel pattern of Londoners today. Far from agreeing to the idea of a central terminus, the Commission ruled that no terminus should be built in the City or the West End, and instead, in a rare instance of intervention in the planning process, determined that the stations should be built on a ring outside the central area and linked by an Underground railway – what became the Circle Line (originally known as the Inner Circle) which was only completed nearly 40 years later, in 1884. The Commission argued that the upheaval caused by stations in the central area far outweighed the advantages that it would offer passengers, as it would merely help them forego relatively short journeys to what was then the outskirts of the town. 

The pattern of London stations therefore is not entirely haphazard and represents one of the few results of central planning on Britain’s railway network. Paddington, Marylebone, St Pancras and Euston are almost on a straight line and most of the others north of the river are on the Circle Line with the odd exception, notably Fenchurch Street which is a bit of a walk away from Tower Hill.

These early terminuses were mostly crude sheds, low rise brick buildings offering little more than a ticket office and a modicum of cover. Even platforms were not an initial requirement and passengers had to clamber up onto the trains. However, once the big companies emerged in the middle of the century, they were keen to show off their grandeur and importance by building stations that suited their own self-image; these structures, modified of course, have mostly survived to this day. 

The Commission’s rules were, in fact, breached as the railways became more powerful. Notably, Victoria station was built in what at the time was part of the West End, and several others, such as Blackfriars (originally called St Paul’s), Cannon Street and Charing Cross crept over the Thames that had supposedly been the northern limit of the railway companies serving the south. The unassuming Fenchurch Street was even built in the City, as were Liverpool Street and Broad Street. 

Nevertheless, for the most part, there remained – and remains, apart from the Tube and the soon to arrive Crossrail - a huge doughnut like space in the middle of London where no mainline railway lines penetrated. To the great inconvenience of cross-London passengers, there was only one set of tracks across town, the lines built by the Metropolitan Railway in the 1860s. Oddly, this precious asset was allowed to fall into disuse in the First World War (except for goods traffic) until reopened in 1976 on the initiative of the Greater London Council for what is now the extremely heavily used Thameslink.
The survival of the vast majority of the stations – a few such as Shoreditch, Nine Elms and Bricklayers’ Arms – were displaced by extensions in the 19th century, can be put down partly to the heavy use of railways in London, even in the period of decline in the postwar period, but also to the tenacity of campaigners to save them. The most famous battle took place over St Pancras which under British Rail was an underused station whose vast shed was decaying and darkened by decades of smoke and dust.  In the early 1960s, Richard Beeching, the head of British Railways, announced plans to divert all services away from St Pancras and demolish the building, which at the time was not listed. The hotel had closed before the war and the whole station had an air of decay and - given the paucity of passengers - abandonment.  The campaign, in which John Betjeman played a prominent part, managed not only to save the station but to get it listed as Grade 1. Kings Cross, too, had been threatened briefly and was also listed.

Marylebone, described as looking more like a country library than a London station, was also targeted for demolition as it was little used and the route of its principal mainline services, the Great Central, fell victim to Beeching’s axe. There was even a proposal, which amazingly was taken quite seriously by the Ministry of Transport at the time, to turn its railtracks into roads for express coaches until it was realised the tunnels would be a very tight squeeze. As with St Pancras, a coalition of campaigners and politicians staved off closure.

Broad Street was, therefore, the only London terminus to be closed in the 20th century.  As it was the terminus of the North London line, it had served mostly a suburban traffic, but in its heyday boasted services to Birmingham and several other cities. However, it was damaged in the war and never fully repaired, and services on the North London line were cut back in preparation for a closure that, fortunately, never happened. Broad Street, however, was not so lucky and the dilapidated state of the station together with the paucity of passengers sealed its fate. By 1986, the year of its closure, only one platform was in use. It was on a valuable site in the City and British Rail decided to cash in on it to help the redevelopment of neighbouring Liverpool Street. 

More controversial  was the destruction of Euston station and, famously, the Doric Arch that had been in front of it for more than a century. The problem for Euston, and in particular its wonderful Grand Hall which boasted a fabulous sweeping staircase, was that the platforms were too short and the only way of extending them was demolition. When services were electrified and greatly improved in the 1960s not only the station but the Doric Arch that stood in front of it were replaced by the current much derided glass structure which itself may well fall victim to HS2,  although there is great uncertainty about its fate. 

The imposing Euston arch which was swept away along with the old station in 1962.

There have, though, been considerable  refurbishment, a process that continues and has led to many improvements. The unattractive Liverpool Street, of which even its owners the Great Eastern were not proud,  was adapted in the late 1980s to great effect, creating a modern integrated station out of a haphazard collection of platforms which had been broken into two groups separated by a massive internal great wall. St Pancras, whose hotel lay empty for nearly 70 years, has become an international terminus linking four railway lines and neighbouring Kings Cross has been cleared of the horrible 1960s low rise shops at the front which marred its elegant but simple curves, and benefitted from the addition of a lattice work side extension that competes with the contrasting complexity of its neo-Gothic neighbour.

As for the future, the terminuses are likely to survive further into the 21st century, with many refurbishments and additions,  and in one respect Pearson’s dream will be realised with Farringdon becoming the hub of the British rail network when, in 2018, a revamped Thameslink line with trains to a wide variety of destinations will meet the newly built Crossrail. Pearson would have loved it!
Christian Wolmar is an award-winning writer and broadcaster specialising in transport as well as being the author of a series of books on railway history. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and railway events, and regularly appears on TV and radio. He is on Twitter as @christianwolmar. His web site is here. Christian is a founder member of London Historians.
If you enjoyed Christian's article, take a look at this outing from Martin Randall Travel

Great Railway Termini, 11 May 2016
  • A day spent looking at the Victorian architecture and engineering of Paddington, King's Cross and St Pancras stations with architectural historian Professor Gavin Stamp.
  • Special arrangements include visiting Queen Victoria's waiting room at Paddington station and the former granary train shed of King's Cross station.
More information. 

1916: London Meets Africa in World War One  

by Dr Anne Samson

2016 is the centenary of a pivotal year of the First World War. For the war in Africa, it was a turning point. On 18 February 1916, Cameroons fell into British and French control leaving only German East Africa to be taken. The other German colonies of Togoland and South West Africa had been removed from German control on 26 August 1914 and 9 July 1915 respectively. The war in East Africa, which had experienced a stalemate since November 1914, was to become an active theatre from 1916 with Britain taking the initiative. 

It was the year South Africans of all races arrived in Britain. Two boats, HMS Mimi and HMS Toutou – which had trialled on the Thames at Chiswick - took control of Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa. The battle of the Somme loomed large from July with the decimation of the South African Imperial Service Contingents at Delville Wood, wounded being treated at Richmond Park. And 1916 was the year in which it was decided that General Jan Smuts would no longer command in East Africa but travel to London to represent the country at the Imperial War meetings following David Lloyd George becoming Prime Minister. 

Discussions started in 1915 regarding what to do with South African troops who had completed their task of capturing German South West Africa from the Germans in July of that year. The options were Europe or East Africa. Smuts was keen for the forces to go to East Africa to help further South African sub-imperialist aims whilst Lord Kitchener preferred them going to Europe. Communications took place between the two countries by mail whilst in London the Cabinet met to discuss the issue. South Africans chose where to serve, some preferring Europe and others East Africa – mostly determined by their view of the British Empire and with whom they had served during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. The forces recruited in July went to Europe for training before being sent to Egypt in December to fight the Senussi. In March 1916 they returned to the Western Front in time to participate in the battle of the Somme. 

At the same time in November 1915, when the decision was being made to send the South African Expeditionary Force to Egypt, it was decided that South Africans would serve in East Africa. For this decision to be made, Lord Kitchener was sent out of London, to the Dardanelles, as it was known he was against increasing the action in Africa. The troops for East Africa left in December and fought their first battle in today’s Kenya on 12 February at Salaita Hill. Jan Smuts joined them as commander in chief, a week later, on 19 February 1916. His arrival led to the British allied forces becoming more active, pushing the Germans out of the British territory they occupied and south into their own colony. 

At the end of 1916, David Lloyd George became Prime Minister of Britain following a decision made on 3 December at the London Bryanston Square residence of Abe Bailey, a prominent South African mining magnate. Soon after becoming Prime Minister on 7 December 1916, Lloyd George invited all the Dominion leaders to London to discuss the future conduct of the war and what everyone wanted from the peace discussions. Smuts was tired of the campaign in East Africa, believing it was nearly over, and South African Prime Minister Louis Botha was not comfortable speaking in English in public. It was therefore agreed that Smuts would be better in London representing South Africa than staying in East Africa. He left in mid-January 1917 for South Africa and arrived in London during February. He did not return to South Africa until 1919. During his stay in London, where he was resident at the Savoy Hotel, he attended the British War Cabinet, was responsible for the defence of London and set the foundations for the formation of the Royal Air Force.

Botha and Smuts, photographed in 1917.

Whilst the initial approaches were being made to send troops to East Africa and Europe, two Thorneycroft boats were being tested on the Thames at Chiswick before being sent to Lake Tanganyika via Cape Town and Elizabethville in southern Belgian Congo. The decision to send the two boats, Mimi and Toutou, had been made following an idea put to the Admiralty by a hunter, JR Lee, to help the Belgians take control of Lake Tanganyika. This was agreed and in due course the expeditionary force under Commander GB Spicer-Simson was put together. The boats arrived on Lake Tanganyika in October 1915 and on Boxing Day of that year captured the German boat Kingani, renamed Fifi. On 9 August 1916, London received notice that that last German vessel on the lake, the von Gotzen, had been scuttled. With command of the lake in allied hands, the Belgians could send forces into German East Africa where they captured the regional capital Tabora in September 1916. Smuts’s desire for this territory triggered the British Foreign Office in London to find out what its allies wanted out of the war in Africa. By the time the Versailles discussions began, London had a clear idea what its allies and dominions wanted out of the war.

HMS Toutou, built by Thorneycrofts of Chiswick. 

London was the centre of the British Empire, so it is not surprising that most troops found their way through the capital. In early 1915, the Legion of Frontiersmen with their headquarters at 6 Adam Street, Adelphi WC recruited men for service in East Africa. They joined the 25th Royal Fusiliers and were in Africa by April 1915. Here they protected the Uganda Railway and launched an attack against Bukoba in June 1915. During another engagement, on 3 September 1915 at Maktau, the first Victoria Cross of the campaign was won by Lieutenant Wilbur Dartnell who insisted on remaining with his injured men knowing he would likely lose his life, which he did. In 2012, a photograph of Australian Dartnell was presented to the Union Jack Club near Waterloo Station to complete their display of Victoria Cross winners (I had the honour of being an invited guest).

Having seen the Fusiliers off to Africa in 1915, London then saw the arrival of South Africans as noted above. These were Imperial troops paid for by Britain to circumvent political repercussions in South Africa, but that did not stop the South Africans from keeping their identity. They set up camp and a hospital at Richmond Park. The hospital opened in June 1916 with 300 beds. In September a further 200 beds were added and by the end of the year a vocational training centre had been added to help men who could no longer serve in the army develop skills for the workplace. By the end of October 1918, the hospital had treated 274 officers and 9,142 other ranks of which 7,058 were members of the South African contingent. Three hundred and ninety-three men were trained at the vocational training college before the hospital closed in 1921 and was demolished in 1925. Today, a memorial is the only reminder of the hospital which once stood there.

South Africa memorial by Lutyens in Richmond Park. Photo: Robert Smith.

In addition to the medical care provided for South Africans, social care was provided through the South African club at 48 Grosvenor Square. Lady Phillips was instrumental in its running whilst other prominent South Africans and people linked with the country were involved in its management, including the first Governor General of South Africa, Viscount Gladstone. Many of the mining magnates spent part or all of the war in London, those of German origin although naturalised, suffering from the backlash unleased by the sinking of the Lusitania. This, however, did not stop them doing what they could to support Britain’s war effort, including releasing large numbers of employees to serve in the armed forces.

Finally, during the peace talks in Versailles, arrangements were made for the overseas troops to march through London on 3 May 1919. A total of 11,000 troops were involved, of which 500 were South African. The others were: 4,000 Canadians, 5,000 Australians, 1,000 New Zealanders and 500 Newfoundlanders. Rations for the Officers would be 2/- for lunch which included mineral water. Tea would be 8d. Beer extra. For the Men, Dinner would be 1/6 with beer, 1/4 with mineral water; and Tea, the same as for Officers, 8d. Representing South Africa would be Prime Minister Louis Botha and his wife and Minister for War, Jan Smuts (TNA: CO 616/82). Inspired by this article on London Historians blog and Professor David Killingray for drawing my attention to the worldwide aspects of ‘local history’

Lost hospitals of London.
Anne Samson, Mining Magnates and World War One.
Anne Samson, Britain, South Africa and the East Africa Campaign, 1914-1918: The Union comes of age. (IB Tauris, 2006)
Legion of Frontiersmen Historian, Battle of Bukoba. 
The Spectator, The Legion of Frontiersmen. 
Great War in Africa Association, The Lake Tanganyika Expedition 1914-1917: A primary source chronology. (forthcoming) (

The next Great War in Africa conference will be taking place at The National Archives, Kew on 3 and 4 May 2016. Details on The Lake Tanganyika Expedition 1914-1917: A primary source chronology will be available at the conference.
28 May is Meet the Authors day at St John’s URC Northwood, sponsored by TSL Publications ( The church in Hallowell Road was used as VAD Hospital during World War 1.
      Dr Anne Samson is the co-ordinator of the Great War in Africa Association. She has published widely on aspects of the Great War in East, Central and Southern Africa. ( She is a member of London Historians and is a director of TSL Publications which has published West London authors.
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