The London That Never Happened: Book Shows What Might Have Been

M@
By M@ Last edited 20 months ago

Last Updated 07 November 2022

The London That Never Happened: Book Shows What Might Have Been
A shiny glass tube station, looking like the hull of a ship
A design for a new Camden Town tube station from 2000. Image supplied by London Underground Ltd.

A new book looks at how London might have looked if various plans and schemes had come to fruition.

Just imagine...

A giant pyramid in Trafalgar Square.

An immense cartwheel aerodrome above the streets of King's Cross.

A monorail through the heart of the West End, decades before the Simpsons ruined the idea with that song.

Red monorail carriages travel along Regent Street.
A modern image showing how a 1960s monorail scheme would look today. Image Antony Badsey-Ellis.

All of these schemes were once proposed for London, but never saw light of day. In his new book The London That Never Happened, Antony Badsey-Ellis draws together the various plans that might have seen the city transformed.

A large heliport seen from above in a diagram
The Charing Cross heliport, suggested in 1951. Image from Capital History library.

It's a book that covers several centuries. We read about an early 19th century effort to mark Newton's old house by topping it with a giant globe reminiscent of an apple. A few decades later it was suggested that the Crystal Palace should be dismantled and reconfigured into a gleaming glass tower (a precursor of The Shard, though probably not possible with Victorian technology).

We're brought right up to date with a look at the doomed Garden Bridge and the partly-built Pinnacle Tower.

A great glass tower rising from a park surrounded by houses.
A modern image showing how a Crystal Palace tower might have looked. Image Antony Badsey-Ellis.

And it's not just buildings. The book also reviews abandoned schemes for road networks and train lines. It even includes a plan to divert the Thames via Peckham — a truly mad scheme which Londonist uncovered from the archives a few years ago.

A black and white plan showing how roads could be improved around St Paul's
A radical new road layout around St Paul's, including two possible sites for a new bridge. Image Capital History library.

Many of the images in the book will be familiar to those with an architectural interest — they often do the rounds on social media. But Badsey-Ellis has also woven in an impressive number of illustrations we hadn't previously seen before.

By his own admission, the author hasn't attempted to be comprehensive (which would be impossible), but has chosen a selection of failed schemes most likely to boggle. We're pleased to see he included, for example, the notorious "Green Bird", a dildo-shaped skyscraper once touted for the Battersea Power Station site.

A redeveloped Soho of concrete and tower blocks in a concept image
A modern image showing how Soho might have been bulldozed for a concrete mega-estate. Image Antony Badsey-Ellis

The result is a punchy, eclectic volume that will offer many surprises, even to those with a good grasp of London's non-existent buildings.

The London That Never Happened by Antony Badsey-Ellis, published by Capital History, ISBN 978 185414 469 0. Buy direct from the publisher or via your local bookshop.