8 Secrets Of Cannon Street Station

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 77 months ago
8 Secrets Of Cannon Street Station

Cannon Street station: where do cannons come into it? Read on to find out this, and other train station trivia.

Photo: Matt Brown

1. Where do cannons come into it?

In short, they don't. Cannon Street has nothing to do with religious canons, nor cannons of the weapon type. It's a 17th century shortening of Candelwrichstrete — the street of candle makers, as first noted in 1190. The origins are still hinted at today; Cannon Street falls within the Ward of Candlewick, one of 25 ancient subdivisions of the City of London. Find out how London's other terminal stations got their names.

2. The missing platform

Unlike most railway stations, which have expanded since they were first built, Cannon Street actually has one less platform than it started with. The eighth platform was removed during refurbishment work in the 1990s leaving the other seven, which remain today. Something to ponder next time you're stuck on a train outside the station, waiting for a platform to become free.

3. Saving the roof

Image: Public domain

The station used to have a magnificent arched glass roof, as shown in the postcard above, dating from around 1910. So magnificent, in fact, that it was removed during the second world war and sent to a factory, where it was stored to protect it from bomb damage. The station itself was hit and damaged. Unfortunately, so was the factory where the roof was being stored.

4. There were plans to build a helipad on top

This could have been a helipad. Instead it's a private rooftop garden. Photo: Doug

The idea to put a helicopter landing pad on the roof of Cannon Street station arose in the 1960s, when other sites including St Katharine Docks and Nine Elms were also considered. Apparently there was need for a heliport within 15 minutes drive of central London. However, it was thought that the noise from a heliport would disrupt City offices, as well as services in nearby St Paul's and Southwark Cathedrals, plus there were issues of ownership of Cannon Street and nearby buildings.  

In the 1990s, the idea was debated again in Parliament, but objections were again made due to the noise

Cannon Street is not the only London station that nearly got a heliport — check out plans for the London Helidrome at Charing Cross.

5. The towers are all that remain of the original station

Photo: Stuart Sunley

From the street, the railway station is barely noticeable, its frontage blending in with the surrounding shops and office blocks. But the river view is a different matter. Not only are the twin brick towers Grade II listed, they are the only part of the original station which still remains today, having been part of the 1866 station design by Sir John Hawkshaw and JW Barry.

It has been suggested that during a restoration of the towers in 1986, "the works revealed that the east tower still contained a large water tank which was used during the days of steam traction to replenish locomotives and to power the station hydraulic systems". While we know that the restoration took place, we have been unable to find further evidence of the water tank's existence.

6. It's a bit accident-prone

For such a small station, Cannon Street's had more than its fair share of accidents and mishaps, starting with a signalling error on Boxing Day 1867, which caused 10 injuries but no fatalities. In 1914, a collision and subsequent derailment killed one person, and another collision and derailment injured 12 people in 1961.

Most recently, two people died and more than 500 were injured in 1991 when a train failed to stop as it pulled into a Cannon Street platform, crashing through the buffers. A similar incident had happened in 1919.

7. Some things never change

In a news article reporting on the opening day, the Brighton Gazette made some observations which may sound familiar to 21st century commuters:

Large and convenient though the station is, it proved wholly insufficient of the work required of it, and signalmen and inspectors were hopelessly bewildered by the mass of business thrown on their hands... Some excuse is no doubt to be made for the fact of this being an opening day, but the experience obtained in a few hours of practical working must have convinced the managers that it will be utterly impossible to carry out their original mode of working.

8. It has its own weather system

The entrance to the station. Photo: JAY

Ok, there's no actual proof behind this one, but since writing about the quirks of London's train stations, we have again, on multiple occasions, been subject to the Cannon Street microclimate. Anyone else, or is it just us?

Last Updated 10 July 2017