Ipswich Icons: Why Liverpool Street Station has long played an important role in the lives of Suffolk travellers

Liverpool Street Station 1896

Liverpool Street Station 1896 - Credit: Archant

I make no apologies for including Liverpool Street Station in a column of Ipswich Icons, writes John Norman of The Ipswich Society.

Liverpool Street Station concourse

Liverpool Street Station concourse - Credit: Archant

Clearly Liverpool Street Station isn’t in Ipswich but it is an essential component in the lives of many Suffolk residents. Commuters make the journey back and forth on a daily basis, travellers destined elsewhere in the world pass through, on their way to St Pancras, Gatwick or Heathrow.

Liverpool Street Station is a lifeline for Ipswich businesses; considerable numbers of consultants, health professionals, project managers and academics leave London to advise colleagues in Suffolk on progress, projects and possibilities. In the evening, trains from Liverpool Street are full of shoppers, theatre-goers and party animals returning home.

The terminal is today an efficient London mainline station, handling some 58 million passenger movements each year ? the third- busiest of all the London stations. Ipswich Station, by way of comparison, handles 3.5 million passengers annually.

Liverpool Street hasn’t always been the terminus of the Great Eastern Main Line. When the railway was first started in 1837, the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) used a temporary station, “Devonshire Street”, at Mile End, a good distance from the current station.

Liverpool Street Station GE Hotel

Liverpool Street Station GE Hotel - Credit: Archant

In July, 1840, the permanent ECR station was opened just off Shoreditch High Street, much nearer the City but still a few hundred yards short. The name of this station was changed in 1847 to Bishopsgate, with the intention of attracting more commuters.

When Liverpool Street was opened, Bishopsgate became the goods station and was used as such until a disastrous fire in 1964 destroyed all but the brick viaduct.

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In 1862 the ECR amalgamated with a number of other East Anglian railway companies to form the Great Eastern Railway (GER). For a time this company used Fenchurch Street station as well as Bishopsgate but there was insufficient capacity for the growing passenger numbers.

In 1874 the Great Eastern Railway compulsory purchased 10 acres of land in the City, including the site previously occupied by Bethlem Royal Hospital, which moved to Moorfields.

The new station was designed by the GER engineer Edward Wilson and built by what was then a major firm of London builders, Lucas Brothers, for £2 million. The Lucas Brothers also built the Royal Albert Hall, The Royal Opera House and Alexandra Palace, and they were also busy locally with Henham Hall, Rendlesham Hall and Somerleyton Hall.

By 1890 the station was again over capacity and an additional eight tracks and platforms were added to the east of the existing station (today’s platforms 11 to 18). The majority of the building work on the extension was carried out by (John) Mowlem and Co. (founded 1822), now trading as Carillion.

Between 1985 and 1992 the station was renovated, modernised and efficiency of train movements increased. Broad Street station (alongside Liverpool Street) was demolished and Broadgate developed.

Trains previously terminating at Broad Street were accommodated in the improved Liverpool Street.

When the original station was built, a sub-surface underground station was also constructed for the Metropolitan Railway, today providing platforms for the Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City and Circle lines.

Much the same is happening with Cross Rail, with a new station below Finsbury Circus with step-free access from both Liverpool Street and Moorgate ? a convenient inter-connection with the Northern and Northern City Line. Cross Rail will run from Shenfield (on the Great Eastern main line) to Reading, passing underneath Liverpool Street, along the length of (but far below) Oxford Street, and on to Paddington.

There will be a branch to Heathrow, which is promised to be less than two hours from Ipswich.

Next time you are stuck at Liverpool Street, waiting for a delayed train to Ipswich, you can almost guarantee the problems are probably elsewhere; Liverpool Street’s efficiency continues to deliver.

See more on the upgrade of Ipswich station here