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Bricklayers Arms & New Cross, Midhurst RJD 91

A 1908 Railway Clearing House map of lines around the approaches to London Bridge, including the Bricklayer's Arms and Willow Walk goods yards and associated approach lines.


Bricklayers' Arms is a busy road intersection between A2 and the London Inner Ring Road in south London, England. It is the junction of Tower Bridge Road, Old Kent Road, New Kent Road and Great Dover Street; Old Kent Road and New Kent Road east-bound are connected by a flyover.

Victorian coaching innEdit

There have been inns situated at this site for more than six hundred years, and excavations during the rebuilding of the inn in the 1890s came across several previous foundations and a hidden hoard of ancient coins. It was the point at which coaches travelling along the Old Kent Road to or from the City of London set down or picked up passengers travelling to or from the West End. The inn was situated on land owned by the City of London Corporation and its sign was the Coat of Arms of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers.

Bricklayers' Arms FlyoverEdit


Bricklayers' Arms roundabout and flyover. Attribution: C. Ford.

A flyover of the Bricklayers' Arms roundabout was built in the 1970s to cope with the increase in traffic in the area. Initially it consisted of two lanes for traffic, one into and one out of London; however, the London-bound lane was later closed after a number of head-on collisions on the flyover, which was hence reduced to east bound only route.

In the 1970s there was a plan by the Greater London Council for a road to go between the Bricklayers Arms roundabout and the northern entrance of the Blackwall Tunnel, crossing the Thames in two tunnels (one adjacent to Tower Bridge and providing a link to London Docklands.

The rather over generous proportions of the roundabout which includes pedestrian underpasses from the adjacent roads onto it was a result of London Underground route safeguarding for future proposals of an extension of the Bakerloo Line from its terminus at Elephant and Castle Tube Station along and under the main road route and thence underneath the trackways of the old main line station to join surface services at South Bermondsey station. The roundabout would have been the site of a station, similar in layout to that at Old Street. The route is still safeguarded but has no prominence in current proposals. The pedestrian underpasses were not attractive and involved quite circuitous walks via the island, surfacing and descending again to the various entrances; in 2009 these were supplemented by Pelican Crossings at the junctions with New Kent and Old Kent Roads, introduced because pedestrians preferring to cross there were causing more accidents. In 2013 the underpasses were filled in and levelled becoming wider pavements at these points.

Bricklayers' Arms branchEdit

The line it's selfEdit

The line was one mile and 56 chains (2.7 km) in length and was constructed in 1843–4 as a result of concerns by the South Eastern (SER) and London and Croydon (L&CR) railways about the charges being imposed by the London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) for the use of their terminus at London Bridge and its approaches. The two railways constructed a new passenger terminus and goods station on the site, thereby removing the need for them to use the Greenwich Railway facilities. According to Charles Vignoles, 'the making of Bricklayers' Arms station was a matter of compulsion in driving the Greenwich people to reasonable terms'. It had the desired effect and the L&GR agreed to more reasonable terms, as a result the L&CR ceased using the station in March 1845. 

Plans to extend the line from Bricklayers' Arms to a new South Eastern Railway terminus at Hungerford Bridge, closer to the centre of London were never implemented. The railway introduced a proposal to extend the line to Waterloo Road in 1846 which was rejected by a committee of Parliament. In 1846 L&C became part of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) and the SER had leased the L&G line the previous year; future passenger developments were at London Bridge.

As part of a series of agreements of 1848 and 1849, the LB&SCR sold its inherited share of the facilities to the SER in the latter year whilst retaining the right to use the branch and to construct its own 15-acre (61,000 m2) goods depot on the site for an annual rent of one shilling (£0.05).

In the early 1890s the SER again proposed building an extension of the branch, but this time to Charing Cross and thence to Cannon Street but the plan was deferred about 1894, and was not later proceeded with by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway Management Committee. 

The line is historically significant as it was the first in the world to be controlled by a signal box. The signals and points installed by Charles Hutton Gregory and were the first to contain some elements of interlocking. A boiler explosion by a SER locomotive on 11 December 1844 caused a bridge collapse and killed two staff. 

Railway facilities and viaductEdit

Bricklayers Arms Branch Line

Derelict Bricklayers Arms branch line on the South Eastern Railway.

Adjacent to Bricklayers' Arms was a 26-acre (110,000 m2) site, connected to the main line between London Bridge and Croydon which was formerly of considerable importance to the history of railways in south London.

There was a major group of sidings and a few work sheds just north west of the Bricklayer's Arms Junction that broke of the branch line of the mainline between 1945 and 1975. A refueling and re-watering siding was built in 1880, but was an ordinary siding by 1900.

A signal box was built at the junction in 1950. Region Re-signalling of the London to Brighton Line which occurred between 1950 to 1955 which lead to the signal box being modified.

It was updated on the 13th of April 1969 and closed on the 20th of July 1975. London Bridge signalling center would take over it's duties on closure.


Bricklayers Arms Junction ( New Cross Gate) saw a crash on the 11th of September, 1975.

Bricklayers' Arms Goods DepotEdit

Bricklayers arms goods shed 1895307 0cf1e484

Bricklayers' Arms Goods Depot interior in 1959. Attribution: Ben Brooksbank.

After closure of the passenger facilities the original goods station and the surrounding site proved to be ideal for the development of the main SER goods depot in London. New sidings were laid and the former passenger station was converted into a goods station.

Willow Walk Goods DepotEdit

The LB&SCR inherited the L&CR running powers over the branch line and established their own independent goods facilities on the contiguous site at 'Willow Walk' in July 1849. These replaced the former L&CR facilities at New Cross. 

The LB&SCR facilities were enlarged in 1854 after the Brighton company entered into an agreement with the SER's rival, the London Chatham and Dover Railway to handle their goods traffic at the depot. Further extensions were built in 1865 and 1902. The Willow Walk depot was officially merged with the Bricklayers' Arms depot by the Southern Railway in March 1932. 

Bricklayers' Arms SER Motive Power Depot and repair shopEdit

Bricklayers Arms Locomotive Depot, with SR 2-6-0 geograph-2654462-by-Ben-Brooksbank

The Bricklayer's Arms Locomotive Depot/Motive Power Depot in 1959. This type of stuff would be driven by, made by and maintained by the sort of folk the Old Left would like to politically inspire. Attribution: Ben Brooksbank.

The South Eastern Railway also opened a motive power depot at the site on 1 May 1844, with a turntable large enough to turn the engine and its tender together. This rapidly grew over several buildings and became its principal locomotive depot. It was responsible for an allocation of over 100 locomotives. It operated for nearly 120 years, supplying locomotives and crews for goods and suburban passenger services, as well as the more prestigious express trains from London to the South Coast. It closed on 17 June 1962.

The other important role was to provide refuelling facilities for visiting trains that had worked services into London. Once uncoupled from their coaches, locomotives from Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge stations usually ran tender-first down to Bricklayers Arms' shed to be turned round on the large turntable, rewatered and recoaled. Once this was completed they again ran tender-first back to the terminus to rejoin their train for the return journey out of London. Access to and from Bricklayers Arms' complex on the South Eastern side was via a branch line down a long slope which dropped below the viaducts to either side of it.

The original two-road (two tracks) engine shed lasted from 1844 until 1869. It was supplemented by a nearby four-road shed in 1847, which in turn was enlarged by an adjoining four-road shed in 1865. After 1869 these two sheds became known as the Old Shed and survived until closure. A fourth shed with six roads was opened in 1869, which was known as the New Shed. This was badly damaged during bombing in the Second World War when it lost its roof, and was never repaired. A fifth engine shed with four roads was converted from a carriage shed in 1902 and was known as St Patrick's shed. This lasted until closure. 

This sign in Mandela Way stands directly over the site of the main locomotive shed  Following the grouping of Britain's railways in 1923, the Southern Railway modernised the depot and in 1934 built a locomotive repair shop. However the facility was badly damaged by enemy action during the Second World War and was never fully repaired afterwards and useage began to slowly decine during the early 1960s. When British Rail converted from steam to diesel traction in the 1960s the shed became surplus to requirements and closed down, but the goods sidings continued in use up until 1981, when the whole complex was sold to developers. The Beeching Axe of the 1960s closed many obsolete rail facilities, which lead to the depot and sidings used station's slating for closure by circa 1970.

A few overgrown sidings, rotting canopys, lighting towers and ruined plaforms exsisted in 1976. It was demolished in 1982. All but the yard's signal box and front of the yard by it were deriliction by 1986.

Current use of the siteEdit

Mandela Way Distribution Centre

This sign in Mandela Way stands directly over the site of the main locomotive shed. Attribution: Ivor the Driver at English Wikipedia.

The area occupied by the goods sidings is now covered in houses, whilst the site of the old shed has become an industrial estate, crossed by Mandela Way. The Mayor of London did suggest in late 2017 and the January of 2018 a new Northern Line or Bakerloo Line station would be built their in the near future.

Preservation workEdit

The wheel drop from the repair shop and the turntable from the shed were rescued for the Watercress Line, in Hampshire.  The former has been installed at Ropley shed and the latter has been exchanged (summer 2010) for a tank engine.

Also seeEdit

  1. Bricklayers' Passenger Station
  2. UK railways- 1945 to 1985

Outside linkEdit

  1. This is also covered on the


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