Home London Trains that ran dead on time – the necropolis railway

Trains that ran dead on time – the necropolis railway

by Vic Keegan

121 Westminster Bridge Road                                           Remains of the Necropolis platform
One of the entries to the fascinating “Forgotten Spaces” exhibition in the bowels of Somerset House (until November 10) is a plan to convert part of 121 Westminster Bridge Road into a Museum of Memories. This is no ordinary address. It is an offshoot of Waterloo Station where the Necropolis Railway once ferried London’s dead bodies to an overspill cemetery at Brookwood in Surrey 25 miles away. The facade of the building (above, left) has been preserved and the remains of the actual platform can still be seen (above, right) if you know how to navigate the backyards to get to it.  Among the Necropolis Railway’s famous almuni was Frederich Engels who helped Marx form the Communist Party. He would doubtless have disapproved of the very British way the Railway sorted the bodies  into First, Second and Third class. Death was no leveller.
But that was then. Today a firm of architects is proposing to turn the site into a museum or universal archive of artefacts or cabinet of curiosities refecting the lives of people and memories associated with them. It is envisaged that the space will be open to members of the public who can place their objects in a cabinet. Claire Moody is the person behind it, one of 26 shortlisted ideas to beautify London using creative ideas for forgotten places. The  winner of the RIBA-backed competition was a proposal to uncover the buried River Fleet in front of St Pancras Old Church, a marvellous idea looking, like most of the others, for resources to turn it into reality.

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