Charing Cross and the Railway Station

Charing Cross and Rail Station, 1880s

Charing Cross Station and Hotel, a minute's walk from Trafalgar Square, is one of the great Victorian railway stations. The station itself was built by the engineer John Hawkshaw in 1863, and the Renaissance-style hotel facing the Strand is by the architect E. M. Barry. It is big, very rectangular, and stands five storeys above the ground floor station. There is no central grand entrance, but smallish ones left and right. That on the left is to the Hotel, that on the right to the station, bearing a small pediment with shield, lion, griffin and motto 'Onward'. Nice ironwork of decreasing ornateness proceeding upwards floor to floor.

The site was previously occupied by Hungerford market, itself established in a somewhat curious fashion. Sir Edward Hungerford, heir to the vast Hungerford fortune, had a huge mansion on the site in the 17th Century. He squandered the money built up over centuries on living the good life, and had to sell a total of 28 manors to fund his gambling. His London residence burnt down in 1669, after a careless serving girl left some candles burning. Sir Edward, anxious for new potential sources of income, managed to get permission to hold a market on the site, and this was the Hungerford Market, eventually housed in a building by the architect of Covent Garden until the area was cleared for the station. Sir Edward Hungerford, incidentally, though he did not die rich, lived to the ripe age of 115.

The actual cross (Eleanor Cross) is not the original one, which was one of nine put up by King Edward I in memory of Queen Eleanor. The first cross was of wood, and afterwards a monumental one of Caen stone, carved with figures and raised on steps of marble, was put up. That cross stood where the eqestrian Charles I now stands on its little traffic island in Trafalgar Square, and was demolished in 1647, and the stone used to make the paving along Whitehall. However, in 1863 the current cross was erected, based as closely as possible on what was known about the medieval one. It was designed by Barry and sculpted by Thomas Earp. It is an ornate thing, with eight crowned statues of Queen Eleanor above, eight kneeling angels at their feet, and shields lower down copied from extant crosses at Waltham and Northampton. Other carving on the cross is based on 13th Century remains.

From here, one can walk along the Strand and Fleet Street through to St Pauls, seeing some sculpture along the way.

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