Monday, 27 June 2011

Bank Underground Station, King William Street EC4

The City and South London Railway was the first deep level 'tube' line in the capital, and indeed the world. It was also the first to use electric locomotives. The carriages had no windows on the grounds that there was nothing to see through them, gaining them the nickname 'padded cells'.
Bank station was the original northern terminus, with a booking hall located rather strangely in the crypt of Hawksmoor's St Mary Woolnoth. The entrances in King William Street were designed in 1899 by Sydney Smith, architect of the Tate Gallery in Millbank.
The two figures were carved by Oliver Wheatley, who had trained under Thomas Brock and in Paris. The woman on the left represents Electricity, surrounded by billowing thunder-clouds and shooting lightning bolts from her extended finger. Mercury reclines on the right, representing Speed. Scrolls above the figures where originally intended to bear the name of the company.
I ought to love a composition as barkingly mad as this, but it is strangely unsatisfactory. The figures are oddly stiff and lifeless and look rather cheap. Perhaps the railway had run out of money after paying the church £170,000 for the use of the crypt.


simon1969 said...

I always thought that was something to do with the church. Thanks for putting me right!

Mickeybaz said...

Great information - thanks, I used to work in King William St.

FYI - the original terminus for the City & South London Railway was King William Street station not Bank.

There is a a blue plaque on a building by the Monument to mark the site.