Railway through the Park

How the Railway might have looked in Greenwich Park, 1835


In 1836, the first suburban railway in the world was opened between Spa Road (near Bermondsey) and Deptford. The railway line pre-dates the underground and is built on over 800 brick arches lifting it over the roads. It was extended to Greenwich in 1838 once an opening bridge had been built over Deptford Creek that could let ships pass through. 

The railway owners were keen to extend it eastwards, but Greenwich and the park were in their way. They had already drawn up proposals to build a railway viaduct across the park in front of the Queen’s House but gaining approval for this proved impossible. Eventually, a tunnel was completed in 1878, which required the relocation of a cemetery that was at the front of the Queen’s House. 

The fact that the extension of the line took 40 years is a sign of the various objections that were made to prevent it from happening. The Royal Observatory had the loudest voice as it was run by the Admiralty and represented in Parliament. It was particularly concerned that vibrations and smoke from the trains would affect the instruments they used. The tunnel was an important compromise. 

Greenwich was such a popular destination for visitors that Greenwich Park once had its own station. This was opened in 1888 and faced onto Stockwell Street. A hotel now occupies the site, and the station’s curved platforms are buried under a car park. Its route to London ran via Nunhead, which was much longer and less well used than the original line, so this was closed in 1917. 

Find out more about the history of the Greenwich Line here