Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Nine Elms Station, April 1848 and the Chartists

[From London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter 74 (Autumn 2021)] 

Two new London Underground stations (Northern Line branch from Kennington) are now open, Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station. Nine Elms will serve the new US Embassy (handy for demos) and New Covent Garden market. It will also serve some new (largely unaffordable) housing being built to offset the cost of the project to TFL. Both stations are in Zone 1 which reflects south London exceptionalism.

 There was however a previous Nine Elms station. It was opened in 1838 and was the terminus of the London and Southampton railway. It closed to passenger traffic in 1848 when Waterloo opened, although Queen Victoria still used to welcome royal visitors. It carried freight traffic until hit by a German bomb in 1941. The station was knocked down in 1963, despite opposition from John Betjeman, and New Covent Garden Market now occupies the site. 

When the Chartists demonstrated for the vote at nearby Kennington Common on Monday 10 April 1848 the station was used (with the full support of the railway company of course..) to hold troops in reserve who had come up from Gosport. That included 35 marine artillery soldiers with two light guns and 450 infantrymen. The expected revolutionary assault on London did not occur and they were probably not used, although some troops were deployed at Blackfriars Bridge to stop the Chartists going north of the Thames.

Keith Flett

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