Mysterious archway that was Coborn Road station
PUBLISHED: 13:54 19 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:38 05 October 2010
WALK from Tredegar Road into Coborn Road in Mile End and you come across a bricked up archway with a padlocked door, next to a major new block of flats. This archway once saw commuters rushing through each day up wooden stairs to catch a train at Coborn Road Station for the City. But Great Eastern announced in 1916 that many stations were being closed due to lack of staff caused by the Great War—as many men had left to serve at the Front. It reopened in 1919, but finally closed in 1946, due to alternatives such as buses, trolleybuses, trams and private motor cars
By Gary Haines
WALK from Tredegar Road into Coborn Road in Mile End and you come across a bricked up archway with a padlocked door, next to a major new block of flats.
This archway once saw East London commuters rushing through each day and running up the wooden stairs to catch a train at Coborn Road Station for the City.
Coborn Road, formerly Old Ford station, was opened on February 1, 1865, on the Eastern Counties Railway that ran into Bishopsgate.
An 1870 map of the area held at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives at Mile End shows Old Ford station on an embankment next to a garden nursery with fields nearby.
The line was incorporated into the Great Eastern Railway network after running into financial troubles.
The station was renamed Coborn Road’ on in March, 1879. The platforms were moved a short distance westward in 1882 across the parish boundary, now in Stepney rather than Bow. The platforms had moved from one side of Coburn Road where the Parish boundary was located to the other.
But Great Eastern Railway announced on April 8, 1916, that many stations were being closed, due to lack of staff caused by the Great War as many men had left to serve at the Front.
Those stations to close included Coburn Road, as well as seven others in the East End, Globe Road, Bethnal Green, Cambridge Heath, London Fields, Leman Street, Shadwell and even Bishopsgate.
Others for the axe were Barkingside and Chigwell Lane (now both on the Central Line), Bradfield, Buckenham, Earsham, Geldeston, Mardock, Stanhoe and West Mill.
This created much anxiety among commuters in 1916 due to costs of travel. Bus fares at this time cost 4d (1½p aprox) compared to 1½d (½p) for rail journeys into the City.
A former Liberal Parliamentary candidate for Bethnal Green, B Straus, wrote to the East London Advertiser on April 15, 1916, asking “whether something cannot be done, before it is too late, to prevent the absolute closing of all the stations on the Great Eastern Railway between Liverpool Street and Stratford.”
The letter continues: “If these stations are closed, the hardship to a large number of working people will be a very real one.
“I would suggest as a compromise that one or two of the stations might be used during the busy morning and evening hours. Coborn Road, for instance, might be opened and women could collect and check the tickets there if the ordinary staff are not available.
“By closing the Great Eastern stations, the grievance will not only be the extra cost, which doubles the original outlay, but the District Railway and the trams are already terribly overcrowded during the morning and evening hours.
“I sincerely trust that some action will be taken before it is too late and that, if necessary, the question will be raised in Parliament.”
Coburn Road did reopen—but not until 1919 and continued to be used throughout the post war period in the 1920s and 30s.
One visitor recalling his trips with his mother to visit his grandparents in this period and catching a train at Coburn Road remembers the station as “a dark, cavernous, filthy, dirty place.”
Coborn Road finally closed in 1946, due to the increased use of alternatives such as buses, trolleybuses, trams and private motor cars which led to a decline in railway passengers in the inner suburbs like Mile End.
There is above the gateway in Coborn Road a dark oval shape which marks the spot where once a heritage plaque identified the railway station. It would be wonderful to see this plaque restored—so that a part of the East End’s heritage is once again recognised.