London is full of the weird and wonderful, but there’s some sinister history lurking in our streets too. One of the darker buildings is an ordinary office building with a surprisingly dark history.
On 121 Westminster Bridge Road, an ornate brick building stands proudly among its more corporate-looking neighbours. Its name is Westminster Bridge House, but it used to be known as the London Necropolis Railway station.
The London Necropolis Railway was a railway line that opened in 1854 to carry corpses and mourners between London and Brockwood Cemetery. It opened as a result of the overcrowding in London’s cemeteries after the cholera epidemic of 1849.
The Westminster Bridge Road station was opened in 1902 as the railway’s newest station and it replaced an old terminus. Mourners could choose between several classes of funerals and would be led to waiting rooms while the corpse was transported onto a train. Those who opted for first-class tickets, which cost £2.10 (equivalent to roughly £240 today) would be led through the main driveway of the building into waiting rooms that separated the mourning parties.
While first-class funerals allowed the mourners to select a permanent grave plot, second class mourners would have to pay extra for the privilege of the grave being permanent. Second-class tickets cost £1 (£96 today) and a permanent spot would cost them 10 shillings (£48 today) extra. Third class mourners who could not afford the luxury entered through a separate entrance and were led to a platform with only one waiting area. They also had no right to a permanent grave and the parish paid for the deceased’s ‘pauper funeral’
It’s believed the railway transported roughly 2,300 bodies every year it was in operation, meaning over 200,000 bodies travelled on the trains. The building was severely damaged during the London Blitz and it officially closed in 1941. Today, the building has been restored and its interior has been converted into offices available to lease.
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