Esoteric London

No. 581: Blackfriars Road, SE1

Posted in Lettering, Pubs, Sport, Transport, Wartime London by esotericlondon on May 21, 2012

Blackfriars Road, London, SE1. Photo © Roger Dean 2012

The Little World of London – Charles Manby Smith, 1857:

If some respectable mandarin of Pekin, Whang Whampoo Fong, who has spent forty years in learning to read his Confucius, and who takes forty hours, and a trifle over, to travel (when he does travel, which is not very often – not more than once in a year at the most) a distance of a hundred miles – if he could be suddenly caught up out of that opium-smelling snuggery of his, lighted by a single paper lantern, and dropped down in a London railway station at ten at night, say, during the arrival of one of the long trains – I wonder where he would think he was got to. How he would stare at the flaming gas-lights – at the glittering roof with its light cross-work of iron bamboo! How the sudden apparition of the monster engine, with its goggle eyes of fire, would bewilder the brains of the Chinaman! How he would shrink from the approach of the sinuous leviathan with thirty or forty stomachs, all disgorging at once their quota of men, women and children, amidst the bawling of countless voices, the lumbering of luggage, the din of whips and wheels, and the hissing of that big tea-kettle with a fire in its belly, and its straight spout aloft in the air! Poor Whampoo Fong might think the whole affair a dream conjured up by the fumes of opium, and would certainly wish himself back again, away from the incomprehensible uproar, to the calm of the sober city of the celestial empire.

[ The plaque on the wall alongside the lettering in the photograph above reads…


[South Eastern Railway]


This is the entrance to the former Blackfriars Station. Commenced by the Charing Cross Railway Co. on its line from London Bridge to Charing Cross, it was taken over by the South Eastern Railway Co. before opening in January 1864. Closure came five years later when the South Eastern Railway opened its Waterloo Station (now Waterloo East).

The glazed brick bridge abutments show evidence of bomb damage from the Blitz of 1940 and a V2 rocket in December 1944. Buildings in the surrounding area were damaged beyond repair, including The Ring boxing arena, formerly the Surrey Chapel, on the site of 197 Blackfriars Road.

The Surrey Chapel was built by the Reverend Rowland Hill in 1783. The ‘ugly octagonal building, with no pretensions to any definite style of architecture’ (according to Edward Walford in his 1878 publication Old and New London: Volume 6) was topped with a domed roof. When Dick Burge, (the reigning British Lightweight Champion from 1891 to 1897), bought the building in 1910 and opened the Blackfriars Ring boxing venue it had long since finished serving as a chapel. From its opening until its destruction in WW2 The Ring as it was popularly called was the most prestigious of London’s boxing rings being the venue of choice for real boxing fans. The Ring public house that stands diagonally opposite where The Ring used to be has numerous boxing photographs upon the walls.

The whole of the text by Charles Manby Smith from which the extract above was taken can be read at by clicking here. R.D.]

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