Waterloo Station is a historic railway terminus located in central London. It is the largest and busiest station in Britain, serving city commuters, holidaymakers, Epsom racegoers, and armed forces. The station was opened in 1848 by the London & South Western Railway as part of extending the line two miles to be nearer the city.
The History of Waterloo Station:
The biggest and busiest train station in the UK is Waterloo Station, which is situated in London. It has a lengthy history that dates to the middle of the 19th century.
Early History and Construction of the Station:
Waterloo Station was built by the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) in 1848 as part of extending the line two miles to be nearer the city. This original station, known as the ‘central station’, had six platforms. From its very earliest days, the station was popular with racegoers traveling to Epsom; the original station opening in 1848 was brought forward a week to enable passengers to travel to the Derby by rail for the first time.
Through the remainder of the 19th century, Waterloo was extended in an ad-hoc way to cope with demand. In 1860, the ‘Windsor station’ was opened on the north-west side of the original central platforms. In 1878, Waterloo gained an additional two platforms on the southeast side for mainline suburban trains in an extension known as the ‘south station’. In 1885, the ‘north’ station was opened, adding a further six platforms bringing the total at Waterloo to eighteen.
In 1899, L&SWR sought permission to completely rebuild and expand the station. The Company sent its chief engineer J W Jacomb-Hood to America to gather information on termini buildings to assist its redesign. Over twenty years as building work took place, Waterloo became a spacious station with a large open concourse. With 21 platforms under a huge ridge-and-furrow roof, it became light and airy compared to the dark maze it once was.
Key Historical Events Associated with the Station:
Waterloo has always been a place for important arrivals and departures, whether city commuters, holidaymakers, Epsom racegoers, or armed forces.
During World War I, Waterloo played a crucial role in transporting troops and supplies to France. The Victory Arch was built at Waterloo Station as a memorial to their staff who died in World War I.
During World War II, Waterloo Station was bombed several times by German aircraft. The most significant attack occurred on September 11th, 1940 when a bomb hit Platform 5 killing 15 people.
Waterloo Station During Wartime:
During wartime, Waterloo Station played an important role in transporting troops and supplies across England and France. It was also used as a hospital for wounded soldiers returning from France.
Design and Architecture of Waterloo Station:
Waterloo Station is an architectural marvel that has undergone several transformations since its inception. The station was built by the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) in 1848 as part of extending the line two miles to be nearer the city. The original station, known as the ‘central station’, had six platforms. Through the remainder of the 19th century, Waterloo was extended in an ad-hoc way to cope with demand. In 1899, L&SWR sought permission to completely rebuild and expand the station. The Company sent its chief engineer J W Jacomb-Hood to America to gather information on termini buildings to assist its redesign. Over twenty years as building work took place, Waterloo became a spacious station with a large open concourse. With 21 platforms under a huge ridge-and-furrow roof, it became light and airy compared to the dark maze it once was.
Iconic Artwork and Sculptures at Waterloo Station:
Waterloo Station is home to several iconic artworks and sculptures that are worth exploring. In this article, we will highlight some of the most famous ones, discuss their cultural significance, and provide a visitor’s perspective on the artistic elements.
National Windrush Monument:
The National Windrush Monument is a bronze sculpture by Basil Watson in Waterloo Station, London. It was unveiled in June 2022 by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. The monument commemorates the British West Indian immigrants who came to the United Kingdom on board HMT Empire Windrush in 1948 and subsequently became known as the Windrush generation. The sculpture features three figures climbing a mountain of suitcases together, symbolizing the bond of the Windrush generation and their hopes for their future in the UK.
Festival of Britain Sculpture:
The Festival of Britain Sculpture is another notable artwork at Waterloo Station. Created by Hungarian émigré-artist Peter Laszlo Peri for the Festival of Britain in 1951, the sculpture consists of two terracotta figures lying beside each other. The sculpture greeted Festival visitors when they arrived as it was mounted on the wall at York Road, close to the station’s entrance.
The Sunbathers is a remarkable piece of lost public art from the 1950s, Peter Laszlo Peri’s Festival of Britain sculpture. It is on public display at London Waterloo Station after being restored and returned to public view following a successful crowdfunding campaign by Historic England.
Art has played an important role in preserving history and culture at Waterloo Station. The National Windrush Monument serves as a reminder of the struggles and contributions of immigrants to British society. The Festival of Britain Sculpture and The Sunbathers are examples of how art can be used to create a welcoming environment for visitors and commuters alike.
The Royal Connection:
Waterloo Station has a rich history of royal visits and events. The British Royal Family’s and their guests’ transportation has benefited greatly from it. The most noteworthy occasions are listed below:
Royal Visits and Events
- Queen Victoria: The first royal visit to Waterloo Station was by Queen Victoria in 1843. She arrived at the station to catch a train to Windsor Castle.
- Queen Elizabeth II: Queen Elizabeth II: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, the monarch visited Waterloo Station in 2012. A plaque was unveiled by her to mark the event.
- Prince William and Kate Middleton: In 2022, Prince William and Kate Middleton unveiled a statue at Waterloo Station to mark Windrush Day. The statue depicts a man, woman, and child in their Sunday best standing on top of suitcases.
Special Commemorations and Celebrations:
As part of the 175th-anniversary celebrations, a large exhibition about the railway station’s history appeared in the main concourse. The exhibition showcased the station’s rich history with photographs, maps, and artifacts from its early days. It also included information about other Waterloo services such as the arrival of the London Underground and boat service trains to Southampton
How old is Waterloo Station?
On July 11, 1848, Waterloo Station was formally inaugurated. It has been there for more than 170 years and plays a big role in London’s transportation system.
Can you visit the station’s historical areas?
While Waterloo Station primarily serves as a transportation hub, it does have some historical elements, including the Victory Arch, which commemorates the Allied victory in World War I. Visitors can see this as they pass through the station.
Are there guided tours available?
Waterloo Station does not typically offer guided tours specifically for tourists. However, you can find self-guided resources and maps to explore the station’s history, architecture, and notable features.
What is the best way to reach Waterloo Station?
Depending on where you start, there are various approaches to Landon Waterloo Station. It is well-connected by train, tube (London Underground), and bus services. Since the station is situated in the center of London, it is convenient to reach from many locations throughout the city.
Is there parking available at the station?
Waterloo Station does offer parking, however, due to its location in the heart of London, it can be scarce and expensive. If at all feasible, take public transportation or find an alternative parking spot since parking close to the station might be difficult and expensive.