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January 2013

Posted on 09/01/2013

 Bedford College and the London Underground



9th January 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the first passenger journey of the world's first underground train, which travelled from Paddington station to Farringdon along a line financed by the Metropolitan railway.  This anniversary offers an opportunity to revisit the London connections of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, and in particular Bedford College, which was based in north London, near Regents Park until it merged with Royal Holloway and moved to Egham in 1985.  A search through the archives reveals an interesting set of correspondence relating to the construction of a tube tunnel in 1936 under Notcutt House, a Bedford College Hall of Residence on Dorset Square, near Baker Street station (Catalogue reference: BC AR/842/1-9, 35-36 Dorset Square - Notcutt House).

The correspondence is mainly between Olive Monkhouse, who was Secretary to the College from 1919 to 1948; the College Solicitors, Messrs. Cuthbert, Lake and Sutton; and the Solicitors for the London Passenger Transport Board, Shaen, Roscoe, Massey and Co.  It contains details about a tunnel, which was to run 50 feet below the basement of Notcutt House, and 64 feet below street level.  This tunnel was being built for a predecessor of the Jubilee line, (then a branch of the Bakerloo line) running through Baker Street and Wembley Park to Stanmore.

The College was clearly concerned about the impact of the construction of the tunnel on Notcutt House, and the effect of building an additional tunnel when 'there is already a double tunnel running under the roadway in front of the premises' and 'at night time the noise of passing trains can be heard from basement rooms.'  'It is possible that the presence of another tunnel may accentuate this interference.’  As a result of these fears the College put in a bid to receive a compensation payment for the construction of the line of £110, but this bid was unsuccessful.

The college was also concerned to cover themselves in the event that the tunnel did structural damage to the building, with the College Finance Committee seeking assurance that 'the College is fully protected in the case of any structural damage which may arise to the building by the working of the railway and/or any injurious affection by noise or vibration with a reasonable time after the tunnel has been put into service.'  However this bid to ensure they were covered in the event of damage in the future also failed, with the Solicitor to the Board informing the College that the London Passenger Transport Act (1935) limited the period of compensation to 2 years.

While this folder of correspondence is fairly run of the mill, it does serve as an interesting reminder of Royal Holloway’s central London roots.

Amy Warner, Associate Director (E-strategy & Technical Services)


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