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By Russell Hollowood on

Which Borough Market are we dealing with?

Learn more about the labyrinthine history of one of the museum's most well-loved objects.

As regular readers of this blog will know, the museum is currently restoring the external fabric of Borough Market Junction Signal Box. The work is being funded through the generous support of the Friends of the National Railway Museum, especially the Southern Branch.

Restoring an object like Borough Market is a privilege and a challenge. The privilege is in working with such a wonderful object and the challenge is to gain an accurate understanding of the object’s story. Lets start with a simple question: when was it built?

Geo Baker Mallard pic

According to the archives (that came from BR Southern region in 1976) it was built???? It does not say. In fact, the more you look, the more you find the information is just not there. Most written sources start the story in 1926, with the installation of colour light signalling; but I knew this box was a South Eastern Railway design and I knew the junction was much older.

Why? Because there has been a Borough Market Junction since 1866, when Cannon Street Station opened; indeed, there was a crash there in 1869, triggered by a youth ‘slouching’ on the leaver frame. However, the 1875 Ordinance Survey Map reveals this Borough Market was in a different location to our Borough Market. Whoom!!!


Luckily, I was able to phone a friend; in the form of the Signalling Record Society. The Signalling Record Society is a specialist group who study historic railway signalling and as it happened one of there members had been conducting research in a recently acquired archive. Hidden within these papers was the written proof of our objects creation date.

So when was the Borough Market Junction we are we dealing with built? Well it seems this is the second Signal Box to bear the name and it opened in 1895.

4 comments on “Which Borough Market are we dealing with?

  1. Fascinating…I was a twice-daily traveller through this junction for some 30 years though the box had long gone even in 1979 I gthink. Can I be an arse and point out some typos? eg ‘ordinance’, ‘leaver’, ‘its’, ‘there’. apostophes also hseem to have gone missing. No need to ‘approve’ this part of the comment…

    1. Thanks for getting in touch, it’s always great to hear from people with memories of our railways. Apologies for the typos, this blog was actually written by a curator and published in my absence but we will ensure future posts receive the necessary checks 🙂

  2. Hello Sam
    I have been quite interested in the history of the area (Borough Market Junction) and done a little research into it and was under the impression that the Signalbox was built when the extra line was added and thought it was slightly later than 1895 but was definitely completed by 1905. What I find most interesting is that the OS maps clearly show that when the extra line was added (bringing the number up from 3 to 4) the bridge across Borough High Street was widened (had an extra single bridge section added) on the South side but the viaduct was widened on the North Side which gives the junction track plan its slightly odd geometry. There is a good 19th Century photograph of the first signal box and it can be found in various forms (normal and stereoscopic) on the online heritage picture sites.



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