Office block built for a non-existent tube

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80 Cannon Street. The bit clad in scaffolding is basically that where the Fleet Line tube station would have been.

Bush Lane House, 80 Cannon Street, is a building sited above Cannon Street station. It is the unusual lattice style building right on the corner of Cannon Street and Bush Lane. The building was begin in 1972 and finished in 1976. What many do not know is the structure was originally built with the Fleet Line in mind and thus can lay claim to being the only above ground part of the Fleet (later the Jubilee) Line to be started on (the only other work being a short section of experimental tunnel dug at New Cross.)

The modernist structure came complete with its ground floor and foundation area ready to take the Fleet Line’s ticket hall and escalator shafts. The work to adapt the premises cost £1.25 million and was completed in readiness for the new line’s 1977 construction start date.

By 1981 however the new Fleet/Jubilee line was definitely not happening so powers enabling its construction were allowed to expire and ultimately the route that was built went from Green Park to Stratford via Waterloo and London Bridge.

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No. 80 inspired adjacent structures on Cannon Street & Bush Lane to employ lattice & cantilevered styles too. This is the view in Bush Lane.

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General view of Cannon St frontage. No. 80 at far left. The lattice structure above the main line station entrance is obvious.

When it was realised a station would not be built, the space intended for this was changed to retail  and includes a branch of Boots.

“Bush Lane House is unique in this country in two respects: its external structure is stainless steel and water filled.” (1)

The fact the tube was even to be built here at all is the very reason 80 Cannon Street has a completely unique look in contrast to the usual brutalist styling of the 1970s. Instead of all the supports being within the structure, it was “turned inside out” and “given an open lattice, made from hollow tubes and spherical nodes rising outside….” (2) In other words “a stainless steel exoskeleton allowing for a column-free interior” (3) and this made provision for a huge spatial area that would have accommodated the station’s ticket hall and escalators.

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Instead of Boots. If the Fleet Line had been built this space would have been its ticket hall!

Had the Fleet Line been built it would have indeed been a most unusual situation at Cannon Street. The street climbs considerably towards Monument hence the Fleet Line’s own ticket office would have been at a much higher level than those for the shallower Circle/District lines!

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The Circle/District entrance. This is downhill of the Fleet Line’s abortive ticket hall (seen at far left by the scaffolding.) The cantilevered structure above the entrance is very clearly seen.

80 Cannon Street is not the only reminder of any of London’s abortive tube lines although its perhaps the most prominent. I am surprised the subject of Bush Lane House has not been given detailed coverage before!

The site is very constrained and it’s the sole reason I used wide angle lenses for the main pictures.

(1)/(3) The Structural Engineer

(2) Popular Science February 1979

See also:

Arup News

Skyscraper News

London Reconnections (under section: Other Stage 2 safeguarding)

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