Moorgate was one of the old minor gates of the old London Wall surrounding the City of London, the historic and financial centre of Greater London in the United Kingdom. The name survives as the name of a major street in the heart of the City connecting it with Islington, and in the name of a mainline terminus and London Underground train station. Several major investment and commercial banks congregate in this area. There is a mixture of historic and contemporary office buildings, including Moorhouse, which was designed by Foster and Partners, and stands at the corner of Moorgate and London Wall.
Moorgate is named after Moorfields, one of the last pieces of open land in the City and the site of the first hot air balloon flight in England. A wooden gate was first built at the site in 1415. The wooden gate was damaged in the Great Fire of London, and it was replaced by a stone gate in 1672. The stone gate was demolished in 1761.
Moorgate station is best known for an incident on February 28, 1975, when a Northern Line tube train terminating at Moorgate failed to stop and crashed into a brick wall beyond a platform, killing 43 people. This resulted in automatic systems for stopping trains at dead-ends being installed on all dead-ends on the Underground. These systems are known as Moorgate control.
The earliest descriptions of Moorgate date from the early 15th century, where it was described as only a postern in the London city wall. Saddled between Bishopsgate and Cripplegate and leading to a moor (Moorfields), it was not one of the larger and more important of the City Gates.
In 1415, it was enacted by ordinance that the postern be demolised in favour of a new and larger gate to be built to the west of it, with a gate to be shut at night. The resulting wooden gate, which was completed in the same year, was subsequently rebuilt in 1472 and improved in 1511. The wooden gate was damaged in the Great Fire of London. Although the city gates were by now decorative, it was replaced (along with Ludgate, Newgate and Temple Bar) by a stone gate in 1672.
Moorgate was demolished along with the other London Wall gates in 1761 and the materials were sold for £166. It was finally demolished in 1762 and the stones repurchased by the Corporation of London to be used, with the stones of the other gates, to support the starlings of the newly widened centre arch of London Bridge.
Little Moorgate was a postern or gate opposite Little Winchester Street leading into Moorfields. It was taken down by 1755. It gave its name to a street taken down by the construction of the railways.
The Moorfields were one of the last pieces of open land in the City of London. The fields were divided into three areas: the Moorfields proper, just inside the City boundaries, north of Bethlem Royal Hospital (also known as Bedlam, the world's oldest psychiatric hospital), and Middle and Upper Moorfields (both also open fields) to the north. Much of Moorfields was developed in 1777 and turned into present day Finsbury Circus .
Today, the name survives in the names of a short street parallel to Moorgate which contains some entrances to Moorgate station, as well as one of the pedestrian "streets" at high level in the Barbican Estate, a major housing estate in the neighbourhood incorporating the Barbican Centre and several major buildings, which is known as and Moorfields Highwalk.
In addition, the London Dispensary for curing diseases of the Eye and Ear was founded on the Moorfields in 1805, and evolved to become the present Moorfields Eye Hospital, which is now located on City Road (known popularly from the second verse of the nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel), and is close to Old Street station.
Moorfields was the site of the first hot air balloon flight in England, when Italian Vincenzo Lunardi took off on the afternoon of 15 September 1784. Lunardi flew in a hydrogen balloon from the area of the Honourable Artillery Company near Moorfields (where it still is to this day, occupying a site next to City Road). The ascent took place in front of 100,000 spectators as well as the then Prince of Wales, George, Duke of Cornwall. The envelope of the balloon was made of oiled silk, and had a diameter of 33 ft (10 metres) which resulted in a volume of 18,200 cubic feet (515 m³). Due to the size of the balloon, it took all of the previous evening and early morning to fill it. Lunardi first landed at Welham Green (North Mymms), Hertfordshire, 13 miles (21 km) north of London (where the landing is commemorated with a stone, at a location now known as Balloon Corner) and then continued his flight to land at Ware, Hertfordshire after flying a total of 24 miles.
Moorgate (street) and the neighbourhood
The present dual way street of Moorgate runs north from Princes Street and Lothbury near the Bank of England, past London Wall, where the old gate was, then continues north. It is located inside the postal district London EC2. Heading out of the City and entering the London Borough of Islington it becomes Finsbury Pavement (known at one time as Moor Fields Pavement) and then City Road. The street was constructed at around 1846 for the formation of the new approaches to London Bridge. It was at one time known as "Moorgate Street" but the "street" part of the name eventually disappeared.
The street is lined with branches and offices of several major commercial banks and investment banks. Due to the clientele, the Marks and Spencer store at Moorgate Hall (143-171 Moorgate) boasts the biggest sandwich shop for the chain with 30 checkout lanes, but the store itself is open on weekdays only and closed on Saturdays and weekends.
A campus of London Metropolitan University (formerly belonging to London Guildhall University) is located at 84 Moorgate. This houses its business school, a library as well as other facilities.
The John Keats at Moorgate
John Keats, one of the principal poets in the English Romantic movement, was born in 1795 in the Swan and Hoop Inn at 199 Moorgate, where his father was an ostler. The pub is now called "The John Keats at Moorgate", having previously been known as "The Moorgate Coffee House" and "The Moorgate", only a few yards from Moorgate station.
Moorhouse is a new office building scheduled for opening in 2005, located at the corner of Moorgate with London Wall. Designed by Foster and Partners, the building provides 300,000 square feet (28,000 m²) of space in 19 storeys, and replaces a building built in the 1960s known as Moor House (two words). The building incorporates part of Crossrail's new station and ticket hall serving Liverpool Street and Moorgate.
The development is being undertaken by Moorhouse Property Developments Limited in association with The Moorhouse Limited Partnership, a partnership between Greycoat , Hammerson and Pearl Assurance . The partnership has entered into a new development agreement and lease with the freeholders, the Corporation of London, to permit the new scheme. The Corporation also made the land available to Crossrail for the new ticket hall.
Moorgate Place is a small side street branching east out of Moorgate at No. 40. It now connects to another side street known as Swan Alley, in turn connecting to Moorgate. The Chartered Accountants' Hall, home of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales , is located at Moorgate Place.
Connected to Moorgate station via Bassisshaw Highwalk is the Guildhall, the home of the Corporation of London and the centre of City government since the Middle Ages. Adjacent and internally connected to the Guildhall is the Guildhall Art Gallery, which houses the art collection of the City of London. It occupies a stone building in a semi-gothic style which was completed in 1999 to replace an earlier building destroyed in 1941.
Finsbury Circus, an oval-shaped circus, branches east out of Moorgate, sitting on the site of the old Bethlem Hospital and part of Moorfields. The gardens in the centre of the circus occupy a 5,000 square metre (1.2 acres) plot enclosed by railings, and include the immaculate lawn of the City of London Bowls Club. Built in 1814, it is unusual amongst London's squares in being elliptical, with the major axis orientated west-east. According to the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, the garden is Grade II listed.
The buildings on each side are formed of a pair of graceful curved terraces. The London branch of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi is located at 12-15 Finsbury Circus. BP's headquarters were previously at 1 Finsbury Circus (it is now at 1 St James's Square).
Moorgate station is a tube and mainline station located on Moorgate, the street of the same name. The tube station is on the Bank branch of the Northern Line between Old Street and Bank, and also on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines, between Barbican and Liverpool Street. The station was named at one time "Moorgate Street". The mainline station is served by Thameslink and WAGN. It is a terminus for suburban WAGN services to Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth.
Moorgate tube crash and control systems
On 28 February, 1975 a Northern Line tube train (on the Northern City Line service on short, 7-minute round trips between Drayton Park and Moorgate) terminating at Moorgate station crashed into a brick wall at the end of the tunnel beyond the platform, killing 43 people at the scene and several more subsequently from severe injuries, in what was the greatest loss of life on the tube in peacetime. The cause of the incident was never determined.
The train was on the 8:39am run from Drayton Park, terminating at platform nine of Moorgate. Instead of stopping on arrival, the train appeared to accelerate, taking the crossover at about 35 mph (56 km/h). At the end of the platform was a 66 ft (20 m) long overrun tunnel with a red stop-lamp, then a sand drag, and finally a single hydraulic buffer in front of a brick wall. The sand drag slowed the train but it smashed into the buffer at about 40 mph and then into the wall.
As the overrun tunnel was originally built to house mainline units and was 16 ft (4.9 m) high, the smaller diameter of the tube train meant that the second car in the set rode up above the trailing end of the driving car, as did the third car which split asunder lengthwise and rode over the end of the second car. The driving car suffered the most damage, buckling at two points into a V shape, crushed between the wall and the weight of the rest of its train piling up behind it.
The cause of the crash was never satisfactorily determined. The driver, who had worked for London Underground since 1969, had been in good health, took no alcohol or drugs, and was considered an unlikely suicide candidate. Investigations confirmed the brakes had not been applied and the driver had not even raised his hands to protect his face at the moment of impact.
After the incident, automatic systems for stopping trains at dead-ends was introduced into all dead-ends on the tube, regardless of whether the driver gives instruction to halt a train. These are known as "Moorgate control" systems.
London Wall gates
In clockwise order from Ludgate stood the following former main gates of London Wall:
The John Keats at Moorgate
Hydrogen balloon model. Site with information about the balloon attempt and a model of the hydrogen balloon. Retrieved 8 April 2005.
Flights of fancy. Site with information about the balloon attempt. Retrieved 8 April 2005.
Balloon Corner, Welham Green. Site with picture of the stone marking the landing shop of Lunardi's balloon at Welham Green.
Streetmap.co.uk showing Welham Green and Ware in Hertfordshire.
Books and articles
- Lange, D. The Queen's London: A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis. Cassell and Company, London, 1896.
- Harris, C. M. What's in a name? The origins of the names of all stations in current use on the London Underground and Docklands Light rail with their opening dates. Midas Books and London Transport, fourth edition, 2001. ISBN 1854142410.
- Mills, A. D. Dictionary of London Place Names. Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0198609574.
- Rocque, J. Rocque's Map of London. 1746 and 1763.
- Harben, H. A. A Dictionary of London. 1918.
- Stow, J. Survey of London. 1720 and 1755. 2 volumes.
- Colvin, S. John Keats - Biography. 1887.
- Motion, A. Keats. University of Chicago Press, 1998. ISBN 0374181004.
- Holloway, S. Moorgate: Anatomy of a Railway Disaster. Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1989. ISBN 0715389130.
- Bacon, J. M. The Dominion of the Air, Chapter 3. Online extract.
Other web sites
Last updated: 08-27-2005 21:14:08