London Victoria has always been very familiar to me – it was the start of the journey home to Brighton from trips to London when I was growing up. It marks the start of the second part of my National Rail trail, kicking off my journey to all the Southern rail stops in Greater London. With over 81million passenger journeys here in 2015/16, Victoria is the second busiest station in the entire country, topped only by Waterloo.
It began life as two separate stations, operated by different companies. The Sussex side, platforms 9 to 19, opened first in 1860, with the Kent side, platforms 1-8, following two years later. There was no way to pass between the two sides internally until the 1920s. The wall between the two sides was only fully removed in the 1980s.
The two sides of the station still feel distinct. The Kent side has retained an impressive Victorian trainshed over its platforms. The end of the roof over the Sussex side was demolished in the ’80s to allow for the construction of the Victoria Place shopping arcade and offices over the platforms. This great photo from 1980 shows how different this part of the station used to look. The area by platforms 15-19, at the very western edge of the station, feels very cramped. On a lighter note, this is where the International Cheese Centre is located…
The Cask and Glass, 39-41 Palace Street, SW1 5HN
There are only three certainties in life, death, taxes and building works by Victoria Station. Visiting the tube station here in April 2013, I commented it had been a building site for as long as I could remember -four years later, little has changed. The tube station upgrade is due to be completed next year, but I’m sure there will be another project around the corner.
There are lots of mediocre tourist trap pubs on Victoria Street, so we took a side street to visit the Cask and Glass. It’s a few minutes walk from the station, just behind the Cardinal Place complex on the junction of Palace Street and Wilfred Street.Inside, it’s a cosy little one room pub, with a few tables outside at the front too. It was pretty quiet on our Monday evening visit so we were able to get a seat, but I’ve walked past on occasion and its looked rammed.
It’s a Shepherd Neame pub, so commuters back to Kent can enjoy some of their local beers before making the journey home. It had four of their ales on tap – Spitfire, Hog Island, Master Brew and Whitstable Bay. They only do food at lunchtimes between 12-3, offering a selection of toasties for around £4 a pop. With its primary trade coming from office workers, The Cask and Glass is shut on Sundays and closes at 8pm on Saturday.
With its carpet, curtains and leather backed seats, it has the vibe of a village pub a stones throw away from the chaos of Victoria Street. Given its proximity to both Buckingham Palace and Westminster, it’s also no surprise to see pictures of Queen Victoria on the walls as well as the odd political caricature. There is one of Barry Porter, an MP from 1979-1996 and who I’d never heard of before. I have no idea how he gained the accolade of being displayed on the wall here. His Wikipedia entry is pretty sparse and the cartoon in this pub listed in the ‘legacy’ section!
I enjoyed visiting to The Cask and Glass. It’s nice to find a homely spot in an area that is otherwise represented by uninspired tourist fare. If you’re looking for a good spot for a drink near Victoria Station, this is definitely worth checking out.