Moving Lord's Cricket Ground Yet Again
Then only three years later, in 1887, the Manchester and Sheffield Railway planned to cut a swathe down the length of Lisson Grove, chopping off the new addition to the Lord's ground. The M.C.C. refused to agree to any more disruption of their ground. Cricketers and residents of St. John's Wood, who did not like the idea of the new railway anyway. Everyone rose in protest.
Eventually the Railway placated them. The children of the nearby Orphan Clergy School were found new homes in the country and their land, which was double the size of the piece to be taken from the MCC by the Railway, was offered in lieu. The 1893 Extension of the London Line Act gave specific protection to the M.C.C. and by careful planning, on the 6th April, 1898, ‘the work was completed without an over having been lost.' Some of the non-cricketing residents of St. John's Wood were not best pleased at what they regarded as this caving in to the new railway.1
To cut the railway, fine streets and squares between Lisson Grove and Regent's Park were sliced through, leaving jagged cul-de-sacs. Two road bridges were built to link Lisson Grove with Regent's Park, but they were always bleak, utilitarian through ways. Lisson Grove was effectively cut off in all but name, while marshalling yards covered large areas. 507 small houses were demolished and the tenants made homeless. Years later Wharncliffe Gardens was built and rehoused some them. These were ranges of five-story industrial dwellings, with never a garden in sight. They were far from the cottages and detached houses which had been built on Punker’s Barn for Landseer and George Elliot.
The first regular passenger trains started in March 1899, just in time for the new century, but the line was never a financial success.
There is one strange story. The local myth was that Frank Crocker lost his shirt building a public house in the wrong place. The story goes that he thought that the railway would come down on west side of Lisson Grove and terminate in Aberdeen Place. Hoping to capture the teeming thousands who would use the new railway, he built the pub there, only to see the railway slip past to Marylebone Road, on the other side of Lisson Grove.
In fact this is completely wrong. He built Crocker’s at great expense and never made his fortune but he built it after the Railway had been built. It was a misjudgment on his part, but he knew the facts before he sited his pub. In previous editions I repeated the urban myth. I was pulled up for it and it was a fair cop. I correct this mistake here and apologize.
The public house is an enormous building, magnificent in its Victorian splendour, with fine stonework and beveled glass. Today it stands, a most enjoyable building, full of life and invention, a gigantic stranded whale, far too large for its puddle.