Punker’s Barn in Landseer’s time

Punker’s Barn had been a fashionable suburb with wide view and remote from London, set above a quiet canal when Landseer and George Elliot lived there. The Railway changed all that, buiding marshalling yards where carriages were shunted day and night and coal smoke filled the air.

c. 1890, A.H.Hern

The map of St John's Wood showing the semi-detached houses of Alpha Rd and North and South Bank much as they were when George Elliot lived there.

c. 1960, A.H.Hern

The railway marshalling yards which obliterated the earlier houses and destroyed the pleasant road connections to Regent's Park. They were to dominate the are for decades.


Soon after 1950 the railway marshalling yard became obsolete. Then the Clean Air Acts forbade the burning of coal and by that time much other railway traffic had passed to the roads. From about 1955, British Rail allowed the area of houses south of the marshalling yards to deteriorate badly, as they hoped to sell the site for profitable office building. Only minimum repairs were done; damp was rife and vacated houses were not re-let. Sherbourne Place, Lascelles Street, Broadley Terrace, Bridport Street and the south side of Blandford Square (which was all that remained by that time) rotted, until only about 20 people occupied the 89 houses. This in a period of acute housing shortage.

When the Labour government forbade any more office building, British Rail had no economic option but to sell to Westminster City Council. The Council erected Lisson Green Estate of about 200 flats on the site.1 These can be seen today, updated in the 1990s, with rather comic applied architectural pediments, glued on like false eyelashes.


  1. Councilor Leonard Jacobs, Labour Life, December 1966



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Updated January 24, 2011