Glimpse the past through old images of Charing Cross in the City of Westminster, London.
How did Charing Cross get its name?
In old English, cierring meant a river bend. Thats probably how the original hamlet of Charing got its name. In 1291-94, King Edward I had the stone Eleanor Cross made by Alexander of Abingdon, as a memorial to his late wife, Eleanor of Castile.
The Eleanor Cross was destroyed by Parliamentarians in 1647, during the English Civil War.
In 1675, a statue of King Charles I, mounted on a horse, was placed on the site of the Eleanor Cross, and has stood there since.
A reimagining of the medieval cross was placed at Charing Cross railway station in 1865, with the railway station named after the famous monument.
The Victorian statue is sited 203 metres north-east of the former Eleanor Cross position. Designed at the time of the Gothic Revival movement, it’s larger and more elaborate than the original cross, too.
Charing Cross Road was named after the railway station.
Charing Cross Road Fire 1948
This silent film clip shows firefighters battling a blaze.
We also see lots of local people, some of them smiling cheerfully at the camera, being held back by the police.
Then there are shots down Charing Cross Road, so you can see many buildings.
The firefighters then end up tackiling the blaze from the rooftops.
Fire In Charing Cross Road (1948) – British Pathé on YouTube
1970s Hostel Plan
Even in the early 1970s, the rising number of homeless people sleeping on London’s streets next to empty buildings was causing concern.
One plan was to convert the almost disused Charing Cross Hospital, just off The Strand, into a shelter for the homeless. At the time, only about 40 patients remained in the large and elegant building, because in 1973 Charing Cross hospital was transferred to Fulham Palace Road in Hammersmith, in west London.
Interviews include campaigner Alastair Miller, and homeless people sleeping rough at the Marmite factory.
One man explains that he was born in South Wales in 1938, in a working class family. He became a trained musician and a composer by profession, also working as a pianist and organist. He was sleeping rough because of “a very serious drinking problem”.
We also hear from the spokeperson for the Covent Garden community, explaining why local residents objected to the hostel scheme. He says that there are already two large ‘doss houses’ in the area, one a Drury Lane and one in Parker Street. He feels there are ever increasing numbers of homeless people in the area, as the number of residents falls rapidly, leading to an imbalance. His references to council services breaking down reflects a lot of social turmoil of the period.
Today, the elegant Victorian building is home to the Charing Cross police station.
Charing Cross Hospital (1970-1979) – British Pathé on YouTube