The Works of the Metropolitan Extension Railway in Smithfield (1864)

The first underground railway in the world, the Metropolitan Railway, opened in January 1863. The Metropolitan served an arc of train stations along the northern edge of central London: from Paddington Station, the terminus of the Great Western Railway east to Euston, St. Pancras, King’s Cross stations (termini of railroads fanning to the north of London) and south to a terminus at Farringdon Street. The line was quickly extended a short distance further east in order to reach closer to railroad stations serving mainline routes to the east and south. This view of the extension under construction at the site of the ancient Smithfield market illustrates the cut-and-cover method used to build the Metropolitan, District, and Circle lines. These lines required the excavation of trenches that were usually dug along the line of existing streets or open space. These trenches were then vaulted to form tunnels over which surface streets and structures were rebuilt. The disruption at Smithfield was considerable, for a direct branch link to the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway was provided there. City planners took advantage of this disruption to revamp Smithfield Market itself. A new brick meat market hall was built directly over the line between 1866 and 1868.

Like the Underground itself, The Illustrated London News was something of a modern marvel. Founded by Herbert Ingram in 1842, it exploited the ability of modern steam-powered cylindrical presses to integrate illustrations (usually wood engravings) with text on large press runs published on a rapid schedule. Unlike its predecessor, the cheaper Penny Magazine, the relatively lavish Illustrated London News appealed most directly to the emerging urban and suburban middle class, and its illustrations often reflected the optimistic embrace and fascination with modern technology.



Barker, T. C. and Michael Robbins. A History of London Transport, 2 vols. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1963.

Sinnema, Peter. Dynamics of the Pictured Page: Representing the Nation in The Illustrated London News. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998.


Gale Digital Collections. “Illustrated London News Historical Archive Online, 1842-2003.”

Transport for London. “London Underground.”

“The Works of the Metropolitan Extension Railway in Smithfield,” in Illustrated London News (London: William Little, 1864), p. 601. The Newberry Library, A51.418 vol. 45