Here’s a puzzle for you….
In the best tradition of Boxing Day Quizzes here is a question to tax your grey cells after too much turkey and mince pies yesterday.
What is the connection between, Woodford Halse, the City of Paris and the home of English Football, Wembley Stadium?
The answer is this extraordinary man, Edward William Watkin….
Watkin was the man behind the Great Central Railway, which was to link his railways in the north with the Metropolitan Line, which he also controlled.
The GCR was only part of his plan, though, to link the north of England with Europe. Watkin was behind the first real attempt (started in 1880) to build a tunnel under the English Channel to link the two countries’ rail networks. It was abandoned after little more than a mile had been dug. Had he succeeded we might have been able to travel from Woodford to Paris without changing trains!
That isn’t the only link though. Watkin was fascinated by the success of the Eiffel Tower and proposed a similar attraction for London. He envisaged a (slightly higher) tower of 370m built as the centre-piece of a great amusement park in North London, served by his Metropolitan Railway: Watkins’ Tower. Construction began in 1895 but it never progressed beyond the first floor and was ultimately demolished. The site became the location for the British Empire Exhibition of 1923 with Wembley Stadium being built over the foundations of Watkins’ tower.
A recent article on the BBC web site, shows how the tower might have looked, if it had been completed. You can learn more about the Great Central and Woodford Halse here on the Signpost.