London's transport infrastructure was developed at this time. The railways prompted the demise of the canals, trams took over from omnibuses and for most of London, though not of course Hackney, the beginnings of the underground system were laid. This period also saw the advent of commuting.
The first passenger railway had opened in 1836, the London and Greenwich, initially linking Deptford to Bermondsey, then London Bridge to Greenwich. Others soon followed and the 1840s to 1860s were the boom years of the railway in this country. The London to Birmingham line opened in 1837, operating from the new Euston station. It halved the journey time between the cities to less than six hours but took 20,000 labourers to build. Waterloo station opened in 1848, Kings Cross 1851 and Paddington 1854. One problem, until the introduction of a standard national time in 1881, was that different places, even in London, set their own clocks, so not everyone worked to the same time!
In the 1840s London was becoming very congested with carts, cabs and omnibuses; it allegedly took as long to travel from London Bridge to Trafalgar Square as it did to Brighton. All the main railway lines terminated on the edges of the City, forming a ring around London. A way was needed to link the stations without causing too much disruption to the heavily built up City centre. The solution was to go underground. The first underground line, the Metropolitan Railway, ran from Paddington to Farringdon Street, via Euston and King's Cross mainline terminals. It opened in 1863 and was a huge success, carrying 40,000 passengers on its first day. It was not like the Tube system of today however, it was really a normal steam train running underground and there were ventilation shafts along the way to let the steam out.
The first railway in Hackney was the East and West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway, which being rather a mouthful became known as the Camden Town railway as it ran from there to the docks. It was supposed to be a goods line but became popular as a passenger line, becoming the North London Railway in 1853. Hackney and Kingsland were the first stations opened in 1850.
The development that occurred in an area once a railway station was built prompted the Sir John Cass' Charity to lobby for a station at Victoria Park; they had land on the north side of the park that they wished to build on. This station was opened in 1856. Homerton station was opened in 1868 and Hackney Downs, London Fields, Rectory Road, Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill in 1872.
This Stamford Hill tract, the Enfield line, ruined the look of Hackney Downs and cut straight across Stoke Newington Common. In 1865 a line running south from Dalston to Broad Street was built, cutting through the crowded streets of Shoreditch. This line, which became one of the most popular in London, was allowed on the proviso that it must run a 'workmen's train'. These were cheap trains for labourers and other workmen. The Cheap trains Act of 1883 required all rail companies to offer workmen's fares on early morning and evening services. It was these trains that began to open up the opportunity of suburban life to the working classes.
These opportunities became even more tangible with the appearance of the horse-drawn tram on the streets of Hackney in the 1870s. The routes were extensive, linking Hackney with Islington and Bow, and reaching from Shoreditch in the South to Stamford Hill in the north. The smooth running trams usurped the old horse drawn omnibuses and coaches and although they were not allowed in the City they became immensely popular, at weekends as well as on work days.
During the Victorian period all existing roads in Hackney were improved and many new roads built. New side routes alongside the main roads of the borough meant the turnpike trusts found it increasingly difficult to control the use of the roads and most trusts were transferred to the Hackney Board of Works in 1863, although the Temple Mills Trust did not disband until 1911.
The London County Council, which was created in 1888, had the responsibility of dealing with overcrowding and traffic control. It took over many of the tram routes and electrified them, enabling even more people to move out of the city. The result was that the population of the City fell from 128,00 in 1851 to 27,000 in 1901.
Horse-drawn buses were still running throughout this time too. The largest by far was the London General Omnibus company. Established in 1855, within a year they had taken over 600 of London's 810 omnibuses. They were able to do this by exploiting a slump in sales following the closure of the Great Exhibition.
The first electric underground railway, or 'the Tube' as it became known, was The City and South London Railway opened in 1890, running from the City to Stockwell. The first coaches were known as 'padded cells' because they had cushioned seats and no windows. It was thought there would be nothing to look at in a tunnel. Although popular the railway was not a great success in terms of revenue and it was not until improvements in the next decade that the Tube took off.