SHAMUS IN LONDON | Bishopsgate, Sun Street Passage

Updated: Nov 12

"Eighty yards along Liverpool Street, past the empty cab ranks, was a high, narrow, soot-brick alley named Sun Street Passage for a joke.

It ran between two City rail stations, each the size of a small country town. On its east side, Liverpool Street terminus was closed for the holiday. On its west side, Broad Street station was a stretch of abandoned platforms, walled-off and bombed to dereliction.

The alley was so sheltered, the night’s blizzard had stopped dead inside its maw, a scatter of powder stirring on the flagstones as if it had blown in under a door. Brick arches with deep recesses ran its whole length, and on a dead winter forenoon Sun Street Passage was passing for warm if you were desperate enough. Dillys Valentine was sitting hunched on a packing crate in one of the east-side recesses. The one she called her morning room." [Shamus Dust, Chapter 4]

Sun Street Passage is first listed in the City in 1901 as a long narrow passage that runs for about 250 yards by the railway lines and Liverpool Street Station. On the 1947 map it's so small that it doesn't even get named - just a ginnel between the two railway stations.

"The iron stair climbed to a platform at the west edge of the station, freight-only since wartime, where a clerk left a stove burning in a waiting room after the last night train left. In a winter freeze and a coal shortage, Miss Dillys’s office was her special draw, for a fading clientele and acquaintances alike." [Shamus Dust, Chapter 4]

By the winter of 1944 the journalist and politician Tom Driberg described the whole area as 'almost completely squalid' and called it 'this hell hole'. If he'd asked Dillys Valentine on Christmas morning three years later, she'd no doubt have agreed.

The whole area got cleaned up after the blitz took out much of Broad Street Station. You can see in the image below that by 1947 Sun Street Passage was not much more than a thoroughfare running alongside the main approach to Liverpool Street Station towards the ticket office. 9

Did you know?

  • There is only one street named Sun Street Passage, making it unique in Great Britain.

  • It's believed that Sun Street Passage got its name from a public house that once stood at the corner. Which corner? Well no one seems to have an answer to that.

  • Before World War II Broad Street Station was was loosing most of its passengers to the expanding bus, tram and underground network. After the war, bomb damage was never fully repaired and in 1950 the main part of the station was closed. It struggled on, but in 1986 it was totally demolished.


The London Encyclopaedia: Weinreb, Ben and Hibbert, Christopher, 2008

British History Online

Janet Roger is the author of SHAMUS DUST : HARD WINTER, COLD WAR, COOL MURDER - available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US

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