London's Roman Palace Garden at Cannon Street Station

Roman palace garden image projected onto a minimalist wall at Cannon Street Station

Reading about London’s Roman archaeology, I was deligted to find that the site of the Provincial Governor’s Palace is open to the public. It is now the foyer of Cannon Street Station (ie the foyer is above the garden site). So I went to take a photograph. My camera went ‘click’ at 09.52.15 on 05.1.2012 and 57 seconds later a shifty looking man approached me with an ID card and we had the following exchange.
‘I am the station manager. Did you know that this is a private place and you are not allowed to take photographs?????’.
‘No. I thought it was a public place. Please can you show me the sign which says “No Photography”‘
‘There isn’t one. Do you have a sign in your house saying “No Photography”?????’
‘No but there is a difference between a private house and a ………..’
I could not finish the sentence because he interrupted me to say ‘I could call the police’. I asked him not to interrupt and made 3 more attempts to complete my sentence. It could not be done, so I ended the conversation with the remark that that ‘If this is how “station managers” waste their time it is no surprise that National Rail has operating costs way above the European average. It also has lower standards – and the staff are often impolite’.
No doubt he could have given me the Nuremberg defence ‘I was just following orders’ and to show I bear no personal grudge I have decided not to bill Network Rail for the imaginative proposal, above, for using his blank wall as a place on which to project illustrations of Roman Palace gardens. He should also install a Triclinum and train for the more rewarding job of serving Roman delicacies to customers suffering psychological damage from their experiences with London’s rail system.
The site of the Villa and Palace Garden of London's Roman Provincial Governor is now below the foyer of Cannon Street Station

The site of the Villa and Palace Garden of London's Roman Provincial Governor is now the foyer of Cannon Street Station

. Let us hope National Rail ‘read the writing on the wall’ and put on the Roman Palace Garden Projection as a contribution to the 2012 Chelsea Fringe Garden Festival.

12 thoughts on “London's Roman Palace Garden at Cannon Street Station

  1. Tom Turner Post author

    It has been pointed out to me that the station manager was also acting ultra vires. See
    Taking photographs on stations is permitted providing it is for personal use. For any commercial photography, prior permission must be sought from the appropriate train operator or, from Network Rail at their 17 major stations. On busy stations the use of a tripod may cause a dangerous obstruction to passengers and you may be asked not to use one. In addition, tripod legs must also be kept away from platform edges and behind the yellow lines. Flash photography on platforms is not allowed as it may distract the attention of train drivers and train despatch staff and is therefore a potential safety hazard. You are also not allowed to take photographs of security related equipment such as CCTV cameras.

  2. Robert Holden

    For those interested in this trainspotters’ exchange: Tom’s quotation is from the Network Rail website page for railway enthusiasts, see”

    The equivalent Transport for London’s hyperlink (for London tube stations) is
    and TfL charge amateurs and students £40 for a one month permit and forbids placing the photographs on the internet. Clearly Boris Johnson’s, (the Mayor of London) administration not only wish to charge its citizens the highest tube fares in Western Europe but also wish to charge Londoners for photographing their own tube system in addition.

    By the way is the photograph of a mural from the Londinium provincial governer’s house or is it from elsewhere?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      The illustration is from the House of Livia at Prima Porta. So far, no illustrations of Roman gardens in the British Isles have been found.
      London Transport should make an absolute distinction between commercial and non-commercial photography, and charge only for the latter. But if they wishe to persist with the morally indefensible policy they should begin by taking action agains the 185,000 photographs on Flickr. To me, it looks as though half of them break the rule – unless of course the photographers all bought permits, in which case fares should be reduced.

  3. Christine

    Tom your suggested improvements of Cannon Street station are to be commended, being not only aesthetic but having a heritage and educative purpose also. I wonder whether the British Museum would be brave enough to also enable artefacts to be displayed on the platform given the exceptional high level of security evident by your encounters with British Rail?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      No need to put original objects on display. It would be easy to (1) do 3D laser scans of the objects (2) send the scans to a 3D printing machine (3) ask me to patinate the output from the 3D printer. Busy travellers would not be able to tell the difference!
      BUT: I am very attracted to the idea of finding something useful for the station managers to do. There is a risk that the squeeze on public expenditure, combined with video security, will result in many of them losing their jobs. But maybe not: the Oyster Card system is supposed to be mechanised but seems to need supervision from crowds of uniformed men and women.

  4. Christine

    Yes, it would be amazing to see the British underground rivalling Moscow for beauty and culture. The stations in Moscow are tourist attractions in their own right. [ ]

    If the British Musuem extended their exhibition space to include the Underground network then perhaps the supervisors could also offer guided tours or information sessions on their particular section and exhibits?

    Or perhaps the British equivalents of the Moscow underground following your suggestions might make use of holograms? [ ] Or perhaps virtual people might make the security environment a nightmare to police? You wouldn’t want someone coming up with the idea of virtual (hologram) staff in the tradition of scarecrows (to ensure computers do the right thing re ticketing) now would you?

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    Too late, alas, for doing a Moscow with London’s Underground. But the Jubilee Line has some stations with an impressive sense of space and scale. My favourite is the Canary Wharf station. It definitely has room for some imaginative use of holograms. Preferably not scarecrows: how about dancing girls?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Thank you for the link. I am happly that the BJP is fighting for photographer’s rights. In the case of the Aldwych, they obvious policy would have been to ban tripods. It reads as though someone could have put a small digital on a tripod and been allowed to use it.


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