Cardboard City (London)

Cardboard City was the name for an informal settlement consisting of temporary cardboard shelters that occupied a site near Waterloo station in London, England. Cardboard City, was lived in by homeless people from around 1978 until 1998, and was eventually closed after a High Court order led to it’s redevelopment.[1]

The underpass between Waterloo Bridge and the Bullring roundabout in 2009, previously the site of Cardboard City


Cardboard City was first occupied in 1978.[2] In the mid-1980s the site, in the pedestrian underpasses under the Bullring roundabout near Waterloo station, was home to up to 200 people sleeping in cardboard boxes. By early 1998, fewer than 30 people remained there.[3] These were officially evicted by the London Borough of Lambeth in February 1998, and forced to leave before the end of March 1998. All were offered free housing by the Borough, although there was concern as to whether the residents would be able to cope with housed life. The area is now the site of the BFI IMAX cinema.[3]

In popular cultureEdit

  • The song "Cardboard Box City" by The Levellers (on their first album A Weapon Called the Word from 1990) is about this site and most people's ignorance about those living conditions.[4]
  • The song "Victoria Gardens" by Madness (on their 1984 album Keep Moving) refers directly to the plight of the homeless residents of Cardboard City.
  • The main character of Rebuilding Coventry by Sue Townsend is described as living in Cardboard City for a time.
  • The film Tax City was based on a true account of the Taxing Squad, a group of criminals who preyed on homeless people sleeping at Cardboard City.[5]
  • The documentary photography of artist Moyra Peralta featured the last days of Cardboard City and captured many of the realities of life in the underpasses of the Bullring. The book includes an introduction by renowned art critic John Berger.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "'Cardboard City' meets its Waterloo". BBC. 23 February 1998. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  2. ^ Newsome, Rachel (5 April 1998). "Roofless, but not without neighbours and a home". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 November 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  3. ^ a b "'Cardboard City' meets its Waterloo". BBC News. 1998-02-23. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
  4. ^ Lusher, Adam (8 May 2018). "On this day in 1990 Jeremy Corbyn took on Margaret Thatcher over homelessness. Watch the moment here". The Independent. Archived from the original on 24 November 2019. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  5. ^ Marsden, Shelley. "Waterloo's 'Cardboard City' featured in new short film". London SE1. Archived from the original on 20 June 2017.
  6. ^ Nearly Invisible by Moyra Peralta, John Berger (Introduction). London: Art Books International. 2001. ISBN 0953154114.

Coordinates: 51°30′18″N 0°6′49″W / 51.50500°N 0.11361°W / 51.50500; -0.11361