Euston Road in 2008
|Other name(s)||A501 road|
|Former name(s)||New Road|
|Length||1.1 mi (1.8 km)|
|west end||Great Portland Street|
|east end||London King's Cross railway station|
The road was originally the central section of the New Road from Paddington to Islington, opening in 1756 as London's first bypass in the area. It was originally designed to drive cattle to Smithfield Market, avoiding central London. Traffic increased as a result of the opening of several major railway stations in the mid-19th century, including Euston Station, which led to the road being renamed Euston Road in 1857. The route was extensively widened in the 1960s in order to cater for the increasing demands of motor traffic, which led to the construction of the Euston Tower, yet still contains several significant buildings including the Wellcome Library, the British Library and the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel.
The road starts as a continuation of the A501, a major road through Central London, at its junction with Marylebone Road and Great Portland Street. It meets the northern end of Tottenham Court Road at a large junction where there is an underpass, and ends at King's Cross with Gray's Inn Road. The road ahead to Islington is Pentonville Road.
The road is part of the London Inner Ring Road and on the edge of the London congestion charge zone. Drivers are not charged for travelling on the road, but may be if they turn south into the zone during its hours of operation. King's Cross and St Pancras railway stations are at the eastern end of the road, the British Library is nearby, and Euston railway station is a little further west. Euston Tower is also on the road. Both the old and new headquarters of the Wellcome Trust are on the south side. From west to east the road meets Regent's Park, Great Portland Street, Warren Street, Euston Square, Euston station and King's Cross St Pancras tube stations. London Bus Route 205 runs the entire extent of Euston Road from Great Portland Street to King's Cross.
18th – 19th century
Before the 18th century, the land where Euston Road now runs was fields and farmland. At the time, Camden Town was an easily accessible village retreat for Londoners working in the city. Euston Road was originally formed as part of the New Road, a construction enabled by an Act of Parliament passed in 1756, promoted by Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton. Construction began in May that year, and it was open to traffic by September.
The road was intended to provide a new drovers' road for herding sheep and cattle to Smithfield Market avoiding Oxford Street and Holborn, and so it ended at St John's Street, Islington. It also provided a quicker route for army units to reach the Essex coast when there was a threat of invasion, without passing through the Cities of London and Westminster, and could act as a barrier between the increasing urban sprawl of London, which threatened to reach places such as Camden Town. Building of the road was opposed by the Capper family, who lived on the south side of the proposed route and complained their farm's crops would be ruined by dust kicked up by cattle driven along the route. Capper Street, a small side street off Tottenham Court Road, is named after the family A clause in the 1756 Act stipulated that no buildings should be constructed within 50 feet (15 m) of the road, with the result that most of the houses along it lay behind substantial gardens. During the 19th century this law was increasingly ignored.
Euston Station opened on the north side of the New Road in July 1837. It was planned by Robert Stephenson on the site of gardens called Euston Grove, and was the first mainline station to open in London. The entrance, designed by Philip Hardwick, cost £35,000 (now 2,840,000) and was the highest portico in London at 72 feet (22 m). The Great Hall opened in 1849 to accommodate passengers better, and a statue of Stephenson's father, George was installed in 1852. The Dukes of Grafton had become the main property owners in the area, and in 1857 the central section of the road, between Osnaburgh Street and Kings Cross, was renamed Euston Road after Euston Hall, their country house. The eastern section became Pentonville Road, the western Marylebone Road. The entire station complex was controversially demolished in 1963 against strong protest and opposition to accommodate British Rail's facilities. A replacement building opened in 1968, and now serves 50 million passengers annually. The full length of the Euston Road was dug up for the Metropolitan Railway to be built beneath it. After construction, the road was relaid to a much higher quality. St Pancras station opened in 1867, with the Midland Grand Hotel following in 1873.
Tolmers Village was in the tiny triangle (less than 2 hectares (4.9 acres)) on the north side of Euston Road between Hampstead Road and North Gower Street. It was built in the early 1860s over a former reservoir to provide affordable middle-class terraced housing; however the proximity to a main road and the Euston Station complex meant it ultimately catered for the working class instead. In 1871, around 5,000 residents were housed in a 12 acres (4.9 ha) area. The village attracted Greek, Cypriot and Asian immigrants following World War II. In the 1970s, the estate came under threat from property developers who wanted to demolish the entire site and replace it with offices, which led to demonstrations and protests, including supporters from nearby University College. The plans were cancelled, but the original estate was still bulldozed and replaced by a set of tower blocks.
The area around the junction with Tottenham Court Road suffered significant bomb damage during the Second World War. The contemporary Greater London Plan of Patrick Abercrombie called for a new ring road around Central London called the 'A' Ring, but post-war budget constraints meant that a medley of existing routes were widened to form the ring road instead, including Euston Road. An underpass to avoid the junction with Tottenham Court Road was proposed in 1961, with construction taking place in 1964. Property developer Joe Levy was keen to develop buildings in the area and bought up various properties. When London County Council (LCC) refused planning permission because of the underpass development, Levy showed them he had outline planning permission and insisted the council pay him £1 million if they wanted to compulsorily purchase the site. Over the next four years, Levy bought up properties along the north side of Euston Road, and then came to an agreement that the council could build the underpass if he could build a large complex of two tower blocks with office shops and apartments. This became the Euston Tower.
The tower attracted a number of significant tenants, most notably the independent radio station Capital Radio. The ITV broadcaster Thames Television's corporate headquarters were based nearby at No. 306–316 Euston Road from 1971 to 1992, when the station closed. The building was demolished in 1994 and redeveloped when Thames, now a production company, moved all operations to Teddington Studios.
In the early 21st century, the Greater London Authority commissioned a plan for the improvement of the road from the prominent architectural firm Terry Farrell and Partners. The original study proposed removing the underpass (though this was cancelled) and adding a pedestrian crossing and removing the gyratory system connecting Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street. The scheme was approved by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone as "the start of changing the Marylebone to Euston road from a highway into a series of linked public spaces." The pedestrian crossing opened in March 2010. Unlike Livingstone, his successor Boris Johnston favours the Euston Road underpass and has declared it to be a good place to test his nerves when cycling around London.
In 2015, Transport for London announced their intention to close one lane in each direction on Euston Road from 2020 to 2026 to accommodate work on High Speed 2. The decision was condemned by Camden Borough Council as it would critically affect business and could ultimately cost over £1 billion in lost revenue. The Automobile Association said the works were the largest ever proposed in London and that it would affect far more than local traffic due to its Inner Ring Road status.
About halfway along Euston Road, at the junction with Upper Woburn Place, is St Pancras New Church, built in 1822. Designed by William and Henry Inwood and costing around £90,000 (now £7,325,000), it was the most expensive property to be designed in London since St Paul's Cathedral the previous century. Almost opposite is the Euston Road fire station, built 1901–2, in an "Arts and Crafts" style by Percy Nobbs. The Shaw Theatre opened at No. 100–110 in 1971, in honour of George Bernard Shaw. It was completely refurbished in 2000 as part of an adjacent Novotel, removing the Keith Grant designed sculpture at the theatre's front. The sculpture was subsequently reinstated after protests.
The New Hospital for Women moved to No. 144 Euston Road in 1888, and was rebuilt by J.M. Brydon two years later. It housed 42 beds and was staffed entirely by women, which made it a comfortable environment for gynaecological problems. It was renamed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in 1918 following the death of the hospital's founder, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman in England to qualify as a doctor of medicine. The Euston Road premises closed in 1993, transferring its services to University College Hospital. The current hospital building is at No. 235. The Wellcome Trust, a private medical research charity, was established in 1936 and has premises at No. 183 and No. 210 Euston Road. The charity's library holds about half a million books, including over 6,000 Sanskrit manuscripts and the largest collection of Hindi and Punjabi medical documents in Europe. Its objects were transferred on permanent loan to the Science Museum in 1976. The University College London Hospital's archive buildings are at No 250 Euston Road.
The Midland Grand Hotel, fronting St Pancras station, was designed by George Gilbert Scott. It was built mainly with red bricks, including a tower at one end and a spire at the other. It closed in 1935 and was repeatedly threatened with demolition until it became Grade I listed in 1967. It was subsequently used as office, and a major restoration effort was undertaken in the early 1990s. It reopened as the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel in 2011.
Camden Town Hall, formerly St Pancras Town Hall opened in 1937. The Euston Theatre of Varieties was based at No. 37–43. It was renamed the Regent Theatre in 1922, and converted to a cinema in 1932. It was demolished in 1950 so the town hall could be extended.
The headquarters of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, is at the Friends House, No. 173 Euston Road. It was built between 1925–7 and holds the society's library dating back to 1673, including George Fox's journal covering the foundation of Pennsylvania. The Euston Road School opened at No. 314 in 1934 by William Coldstream, Victor Pasmore and Claude Rogers to encourage artwork in an atmosphere different to traditional art schools. The school struggled and had closed by the start of World War II. It was demolished in the early 1960s; the cover shot of the Beatles' Twist and Shout EP was taken on the remains of the school after it had been demolished.
The British Library moved to No. 96 Euston Road in 1999, with a new complex designed by Colin St John Wilson and opened by Queen Elizabeth II. It was overdue in both time and budget, ultimately using over ten million bricks and covering a floor area of 112,000 square metres (1,210,000 sq ft). Though looked at unfavourably by architectural critics, visitors have enjoyed the welcoming entrance and praised its internal arrangements, and it caters to around 16,000 daily visitors.
The street is referenced as a property in the United Kingdom edition of the board game Monopoly, which features famous London areas on its gameboard, it is a part of the pale blue set, including Pentonville Road and the only space named after a building, The Angel, Islington.
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