Kings Cross, London
Aerial view of the area surrounding King's Cross station
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Kings Cross is a district in Central London, England, 1.5 miles (2.5 km) north of Charing Cross. It is served by London King's Cross railway station, the terminus of one of the major rail routes between London and the North.
The area has been regenerated since the mid-1990s with the terminus of the Eurostar rail service at St Pancras International opening in 2007 and the rebuilding of King's Cross station, a major redevelopment in the north of the area.
The area was previously a village known as Battle Bridge or Battlebridge which was an ancient crossing of the River Fleet. The original name of the bridge was Broad Ford Bridge. The corruption "Battle Bridge" led to a tradition that this was the site of a major battle in AD 60 or 61 between the Romans and the Iceni tribe led by Boudica (also known as Boudicea). The tradition claims support from the writing of Publius Cornelius Tacitus, an ancient Roman historian, who described the place of action between the Romans and Boadicea (Annals 14.31), but without specifying where it was; Thornbury addresses the pros and cons of the identification. Lewis Spence's 1937 book Boadicea – warrior queen of the Britons includes a map showing the supposed positions of the opposing armies. The suggestion that Boudica is buried beneath platform 9 or 10 at King's Cross station seems to have arisen as urban folklore since the end of World War II. The area had been settled in Roman times, and a camp here known as The Brill was erroneously attributed to Julius Caesar, who never visited Londinium. There is still a small area named "Battle Bridge Place" between King's Cross and St Pancras stations, and "Brill Place", a road leading towards Euston from St Pancras Station. An art installation named the Identified Flying Object (IFO) stands in Battle Bridge Place, part of the RELAY King's Cross Arts programme. St Pancras Old Church, also set behind the stations, is said to be one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain.
The current name has its origin in a monument to King George IV which stood from 1830 to 1845 at "the king's crossroads" where New Road (later Euston Road), Gray's Inn Road, and Pentonville Road met. The monument was sixty feet high and topped by an eleven-foot-high statue of the king; it was described by Walter Thornbury as "a ridiculous octagonal structure crowned by an absurd statue". The statue itself, which cost no more than £25, was constructed of bricks and mortar, and finished in a manner that gave it the appearance of stone "at least to the eyes of common spectators". The architect was Stephen Geary, who exhibited a model of "the Kings Cross" at the Royal Academy in 1830. The upper storey was used as a camera obscura while the base housed first a police station, and later a public house. The unpopular building was demolished in 1845, though the area kept the name of Kings Cross. A structure in the form of a lighthouse was built on top of a building almost on the site about 30 years later. Known locally as the "Lighthouse Building", the structure was popularly thought to be an advertisement for Netten's Oyster Bar on the ground floor, but this seems not to be true. It is a grade II listed building.
King's Cross station now stands by the junction where the monument stood and took its name. The station, designed by architect Lewis Cubitt and opened in 1852, succeeded a temporary earlier station, erected north of the canal in time for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
St Pancras railway station, built by the Midland Railway, lies immediately to the west. They both had extensive land ("the railway lands") to house their associated facilities for handling general goods and specialist commodities such as fish, coal, potatoes and grain. The passenger stations on Euston Road far outweighed in public attention the economically more important goods traffic to the north. King's Cross and St Pancras stations, and indeed all London railway stations, made an important contribution to the capital's economy.
After World War II the area declined from being a poor but busy industrial and distribution services district to a partially abandoned post-industrial district. By the 1980s it was notorious for prostitution and drug abuse. This reputation impeded attempts to revive the area, utilising the large amount of land available following the decline of the railway goods yard to the north of the station and the many other vacant premises in the area.
Relatively cheap rents and a central London location made the area attractive to artists and designers and both Antony Gormley and Thomas Heatherwick established studios in the area. In late 1980s, a group of musicians, mechanics, and squatters from Hammersmith called Mutoid Waste Company moved into Battlebridge Road warehouse. They built huge industrial sculptures out of scrap metal and held raves. In 1989 they were evicted by police. In 1992, the Community Creation Trust took over the disused coach repair depot and built it into the largest Ecology Centre in Europe with ecohousing for homeless youngsters, The Last Platform Cafe, London Ecology Centre (after its demise in Covent Garden), offices and workshops, gardens and ponds. It was destroyed to make a car park for the Channel Tunnel Regeneration. Bagley's Warehouse was a nightclub venue in the 1990s warehouse rave scene on the site of Goods Yard behind King's Cross stations, now part of the redevelopment area known as the Coal Drops adjacent to Granary Square.
The site is one of the largest construction projects in Greater London in the first quarter of the 21st century. All of the "socially undesirable" behaviour has moved on, and new projects such as offices and housing are over halfway completed.
In the 1990s, the government established the King's Cross Partnership to fund regeneration projects, and the commencement of work on High Speed 1 in 2000 provided a major impetus for other projects. In 2001, Argent was selected as the development partner. The London terminus of the Eurostar international rail services to Paris and Brussels moved to St Pancras station in November 2007.
Following the opening of the High Speed 1 to the station, redevelopment of the land between the two major stations and the old King's Cross railway lands to the rear commenced. In 2008, Argent, London & Continental Railways and DHL formed a joint partnership: Kings Cross Central Limited Partnership. Outline planning permission, prepared by Allies and Morrison and Porphyrios Associates, was granted for the whole site in 2006. Detailed planning applications for each part of the site are being made on a rolling programme basis.
The area remains a major focus of redevelopment in the second decade of the 21st century. In 2017, Google, which already occupy a large new building between St. Pancras and King's Cross stations, announced plans for a further £1 billion building stretching along the west side of King's Cross station towards the Regents canal.
The area has also been for many years home to a number of trades union head offices (including the NUJ, RMT, UNISON, NUT, Community and UCU).
King's Cross in numbers: 67 acres, 50 new buildings, 1,900 new homes, 20 new streets, 10 new public parks and squares, 26 acres of open space, 30,000 people by 2016.
Education, culture and heritage
The area has increasingly become home to cultural establishments. The London Canal Museum opened in 1992, and in 1997 a new home for the British Library opened next to St Pancras Station. There was a small theatre, the Courtyard, that closed in late 2006 as a result of the gentrification of the area caused by a number of regeneration projects there, in this case, Regent's Quarter, across the boundary in Islington. The Gagosian Gallery moved their main London premises to the area in 2004. The London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are based in King's Place, on Battlebridge Basin next to the Regent's Canal. King's Place is also the home of The Guardian and The Observer newspapers, and of the UK Drug Policy Commission.
In September 2011 the University of the Arts London moved to the Granary Complex. A whole series of new public squares and gardens have opened, among them Granary Square with its spectacular fountains, Lewis Cubitt Park and Square and the new Gasholder Park.
The station's redevelopment led to the demolition of several buildings, including the Gasworks.
In popular culture
In the Harry Potter books, King's Cross station is where the protagonist boards the train for Hogwarts. However, the author, JK Rowling, later admitted she mixed up Kings Cross with the next door station, Euston. The railway station has put up a sign for the fictional "Platform 9+3⁄4" described in the books, and embedded part of a luggage trolley halfway into the wall. Film adaptations have used platforms 4 and 5 for some scenes.
Kings Cross and its surrounding streets were also the setting for the 1955 Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers, two British drama films starring Max Bygraves—A Cry from the Streets (1958) and Spare the Rod (1961)—as well as Mike Leigh's High Hopes (1988). Anthony Minghella's 2006 film Breaking and Entering is also set in Kings Cross.
"Vale Royal", an epic poem in 700 triads by Aidan Andrew Dun probes into this zone of London; "Vale Royal" was launched at the Albert Hall in 1995. A triad of Dun's, excerpted from another poem, "The Brill", has been installed at the western end of Granary Square in a small grove of trees beside the new Central Saint Martins. It reads: "Kings Cross, dense with angels and histories, there are cities beneath your pavements, cities behind your skies. Let me see!"
The British pop music duo Pet Shop Boys recorded a song featured on their 1987 album Actually named "Kings Cross": the melancholy track discusses the hopelessness of the AIDS epidemic during that time and uses the Kings Cross area as the "backdrop" of the story, trading on the area's associations with drug use and prostitution. Tracey Thorn covered the song in 2007. Songwriter David Gedge also wrote a song called "Kings Cross" while recording under the name Cinerama.
King's Cross station
King's Cross is a famous railway interchange, and King's Cross station is a focal point in the district.
Commuter services from King's Cross are operated by Thameslink and Great Northern, serving destinations in north London, such as Finsbury Park, Harringay, and Enfield. Destinations further afield include Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage, Peterborough, Cambridge, and King's Lynn. Long-distance departures from King's Cross are operated by Grand Central, Hull Trains, and LNER. Trains serve destinations in North East England and Scotland, including Leeds, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Edinburgh.
In fiction, the station is the London terminus of the Hogwarts Express, which carries Harry Potter to Hogwarts. In the Harry Potter films, however, the exterior shots of the station are those of neighbouring St Pancras station. Some interior shots were filmed at York railway station.
The Goods Yard complex, part of the King's Cross Central development, was a rail freight terminal. The Yard was designed by Lewis Cubitt in 1852. The nearby Granary Square is named after the Granary building. Trains carried Lincolnshire wheat to King's Cross, where the wheat would then be stored in the Granary building to be used by London's bakers.
St Pancras International
St Pancras International station is in the district.
Thameslink operates regional services across London, South East England, and East Anglia. Trains serve key UK destinations including Bedford, Brighton, Cambridge, and Luton. They also serve several major London destinations, including Farringdon, Finsbury Park, and London Bridge. These routes provide the King's Cross area with direct links to Gatwick and Luton Airports .
Euston station sits around half a mile west of King's Cross. National Rail trains from Euston serve the West Midlands, North Wales, North West England, and Scotland. Destinations include Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Holyhead, and Glasgow.
A business partnership group has designed a "Wellbeing Walk" between Euston and St Pancras stations. The route avoids Euston Road, and the group claims that their route, compared to the Euston Road route, reduces pedestrians' exposure to air pollution by 50%.
King's Cross St Pancras tube station is on several London Underground lines:
- Circle, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan lines
- Northern line (Bank branch)
- Piccadilly line
- Victoria line
Euston tube station is nearby, which is served by both branches of the Northern line, and the Victoria line.
Bus and Coach
With three railway stations in the immediate area, and two tube stations, much of the area is used as a transport interchange.
Cycleway 6 runs north–south along Midland Road (between St Pancras station and the British Library) and Judd Street. Northbound, Cycleway 6 passes east of Camden Town en route to Kentish Town. Southbound, the route links King's Cross to Farringdon, the City, and Elephant & Castle.
The Regent's Canal Towpath runs westbound from King's Cross to Camden Town, Regent's Park, and Maida Vale. The Islington Tunnel means that eastbound cyclists must bypass the canal through Angel, but the path continues to the west of Angel towards Hoxton, Victoria Park, Mile End, and Limehouse.
Cycling infrastructure is also provided along Mabledon Place (towards Bloomsbury), York Way (towards Barnsbury and Kentish Town), Pentonville Road (towards Farringdon), Goods Way (between St Pancras International and York Way), and Argyle Street (between Gray's Inn Road and Euston Road).
The district is centred around a busy junction at which several major routes meet:
- King's Cross Road | Southbound: Farringdon, the City, Elephant & Castle
- Euston Road/Pentonville Road | Westbound: Ring Road (W), Euston, Marylebone | Eastbound: Ring Road (E), Angel, the A1
- York Way/Gray's Inn Road | Northbound: Barnsbury, Archway | Southbound: Bloomsbury, Holborn
- Camden Town, Kentish Town Pancras Road | Northbound:
- Caledonian Road | Northbound: Islington, Holloway
- Crowndale Road | Westbound: Camden Town
Euston Road and Pentonville Road both appear on the London edition of the game, Monopoly.
- Platform 9 3/4
- Camden Town Hall
- The British Library
- Camley Street Natural Park
- London Canal Museum
- House of Illustration
- St Pancras Old Church
- King's Place
- Charles Dickens Museum
- The Foundling Museum
- Guildhall Art Gallery
- Gagosian Gallery
- British Postal Museum and Archive
- Gasholder No. 8
- Royal Mail Mount Pleasant Sorting Office
- Coal Drops Yard shopping complex
- "King's Cross - 2011". UK Census Data. 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
- "Kings Cross is made up of the Kings Cross ward in the London Borough of Camden and 7 Output Areas in the Caledonian ward in the London Borough of Islington". Ukcensusdata.com. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
- Highbury, Upper Holloway and King's Cross, Old and New London: Volume 2 (1878), pp. 273–279. Retrieved 15 May 2009.
- Walter Thornbury (1878). "Highbury, Upper Holloway and King's Cross". Old and New London: Volume 2. British History Online. pp. 273–279. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
- Museum of London - Learning on Line (1 March 2009). "Boudica and King's Cross Station". Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- Caesar's Camp at Pancras called the Brill (British Library). Bl.uk (30 November 2003). Retrieved on 30 July 2013.
- "IFO (Identified Flying Object) by Jaques Rival at King's Cross". www.kingscross.co.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
- "The art programme at King's Cross". www.kingscross.co.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
- Mills, A. D. (2001). A dictionary of London place names. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192801066.
- "The Architectural Magazine, conducted by J.C. Loudon F.L.S. &c. Vol. III. Nos. XXIII. to XXX". The Gentleman's Magazine. Vol. 6 (new series). 1836. pp. 627–8. quoting The Architectural Magazine
- Walter H. Godfrey and W. McB. Marcham (editors) (1952). "Euston Road". Survey of London: volume 24: The parish of St Pancras part 4: King’s Cross Neighbourhood. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 24 May 2012.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Algernon Graves (1905). The Royal Academy: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors from its Foundations in 1769 to 1904. 4. London: Henry Graves. p. 220.
- Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society newsletter, February 2000. Glias.org.uk (27 December 1999). Retrieved on 30 July 2013.
- Listed building details, Camden Council Archived 14 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Mycamden.camden.gov.uk. Retrieved on 30 July 2013.
- Moore, Rowan (12 October 2014). "All hail the new King's Cross – but can other developers repeat the trick?" – via The Guardian.
- "History « Mutate Britain". Mutatebritain.com. 4 August 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
- Mutoid Must Remain (21 February 2014). "Mutoid Must Remain". Meeting Benches. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
- "Home-King's Cross Partnership: London Development Agency". 5 June 2009. Archived from the original on 5 June 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
- "King's Cross Development Forum". Kxdf.wordpress.com. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
- "The Regents Canal History". Canalmuseum.org.uk. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
- "About Larry Gagosian - Gagosian". Gagosian.com. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
- Built in the 1860s and rebuilt in the 1880s, the gasholders (of unique linked triplet design) were still in use until 1999. Several gasholders (the site was originally a gasworks) that had dominated the area behind station for over a century have been taken down during the building works and placed in storage, and three are re-erected and converted to other use, partly a park, partly housing.
- Mason, M. (2013). Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground. London: Arrow Books. p.33 ISBN 978-0-099-55793-7
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- Shoard, Catherine (7 December 2011). "My Favourite Film: The Ladykillers". My Favourite Film (story series). The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
- "King's Cross Stars in Minghella's Homage to London". Film London. 28 November 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
- "The triad in granary square". Voice of Kings Cross. 20 July 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
- Jelbert, Steve (28 April 2012). "Here Comes Everybody: The Story of The Pogues, By James Fearnley". The Independent. London. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
- Rogers, Jude (29 March 2017). "Pet Shop Boys – 10 of the best". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
- "King's Cross". Songography for The Wedding Present and Cinerama. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
- "Route Map" (PDF). GTR. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 February 2020.
- "Popular Routes". Grand Central. Archived from the original on 10 October 2019.
- "Route Map". Hull Trains. Archived from the original on 24 February 2020.
- "LNER Route Map" (PDF). London North Eastern Railway. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 February 2020.
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- "The History of the Granary Building, King's Cross". King's Cross. Archived from the original on 29 May 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
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- "National Rail Train Operators" (PDF). Project Mapping. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 February 2020.
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- "Wellbeing Walk". Urban Partners. 26 January 2017. Archived from the original on 22 December 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
- "Buses from King's Cross" (PDF). Transport for London (TfL). Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 February 2020.
- "National Express Route A8". National Express. Archived from the original on 7 April 2019.
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- "Cycle - Transport for London". Retrieved 24 February 2020.
- "Cycling". Canal and River Trust. Archived from the original on 26 May 2019.
- "Official site". House of Illustration. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
- "Gasholder Park London | Nearby hotels, shops and restaurants". LondonTown.com. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kings Cross.|
- Official site of King's Cross development
- Local directory
- Local tourist attractions summary
- The original King's Cross monument (Victorian London)
- King's Cross Development Brief
- King's Cross Development Forum,a group providing the community response to developments
- Local newsletter
- Experimental documentary centred around King's Cross
- Curious King's Cross - a transgressive look at the area and its history