Kings Cross, London

Kings Cross, London

infobox UK place
official_name= Kings Cross
country = England
map_type = Greater London
region= London
london_borough= Camden
constituency_westminster= Holborn and St. Pancras
post_town= LONDON
postcode_area= WC
postcode_district= WC1
postcode_area1= N
postcode_district1= N1
dial_code= 020
os_grid_reference= TQ315835
latitude= 51.5303
longitude= -0.1236

Kings Cross is an area of London partly in the London Borough of Camden and partly in the London Borough of Islington. It is an inner-city district located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of Charing Cross. The area formerly had a reputation for being a red light district and run-down. However, rapid regeneration since the mid 1990s has rendered this reputation largely out-of-date. Since November 2007 the area has been the terminus of the international rail service at St. Pancras International station where Eurostar trains now arrive and depart to and from France and Belgium. Regeneration continues under the auspices of King's Cross Central which is a very major redevelopment in the north of the area. Many more hotels, restaurants, and cultural venues have made the area a cultural centre in the 2000s, and there is also substantial business activity and residential accommodation.


The area was previously a village known as Battle Bridge which was an ancient crossing of the River Fleet. The original name of the bridge was Broad Ford Bridge.

The name "Battle Bridge" led to a tradition that this was the site of a major battle between the Romans and the Iceni tribe led by Boudica. [ "Highbury, Upper Holloway and King's Cross", "Old and New London": Volume 2, by Walter Thornbury (1878), accessed December 6, 2007 (British History Online)] ] The tradition is not supported by any historical evidence and is rejected by modern historians. However Lewis Spence's 1937 book "Boadicea - warrior queen of the Britons" went so far as to include a map showing the 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 Two. [ [ "Boudica and King's Cross Station", (Museum of London), accessed December 6, 2007] ]

The area had been settled at Roman times, and a camp here, known as The Brill was erroneously attributed to Julius Caesar, who never visited Londinium. [ [ Caesar's Camp at Pancras called the Brill (British Library), accessed December 6, 2007] ] The name is commemorated in two streets lying behind King's Cross and St Pancras stations. St Pancras Old Church, also set behind the stations, is said to be one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain.

In 1830 a monument to King George IV was built at the junction of Gray's Inn Road, Pentonville Road, and New Road, which later became Euston Road. The monument was sixty feet high, topped by an eleven foot high statue of the king, and was described as "a ridiculous octagonal structure crowned by an absurd statue". The upper storey was used as a camera obscura while the base in turn housed a police station and a public house. The unpopular building was demolished in 1845, though the area has 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 popular theory that the structure was an advertisement for Netten's Oyster Bar on the ground floor seems not to be true. [ [ Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society newsletter, February 2000 (accessed April 15, 2008] ] It a grade II listed building. [ [ "Listed building details", Camden Council, accessed April 15, 2008] ]

King's Cross Railway Station now stands at the junction where the cross stood. The station, designed by architect Lewis Cubitt and opened in 1852, succeeded a short-lived earlier station, erected north of the canal in time for the Great Exhibition.

St Pancras railway station station, owned 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 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. Within a few years much of the socially undesirable behaviour had been moved on, and new projects such as offices and hotels had begun to open. 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).

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. However this had to close in late 2006 as a result of the gentrification of the area caused by a number of regeneration projects here, in this case, Regent's Quarter,across the boundary in Islington. [] . The Gagosian Gallery moved their main London premises to the area in 2004. There are plans for the London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to move into King's Place, a development under construction next to the Regent's Canal. Due to open in 2008, this will also become the new home of The Guardian and The Observer newspapers.

The area is expected to remain a major focus of redevelopment through the first two decades of the 21st century. The London terminus of the Eurostar international rail service moved to St Pancras station in November 2007. The station's redevelopment led to the demolition of several buildings, including the Gasworks. [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 it is intended that they should be re-erected, but converted,possibly for housing.] Following the opening of the new high speed line to the station, a redevelopment of the land between the two major stations and the old Kings Cross goods should commence, and planning permission has been granted. To be called King's Cross Central, this will be one of the largest construction projects in Greater London in the first quarter of the 21st century.

In popular culture

For readers of Harry Potter, platform 9 3/4 is where the schoolboy hero boards the train for Hogwarts. The railway station has capitalised on tourist interest by putting up a sign for this platform, and burying a luggage trolley, apparently, half into the wall.

King's Cross and its surrounding streets was also the setting for the 1955 Ealing comedy, "The Ladykillers" and Mike Leigh's High Hopes 1988. Anthony Minghella's 2006 film "Breaking and Entering" is also set in King's Cross.

The British pop music duo Pet Shop Boys recorded a song featured on their 1987 album "Actually" named "King's Cross": the melancholy track discusses the hopelessness of the AIDS epidemic during that time and uses the King's 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.


Nearby railway stations

* King's Cross station
* Euston station
* St Pancras station

Nearby underground station

* King's Cross St. Pancras tube station


Nearby attractions

* Camden Town Hall
* The British Library
* Camley Street Natural Park
* London Canal Museum
* St Pancras Old Church

External links

* [ The original King's Cross monument (Victorian London)]
* [ Kings Cross Online]
* [ Camden Council: recent developments]
* [ Kings Cross Development Brief]
* [ Argent (Kings Cross) Ltd. Developers for Kings Cross Central]

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