King’s Cross

King’s Cross, Camden/​Islington

Formerly called Battle Bridge, King’s Cross is a much changed inner city district situated one mile east of Regent’s Park

The district’s modern name comes from a statue of George IV that was erected at the junction of Euston Road, Gray’s Inn Road and Pentonville Road in 1830. The statue was removed only 15 years later owing to its unpop­ularity with the local community. However, the name proved more resilient and was applied to the Great Northern line terminus when it opened in 1852, and subsequently to an expanding neigh­bourhood to the north and south, much of which was previ­ously known as St Pancras.

For many years, King’s Cross was one of central London’s poorest districts and its shops, hotels and homes have all reflected this. It had a high concen­tration of people living in short-term accom­mod­ation and its streets were a gathering point for drug dealers and addicts, alcoholics, prosti­tutes and the homeless. The redevel­opment of the area, combined with heavy policing and compre­hensive use of CCTV, has now almost eliminated the more obvious manifest­a­tions of the area’s problems, though under­lying diffi­culties remain.

In one of the largest regen­er­ation schemes in London, a huge project is almost complete to the north of King’s Cross station, including parks, squares and streets. A new campus for Central Saint Martins college of art and design has opened here.

The uber-cool Coal Drops Yard retail quarter opened in October 2018, based in long Victorian sheds that were formerly used to transfer coal from rail to road. For a lengthy evalu­ation of Coal Drops Yard and the entire King’s Cross regen­er­ation scheme, see this Guardian article by Rowan Moore.

The last piece of the jigsaw will be Google’s ‘landscraper’ London headquarters (as visualised in the CGI in the slideshow above).

At the same time, the appearance and service­ab­ility of King’s Cross station has been signi­fic­antly improved, with the restor­ation of its original frontage and the construction of a new booking hall, also shown in one the images above.

King’s Cross station hides two secrets: legend has it that Boudicca, queen of the Iceni, is buried beneath platform 11, while Harry Potter and his schoolmates board the Hogwarts Express at platform 9¾.

Postal districts: N1 and WC1
Population: 11,843 (2011 census)
Stations: Mainline services for Leeds, York, the North East and Scotland, plus suburban services. Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines. The former Thameslink station has been replaced by a new facility at St Pancras International, with trains to Bedford and Brighton. (Zone 1)
Further reading: Victor Gregg with Rick Stroud, King’s Cross Kid: A London Childhood between the Wars, Bloomsbury, 2013
and Angela Inglis, Railway Lands: Catching St. Pancras and King’s Cross, Matador, 2007


View larger OpenStreetMap

Slideshow photographs by Hidden London, except Coal Drops Yard by Jan Newbigin, the Google HQ CGI by Hayes Davidson for Heatherwick Studio and the print by Jane Smith