Mornington Crescent

Mornington Crescent, Camden

A street and tube station located at the junction of Hampstead Road and Camden High Street

Hidden London: Greater London House

The cres­cent was cre­at­ed in the 1820s and named for the Earl of Morn­ing­ton. A decade lat­er the Duke of Bedford’s Figs Mead estate was laid out with stuc­coed ter­races and at first called Bed­ford New Town.

Bomb­ing raids on the near­by rail­way ter­mi­ni caused exten­sive dam­age to the area dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. St Pan­cras coun­cil replaced much of the ‘new town’ with the Ampthill estate in 1960 and the council’s suc­ces­sor, Cam­den, reclad the three tow­er blocks in pri­ma­ry colours in the late 1980s.

Greater Lon­don House is an impos­ing office block occu­py­ing the arc of the cres­cent and over­look­ing Har­ring­ton Square Gar­dens. It was for­mer­ly the Car­reras ‘Black Cat’ cig­a­rette fac­to­ry and its archi­tec­tur­al fea­tures are sup­posed to echo the Egypt­ian tem­ple to the cat-god­dess at Bubastis.

Lon­don Under­ground gained the oppro­bri­um of com­muters in the ear­ly 1990s when its refur­bish­ment of Morn­ing­ton Cres­cent tube sta­tion was halt­ed for sev­er­al years owing to a short­age of funds. The sta­tion final­ly reopened in 1998, win­ning plau­dits for its sym­pa­thet­ic restora­tion.

Except for Cheyne Walk, few streets have rivalled Morn­ing­ton Cres­cent as a cre­ative hotbed. Among its for­mer res­i­dents are the artists Spencer Gore, Clark­son Stan­field and Wal­ter Sick­ert, who was liv­ing here when he found­ed the post-impres­sion­ist Cam­den Town Group in 1911. The illus­tra­tor and polit­i­cal car­i­ca­tur­ist George Cruik­shank lived in Morn­ing­ton Place. Frank Auerbach’s 1973 paint­ing Look­ing towards Morn­ing­ton Cres­cent Sta­tion – Night hangs in the Graves art gallery, Sheffield. The cres­cent has also inspired var­i­ous musi­cal artists, includ­ing the Bon­zo Dog Doo Dah Band and Belle and Sebas­t­ian.

The cres­cent has giv­en its name to a ‘strat­e­gy’ game played on the Radio 4 show I’m Sor­ry I Haven’t a Clue. Suc­cess­ful game­play depends on sophis­ti­cat­ed tac­ti­cal pro­fi­cien­cy as well as an ency­clopædic knowl­edge of Lon­don des­ti­na­tions. “If you’ve under­stood Morn­ing­ton Cres­cent, noth­ing else in your life makes sense” – Jere­my Hardy.

Postal district: N1
Station: Northern line (zone 2)
Further reading: Tim Brooke-Taylor et al, The Little Book of Mornington Crescent, Orion, 2001