Hidden London

King's Cross

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Camden/Islington

A run-down but rapidly changing inner city district situated one mile east of Regent’s Park, and formerly called Battle Bridge. The 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 fifteen 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. King’s Cross is one of central London’s poorest districts and its shops, hotels and homes all reflect this. It has the highest concentration of people living in short-term accommodation in Western Europe and its streets are a gathering point for drug dealers and addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes and the homeless. Heavy policing and comprehensive use of CCTV have reduced, but not eliminated, the more obvious manifestations of the area’s problems.

In one of the largest redevelopment schemes in London, a huge project is under way to the north of King’s Cross station. When completed it will include parks, squares and streets, a new campus for Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and probably a new headquarters building for Sainsbury’s.

click for area map (opens in a new window)
King's Cross offers a photo opportunity for Harry Potter fans, who can pose in front of this sign

French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud were living in King’s Cross in 1873. 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 9.

Postal districts: N1 and WC1
Population: 11,413
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 The former Thameslink station has been replaced by a new facility at St Pancras International, with First Capital Connect trains to Bedford and Brighton. (Zone 1)
Further reading: Michael Hunter and Robert Thorne (editors), Change at King’s Cross, Phillimore, 1990

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

 
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