Monday, 11 January 2016

London's Hidden walks vol 2: Kings Cross,St Pancras & Camden Walk 11th January 2016

On Monday the 11th January 2016, I woke up to the news that David Bowie had died! So this walk had a Bowie soundtrack to my whole day. I left home and travelled to Kings Cross Station via the Northern Line.

Formerly a red light district and run-down, 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 construction of King's Cross Central, 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. 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).

I was looking for the Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter books and film fame, I walked up and down Platform 9 with no joy. As I exited I saw The Harry Potter shop at PLATFORM 9 3/4 ahead.

Next to this was the 9 3/4 platform where people were having their pictures taken. Bit of a queue so I decided against getting a picture!

The current station name has its origin in a monument to King George IV which stood in the area from 1830 to 1845. It was built at the crossroads of Gray's Inn Road, Pentonville Road and New Road, which later became Euston Road. It was sixty feet high and topped by an eleven-foot-high statue of the king, and 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 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.

I exit the station and grabbed some breakfast from McDonalds before continuing my walk.

A structure in the form of a lighthouse was built on top of a building almost on the site in 1875. Known locally as the "Lighthouse Building", the structure was popularly thought to be an advertisement for Netten's Oyster Bar on the ground floor, a cheap staple food for the poor back then.

I walk along Euston Road to St Pancras Station.

St Pancras Station was opened in 1868 and is one of the wonders of Victorian engineering. Along with the former Midland Grand Hotel, it is a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic Architecture and one of the most elegant stations in the World.

Throughout its history freight traffic was very important particularly goods and minerals. In 1862 the Midland Railway brought in 800,000 tons of coal, nearly 18% of the Capital’s total consumption. In addition to this, once St Pancras was built three beer trains a day from Burton on Trent came into the station with more in the brewing season. The wagons were lowered from platform level by hydraulic lift, on to tracks and through an ‘ale run’ into the main storage area of the undercroft. Other commodities brought to the capital were milk, fish and potatoes.

In 1966 proposals to demolish both Kings Cross and St Pancras were put forward by British Rail. However, following the public response from figures such as architectural historian Niklaus Pevsner and poet John Betjeman, the station was listed Grade I in November 1967.
Following the listing of the station train services continued, and were even expanded in the 1980s through the establishment of Thameslink - a revival of the service from the Midland Main Line through the tunnel under the hotel and into the Metropolitan Railway. The hotel continued as office use until 1985 when it was declared unsafe due to its lack of fire escapes, and vacated.
A bright new future for the station emerged in 1993 when the Government decided to plan a high speed route for Channel Tunnel trains running from Dover to London via Stratford, and ending at St Pancras.

The meeting place

A 9m tall bronze statue of an intimate pose by the world renowned sculptor Paul Day.

The Betjeman statue

Sir John Betjeman was responsible for saving the Station and the Chambers from demolition in the 1960's. In tribute to the famous poet and railway enthusiast an 8.5ft sculpture by Martin Jennings has been designed to celebrate the man and his poetry.

Betjeman gazing in wonder at WH Barlows great Victorian glass and iron train shed.
The famous St.Pancras Clock has been re constructed by the original makers Dent and now hangs high in the apex of the Barlow shed once more.
The Meeting Place

In 1865, the Midland Railway Company held a competition for the design of a 150-bed hotel to be constructed next to its railway station, St Pancras, which was still under construction at the time. Eleven designs were submitted, including one by George Gilbert Scott, which, at 300 rooms, was much bigger and more expensive than the original specifications. Despite this, the company liked his plans and construction began.

Crossing the road I pass The Dolphin PH on Bidborough Street, a classic old style St Pancras pub.

I then skirt pass Camden Town Hall, known as St Pancras Town Hall until 1965, is the town hall for Camden London Borough Council. It is located along Euston Road, opposite the main front of St Pancras railway station, with Judd Street to its rear. It was constructed to a neoclassical design in 1934-7 for St Pancras Borough Council on the site of Georgian terraced housing. It is a steel-framed building, clad with Portland stone. The architect was A.J. Thomas, who also designed housing schemes for the borough. It was extended in the 1970s.

I cross back over Euston Road to The British Library.
This opened in 1997 after many delays and hold 25 million books A design by Colin St John Wilson, the reading room, likened to a secret police academy by Prince Charles.

An Alice in Wonderland exhibition was on when I visited. 

the statue of Isaac Newton crouched over the piazza. Newton has been part of the Library since we opened in St Pancras in 1997 but has always stayed pretty quiet, until now.
As part of the ‘Talking Statues’ project which is running in London and Manchester, Newton has finally been given a voice by the playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker and the actor Simon Russell Beale. Anyone with a smartphone can scan the plaque on Newton’s plinth and receive a phone call from the great man himself, who talks about his early life, his scientific and mathematical discoveries and his work as Master of the Royal Mint.
- See more at:

I saw the statue of Isaac Newton crouched over the piazza. Newton has been part of the Library since we opened in St Pancras in 1997 but has always stayed pretty quiet, until now.

As part of the ‘Talking Statues’ project which is running in London and Manchester, Newton has finally been given a voice by the playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker and the actor Simon Russell Beale. Anyone with a smartphone can scan the plaque on Newton’s plinth and receive a phone call from the great man himself, who talks about his early life, his scientific and mathematical discoveries and his work as Master of the Royal Mint.

the statue of Isaac Newton crouched over the piazza. Newton has been part of the Library since we opened in St Pancras in 1997 but has always stayed pretty quiet, until now.
As part of the ‘Talking Statues’ project which is running in London and Manchester, Newton has finally been given a voice by the playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker and the actor Simon Russell Beale. Anyone with a smartphone can scan the plaque on Newton’s plinth and receive a phone call from the great man himself, who talks about his early life, his scientific and mathematical discoveries and his work as Master of the Royal Mint.
- See more at:
I now walk the wrong way out of the library and walk the wrong way for about 500 metres before realising my mistake and back tracking onto Euston Road. Where I walk down Duke Street.

Here in Duke street are charming 18th and 19th century houses, a vast contrast to the surrounding  buildings.

Also on Duke Street is the 20th Middlesex  Rifle Volunteers Corps, opened by the Prince of Wales in 1889. The volunteers consisted of artists,painters,actors,architects and musicians. Today it continues as a Territorial Army unit.

The St Pancras Church next door. sometimes referred to as St Pancras New Church to distinguish it from St Pancras Old Church, is a Greek Revival church in St Pancras, London, built in 1819–22 to the designs of William and Henry William Inwood.

The church was consecrated by the Bishop of London on 7 May 1822, and the sermon was preached by the vicar of St Pancras, James Moore. The total cost of the building, including land and furnishings, was £76,679, making it the most expensive church to be built in London since the rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral.It was designed to seat 2,500 people.

The church is one of the most important 19th-century churches in England and is a Grade I listed building

However, because of its situation on Euston Road, one of London’s busiest roads, it has become stained with pollution and recent cleaning attempts have been unable to remove the staining of much of the Portland stone.

Percy Nobbs is credited with the design of this London County Council Fire Brigade Station.  The building was completed in 1902 and by 1903 Nobbs was teaching architecture at the University of Montreal.  He went on to have a distinguished career as the architect of a number of prominent Canadian buildings.  Apparently, his original building was altered and extended around 1920 and again later in the C20.

The building is L-shaped with the main frontage along the Euston Road.  It comprised appliance bays with flats above.  The Arts and Crafts style red brick building is dressed with Portland stone.  The taller original block contained two appliance garages which apparently are used today for administrative purposes.  The one-storey extension is now home to the appliances.

I cross over to Euston Train Station. Standing outside is the statue of Robert Stephenson.
The statue of Robert Stephenson (1803-59) by Marochetti stands in the forecourt of Euston Station, the terminus of the original London & Birmingham Line.
Stephenson was the engineer for the line, the construction of which consumed eight years of his life. It was the first main line into London.
The statue was cast in bronze, and is roughly twice life size.

 The original station was built by William Cubitt. It was designed by the classically trained architect Philip Hardwick with a 200 ft (61 m)-long trainshed by structural engineer Charles Fox. It had two platforms, one for departures and one for arrivals. Also by Hardwick was a 72 ft (22 m)-high Doric propylaeum, the largest ever built, erected at the entrance as a portico, known as the Euston Arch.

Apart from the lodges on Euston Road and statues now on the forecourt, few relics of the old station survive. The National Railway Museum's collection at York includes a commemorative plaque and E.H. Bailey's statue of George Stephenson, both from the Great Hall; the entrance gates; and an 1846 turntable discovered during demolition.

The Lodges, the remains of the original station.

Euston War Memorial: {On the front face:}
In memory of our glorious dead.
{On a stone panel on the left facade and also on the right:}
Remember the men and women of the London Midland and Scottish Railway.
1939 - 1945.
{On a marble panel on the front facade:}
In grateful memory of 3719 men of the London and North Western Railway company who for their country, justice and freedom served and died in the Great War. 1914 - 1919.
This monument was raised by their comrades and the company as a lasting memorial to their devotion.
I walk through Euston Square,this was laid out in fields in 1813 before the station was built.

I walk out onto Melton Street. At the junction with Drummond Street is the long abandoned exit of the Euston Underground.

Further up the road I cross over and walk through St James Gardens. Following an Act of Parliament, the site was originally purchased in 1788 as an additional burial ground for St James Piccadilly. Encroached upon by the railway to the east, it was laid out as a public garden by the St Pancras Vestry in 1887, and the headstones mostly cleared to the boundaries. St James's Gardens were re-landscaped in the 1980s by Camden Council, and is a rectangular site with grass, rose beds and a few mature trees, a playground area and an extensive semi-circular pergola.

This intriguing grave, , is that of the Christie family: a large, dark slate cross by the western gate. Many of the causes of death are recorded: Edward, who died of fever caught on board ship at Port Royal, Jamaica; Charles, of the Bombay Infantry killed in Persia by Russian troops; James, the patriarch, recorded with his Pall Mall address, and two daughters who died young.

I exit out onto Hampstead Road and turn right and walk up.

A look back along Hampstead Road
I reach Mornington Crescent, named after the Duke of Wellingtons eldest brother Richard Wellesley , the Duke of Mornington. Built from 1821, the Georgian houses in the crescent were originally surrounded by open fields.

At no 6 Mornington Crescent lived Walter Sickert , a painter and was the spiritual home of the influential collective of painters known as the Camden Town Group.

Back of the Carreras Black Cat Cigarette Factory on Mornington Crescent.
I walked around the front of the factory on Hampstead Road. The Carreras Black Cat Cigarette Factory (Known as the Arcadia Works) was designed in the 1920s in a unusual Egyptian style with bronze cats protecting the entrance.

The building was erected in 1926-28 by the Carreras Tobacco Company owned by the Russian-Jewish inventor and philanthropist Bernhard Baron on the communal garden area of Mornington Crescent, to a design by architects M.E and O.H Collins and A.G Porri.

The building's distinctive Egyptian-style ornamentation originally included a solar disc to the Sun-god Ra, two gigantic effigies of black cats flanking the entrance and colourful painted details. When the factory was converted into offices in 1961 the Egyptian detailing was lost, but it was restored during a renovation in the late 1990s and replicas of the cats were placed outside the entrance.
As demand for cigarettes increased during the First World War, the Carreras Tobacco Company expanded its business in the 1920s, like many other tobacco companies. Carreras had outgrown its Arcadia cigarette factory in City Road, London, so it closed the facility and opened a new Arcadia Works in 1928 in Mornington Crescent, Camden.

I cross the road and walked past Mornington Crescent tube station. Opened in 1907 ,on 23 October 1992 the station was shut so that the then 85-year-old lifts could be replaced. The intention was to open it within one year. However, the state of neglect meant other work had to be completed, and the station was closed for most of the 1990s, amidst talk of it closing permanently.
A concerted campaign to reopen the station was launched, as the station is held in fond regard due to the popular BBC Radio 4 panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. The show frequently features the game Mornington Crescent, which takes its name from the station.
The station was reopened on 27 April 1998 by the regular cast of the show (Humphrey Lyttelton, Barry Cryer, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden) and a memorial plaque to the late Willie Rushton, one of the longest-serving panelists, was installed at the station in 2002.

KOKO (formerly The Music Machine and Camden Palace) is a concert venue and former theatre in Camden Town. The building was known as Camden Palace from 1982 until its 2004 purchase and extensive restoration led by Oliver Bengough and Mint Entertainment.Since, the club has been known as KOKO and serves as one of the premier live music venues in London.

This staue was erected by public subscription to which Napoleon III was principal contributor.

Richard Cobden (3 June 1804 – 2 April 1865) was an English manufacturer and Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with two major free trade campaigns, the Anti-Corn Law League and the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty.
As a young man, Cobden was a successful commercial traveller who became co-owner of a highly profitable calico printing factory in Manchester, a city with which he would become strongly identified. However, he soon found himself more engaged in politics, and his travels convinced him of the virtues of free trade (anti-protection) as the key to better international relations.
In 1838, he and John Bright founded the Anti-Corn Law League, aimed at abolishing the unpopular Corn Laws, which protected landowners’ interests by levying taxes on imported wheat, thus raising the price of bread. As a Member of Parliament from 1841, he fought against opposition from the Peel ministry, and abolition was achieved in 1846.
Another free trade initiative was the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860, promoting closer interdependence between Britain and France. This campaign was conducted in collaboration with John Bright and French economist Michel Chevalier, and succeeded despite Parliament’s endemic mistrust of the French.
Cobden has been called "the greatest classical-liberal thinker on international affairs" by the libertarian and historian Ralph Raico.

Who would live on a street like this??
I turn onto Pratt Street,bujt not having read my guide book properly I walked on too far and up as far as the Greek Orthodox Church below before back tracking to Bayham Street.

Once on Bayham Street , I walked up and down trying to find the plaque below, no wonder I found it hard to find as it has been covered!

Here at 141 Charles Dickens lived here as a child between 1822 and 1824. The houses below show what the houses would have looked like back then.

These may have been a model for the Crachit modest homes in 'A Christmas Carol'. In the book Scrooge hires a small boy to buy a Christmas Turkey twice the size of Tiny Tim and take it to the Crachits house,telling the boy 'Its impossible to carry that to Camden town... You must have a cab'

I walk up Greenland Road with the Worlds End PH on my Right.
Inside is a sign for the Mother Rec Cap describing this as Camdens oldest pub and was founded in 1676.

Old Mother Red cap was born Jinney Bingham the daughter of a local bricklayer from Kentish Town and by the time she was 16 she had a child by a man who was well known to the magistrates of here abouts. After he was caught stealing sheep from land near Holloway, he was sent to Newgate Prison, tried at the Old Bailey and hung at Tyburn. Jinney then took up with a man named Darby who disappeared under ‘mysterious circumstances’.

About the same time her parents were brought to trial, accused of practising Black Magic and causing the death of a young maiden for which they were both hung. Jinney next met a man called Pitcher and his body was found tucked up in the oven burnt to a cinder. She was sent to trial for his murder but was acquitted when a witness proved that Pitcher often hid in the oven to escape Jinney’s nagging tongue!

Man number four in her life was to make her financially secure for the rest of her days but when he died there were rumours and once more the witchcraft stories began to circulate. An inquest was held on the body but once again Jinney was named as blameless.

Her foul tongue and temper were well known throughout the district and she would often sit outside here wearing her old red cap on her head, and her shawl (with black markings that resembled bats) around her shoulders. Crowds would gather to hurl abuse at her but with her cat by her side they would soon retreat from “The Evil Duo”.

They were both to die together on the same day with poison being suspected. Whether self-inflicted or administered by someone else will never be known. Thus died Mother Red Cap and it is on the site of her cottage that this pub is built.

I cross over Camden High Street onto Parkway. Passing the Ladies Lavatory. The first such lavatory in the country, it was installed in 1910 due to the efforts of George Bernard Shaw, the famous playwright and actor. He fought the local council who fought it was improper for ladies to go to the toilet anywhere other than in the privacy of their own homes.

  I turn onto Albert Street and walk down,crossing Delancey Street and reaching 83a Albert Street the former home of Noel Gallagher where he wrote 'Wonderwall'. He lived here in the early 90s.

I walk back and onto Delancey Street. At 54 Dylan Thomas lived here from 1951 to 1952 with his wife.  He and his wife would argue and the already irritated neighbours probably didn't appreciate them parking their gypsy caravan outside. The marriage was beyond repair and Dylan fled to America and died the next year from Chronic alcohol poisoning.

The Edinboro Castle PH
I follow the map to reach Gloucester Crescent. Houses here cost 3 million plus each!

A picture of Bowie placed outside on the day of his death.
I stopped outside no 70, the owner came and spoke to me, telling me of its history connected with Dickens.Charles Dickens banished his wife Catherine here after they separated in 1850s. While still married Charles could know date actress Ellen Ternan. His wife Catherine lived the life of a recluse, with Charles forbidding his children to visit their mother.  Only her eldest son Charley chose to live with her, the other children hesitating to visit for fear of their domineering father. Catherine was not even invited to her daughter Kate's wedding in 1860.

I turn right onto Inverness Street, on the corner is a former Rockabilly Record shop 'Sounds That Swing'. The sign just barely still readable.Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin were regular vistors.

Now I turn left onto Arlington Road, at 220 is Arlington House.
Arlington House is a hostel for homeless men in Camden Town, that opened in 1905. It is the last and largest of the Rowton Houses to be built and is the only one to remain in use as a hostel.
George Orwell lived in one of the Rowton Houses and wrote about the experience in Down and Out in Paris and London, his semi-autobiographical account of living in poverty in both cities. Brendan Behan lived in Arlington House.
Arlington House was taken over by Camden London Borough Council in the 1980s, but was subsequently privatised and later given without payment to One Housing Group (OHG) by the Novas Scarman group to ensure that building works were completed. As of 2010 the building was owned and managed by One Housing Group.

"Arlington House - address, no fixed abode" is the first line of the 1984 top 20 song "One Better Day" by Camden pop group Madness. The song is about homeless people.

Arlington House.
Just back up the road on the corner is The Good Mixer PH. A trendy pub where wannabe pop stars rub shoulders with students and the media types who work locally at places like MTV. In its heyday this was a haunt of Britpop stars such a Blur,Oasis and Pulp. Liam Gallaghre was barred due to his behaviour.

I am now walking down Inverness Street once more. Once a famous Fruit n Veg market, but now selling Tp-Shirts and gifts to tourists. The market is a lor smaller than it usually is today.

I walk out onto the High Road and up to markets. Back in the early 70s the market was confined to just Inverness Street .

I now reach Camden Lock on the Regents Canal. I had a fleeting look about The Stables Market but was pressed for time.
The maze of tunnels were used to stable horses involved in the early railways and later used by Gilbey's Gin Company for storage.

I now follow the canal, but end up walking the wrong way the guide merely say follow the canal East. I have no compass with me so a fairly useless instruction. So I walk the wrong way for a bit before having to backtrack.

 I walked to Pirate Castle where they do cheap kayaking and other activities.

Feng Shang Floating Chinese Restaurant

I walked back along Princess Road before rejoining the canal by Gloucester Avenue. Walked back through the market and I am now walking the correct direction.

The building above are the former offices of TV-AM, the company that broadcast ITV's first Breakfast TV programme between 1983 and 1992. Its presence in the area encouraged other media companies to the area and the building is now used by MTV.

Sorry for the blurred pic above, but I hurried past this male who appeared to have mental Health issues. He was shouting at what I assume were the voices in his head to shut up!!

I pass the futuristic buildings above. Completed in 1988, the houses were commissioned by Sainsburys and designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and won a number of architectural awards.
I followed the canal for about 10 minutes under 5 bridges before exiting out onto Camley Street.

I walk down the road to St Pancras Gardens.
 This site dates back to Roman times – and you can still see a sixth century altar – but the church building has been rebuilt many times, most recently in the 19th century. However, it’s the former church yard, St Pancras Gardens that are of real interest to visitors. It was converted into public gardens to make way for railway tracks in 1877 under the supervision of the author Thomas Hardy, then a young architect. The writer William Goodwin and his wife, Mary Wollstonecroft, are buried there. It was by their grave that their daughter Mary Goodwin, the author of Frankenstein, secretly met her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley, the Romantic poet.

Charles Dickens mentions this church and graveyard by name in his 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities, making it the location of body snatching to provide corpses for dissection at medical schools, a common practice at the time.

St Pancras Hospital a former workhouse


An ash tree is circled by gravestones.
Thomas Hardy (before turning to writing full time) studied architecture in London under Mr. Arlhur Blomfield, an architect based in Covent Garden. During the 1860s the Midland Railwayline was being built over part of the original St. Pancras Churchyard. Blomfield was commissioned to supervise the proper exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs. He passed this unenviable task to his protegé Thomas Hardy in. c.l865. Hardy would have spent many hours in St. Pancras Churchyard . . . overseeing the careful removal of bodies and tombs from the land on which the railway was being built. The headstones around this ash tree would have been placed here about that time. The tree has since grown in amongst the stones.

You can also see the mausoleum of the celebrated architect Sir John Soane; the dome's design strangely influenced the design of the iconic red telephone box.

Burdett Coutts Memorial (above)
This impressive monument was erected in 1877 when the northern half of the churchyard was formalised as a public park, clearing most of the smaller gravestones. It lists stones lost to this and earlier clearances for the railways.

I leave the park, the guide say backtrack and to follow the canal back to Kings Cross, I am out of time and follow Goods way back to Kings Cross. I pass Camley Street Natural Park on the way.
Camley Street Natural Park was created from an old coal yard back in 1984. It sits in the middle of King’s Cross, alongside the sparkling new Eurostar station at St Pancras.
The reserve has a visitor centre and provides natural habitat for birds, butterflies, amphibians and a rich variety of plant life.

 I didnt have time to stop and look, instead made my back straight to the station and back off home.
Book says a walk of 5 miles, but with errors made on navigation probaly about 7 miles or so today!

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