King’s Cross has been through all the ups and downs; from a world-renowned industrial hub to a red light zone to a vigorous nightlife district and finally to become one of London’s finest destinations for shopping and dining.
When you walk past the newly renovated West wing of Granary Square, a poem by Aidan Andrew Dun is carved into the concrete that paints a most accurate picture of one of the most iconic Railway Stations. “King’s Cross, dense with angels and histories, there are cities beneath your pavements,” it reads, confirming that King’s Cross Station has indeed withstood the test of time.
King’s Cross has been through all the changes in the past few centuries of its existence. From being the hub during the rise of London’s Industrial era to a graveyard of abandoned warehouses to becoming a red-light district with electrifying nightlife. Nowadays it is revamped as a more sophisticated and worldly experience with it becoming a top shopping/with a vibrant food scene that even hosts a Waitrose wine bar. ( and eating destination complete with a Waitrose wine bar. )
Although the station and its surroundings have been through a lot of developments and renovations, it has been careful in guarding some of London’s most significant cultural institutions such as the British Library and a branch of the Gagosian Gallery. The King’s Cross is definitely rich in history, but that doesn’t mean that it’s present does not keep on adding
to its already rich and complex value.
King’s Cross station
King’s Cross Station was open to the public in 1852 and was home to the Great Northern Railway. It was hailed as a massive feat of Victorian engineering, as travelers would catch the legendary Flying Scotsman from King’s Cross station to journey to the East coast of Edinburgh.
The King’s Cross Station now consists of 12 platforms and two Prets – but it was a long and strenuous journey to get to where it is today. The infamous King’s Crossfire in 1987 resulted in the deaths of 31 people while injuring hundreds more. King’s Cross and Euston Station was under attack by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) when they bombed the stations in 1973. Through-out these horrifying ordeals, the Station survived through and is now an iconic transportation hub with a rich history and break-taking architecture. The station’s impressive roof that was constructed with more than 2000 triangular panels, evokes the imagination of artists and aspiring Instagrammers alike. The widespread popularity of the Harry Potter books has been instrumental in bringing hordes of ardent Potter fans every day to the station to visit the Platform 9 ¾ and take a selfie with Harry’s half wedged trolley on the wall. The number of fans queuing the station has not dwindled although it has been more than 11 years since the final book of the series was published. Fans have still not given up hope that the Hogwarts express would one day show itself at platform 9 ¾.
Coal Drops Yard
During the 1990s, King’s Cross vigorous existence almost dwindled. The busy industrial district became an under-used site as developers fought over a new and exciting way to redevelop this buzzing industrial hub. As a result, buildings became derelict and paved way for a vibrant nightlife to establish itself in the abandoned warehouses and other buildings. This was especially notable at the Coal Drops Yard where the Bagley’s nightclub was established on the site. This huge warehouse was bought by Bagley’s – a South Yorkshire glass merchant in 1880 and was the original Eastern Coal drop before it was transformed into a rave scene in 1991. When the Criminal Justice Act was enacted and affected outdoor gatherings, the rave was forced to shift indoors. Thus the warehouse was transformed into a multi-room club where themed nights such as Slammin’ Vinyl, Best of British, Desire and Labyrinth became crowd attractors. But in 2007 the night club finally closed and gave way for new developments and a new era began to take shape.
The Coal Drops Yard is now home to fine dining restaurants including Barrafina and a Mexican franchise named El Pastor which are favorites of the Bermondsey locals. It is also home to high-end shopping destinations such as Cos, Rains and posh soap specialist Aesop. The area has certainly come a long way from its nightlife raves. À Coal Drops Yard opened its doors to the public on October 26th, 2018.
Located just a short distance away from the King’s Cross station and connected directly to the railway hub, is Parkside. This Metropolitan Cattle Market, later known as the Caledonian Market, was ceremoniously opened in 1855, by Prince Albert along with a Grand new clock tower; and is a perfect example to how reinvention is seemingly adherent to the King’s Cross area. Later on, in years, the site was known for being a Copenhagen House, a tea garden, ‘pleasure resort’ and for handling and acquiring smuggled goods.
(Archimage / Alamy Stock Photo)
Today the site houses posh flats. But the change didn’t happen/take place overnight. In 1967, the market was replaced by a massive housing estate named The Market Estate. The estate survived in neglect and ruin for many years until it was restored in 2007 as Parkside Place. Later on, a renovation saw the rise of luxury apartments titled Parkside Caledonian.
(Science & Society Picture Library)
Today the Granary building is well-known because of the Central Saint Martins art college; but back then the building was in the smack middle of a goods distribution site, the Goods Yard Complex. Completed in 1852, the Granary building was used to store tons of Lincolnshire wheat, which was transferred from rail carts to be distributed to London bakers.
Today the Granary building is home to the world-renowned arts college – Central Saint Martine. The building looks exactly the same from the outside but changes have been made to accommodate fine dining restaurants like Caravan and Dishoom, trendy office spaces and a public square with fountains. The site also hosts vibrant pop-up food markets such as Kerb and has come a long way since it was last known to store and transport grain and wheat to London Bakers.
In 1865, London’s German Population funded to build England’s very first exercise hall, known as the German Gymnasium. The building of this gymnasium was a starting milestone to the development of British athletics. In 1866, the indoor events of the first Olympic games were held in this building by the National Olympian Association. The German Gymnasium Society was a forward-thinking bunch and at the same time as 1866, initiated exercise classes for women, an initiative that was rare for that time period.
The German Gymnasium has now been converted into a restaurant that serves authentic German cuisine such as schnitzel and currywurst. But one can still see clues of the original building embedded to the modern restaurant setting, such as the original cast iron hooks hanging from the ceilings from which the budding gymnasts once swung.