You’ll notice a trend in my early posts in that I’m travelling to the Central London main line Hub stations. Partly for convenience and to limit my travelling, and also to take advantage of the quieter nature of stations at this moment in time. Whilst office workers continue to be encouraged to work from home, the impact on travellers through these stations is evident.
Kings Cross Station – The station is home to: Grand Central Railway, Great Northern Railway, Thameslink and Hull Trains. And a new service operated by East Coast Trains is also expected to start in 2021. Let’s not forget London North Eastern Railway (LNER) too who recently launched the arrival of the new Azuma train fleet, to much accolade and fanfare..
But first; my thanks again goes to the Network Rail reception staff for issuing me with my contractor’s pass giving me open access to the station and platforms…so off I set.
The station drew architectural acclaim because of it’s recent restoration with the creation of the semi-circular departures concourse with its intricate ironwork vaulted ceiling. An exciting new feature and one that complements the original design and work of Lewis Cubitt when the station was originally built in the 1850’s.
One of the other features revealed as part of this restoration was the unveiling of the original towers at the front of the station which shows off the magnificent double arched train sheds and clock tower. With access now opened up at the front of the station with a piazza style area providing an opportunity for visitors to enjoy this Victorian building.
As the autumn sun shines through the high vaulted glass ceilings, which to me epitomises the Victorian train station, it casts a striped shadow across the platforms and trains arriving and departing to a fixed timetable. But this is no longer the case throughout the station as solar panels have been installed along the roof line to capture the sun’s energy and help the station with its greener approach.
Having walked the length of all the platforms, I decided not to pay to have my picture taken outside the infamous Platform 93/4 where an empty queuing line awaited the next barrage of eager Harry Potter fans. But I wonder if JK Rowling may have got her inspiration for the positioning of this hidden platform from the common folklore that suggests this is the location of Boudica’s last battle and where she is buried and reportedly haunts the underground passages?
Sir Nigel Gresley – the designer of the first truly high speed trains had his offices at the station and it is where he designed the world famous ‘Flying Scotsman’ and ‘Mallard’ locomotives. There’s a larger than life sculpture of Sir Nigel by Hazel Reeves on the concourse which is worth a look.
The remodelled station has created many retail opportunities, but as with shopping centres, station retail outlets are pretty much the same. Overtaken by the chain companies with little scope for the independent retailers to offer their wares. I suspect rental charges may have something to do with this. However there is one ray of London independence here through the ‘pop-up’ style flower stall near the west entrance. Isle of Flowers offers an interesting alternative to the usual bouquet approach if you fancy something a little pricklier.
Outside the station
Battle Bridge & Regent Quarter – an area now defined by Pentonville Road, Caledonian Road, Railway Street and York Way was once the fifteenth century hamlet of Battle Bridge. The hamlet grew due to the construction of Regent’s Canal in 1812-1820 and Caledonian Road in 1826. 1852 saw the arrival of the Great Northern Railway where a mixture of industrial and commercial premises was established along with large warehouses, small houses, factory complexes and industrial buildings with internal courtyards.
Records show this was once the site of a varnish factory that had formerly been a pottery, a factory making patent yellow paint and premises for boiling bones. The buildings have all now been repurposed into a mixed development. Some retail, some office space and some residential accommodation surrounding a hidden courtyard. But pass through Bravingtons Walk and you’ll see some brightly coloured ceramic artwork built into the wall
The Lighthouse – as you exit through the front of the station, look up to your left and you’ll see a lighthouse. Yes, perched on top of the narrow row of buildings between Pentonville Road and Grays Inn Road, there’s a lighthouse. Recently refurbished, it stands proudly overseeing the area, but my internet searches can’t find any clear evidence as to why it was built. There are many speculative suggestions, but the most compelling is that it was erected in the late 19th Century to promote Netten’s oyster bar, which occupied the ground floor of this building.
Scala club – further down Pentonville Road is this Cinema now turned into a music venue. The building has had a chequered past; soon after being built, it was commandeered for the war effort where aircraft parts were manufactured during the First World War. And subsequently as a labour exchange for demobbed troops before returning to life as a cinema in the 1920’s. The building closed in the early 1990’s after being sued by Warner Brothers for showing the UK banned film ‘A Clockwork Orange’, but then reopened as a music venue in 1999.
Ironworks – north of Regent Quarter is the warehouse where the mass production of steel via the Bessemer process was pioneered in the 1860s at Henry Bessemer’s St Pancras Ironworks. In the same small workshop area there were also foundries making brass and copper, and their heritage is now reflected in a large metal wall plaque by one of the entrances to what is now another tastefully redeveloped retail, office and accommodation space.
Kings Place – north again of the Ironworks, is a new building which collocates The Guardian and Observer newspapers; several floors of office space and also the home of London’s newest public concert hall with a range of performance, exhibition and education facilities. The building has a very striking wavy glass frontage, which on today’s clear and sunny day offers an artistic reflection of its surroundings.
Picture of the Day – Immortal Memory
Between platforms 3 and 4, there’s a war memorial dedicated to all those working for the Great Northern Railway (GNR) who lost their lives in World War One, and to those working for the LNER who lost their lives in World War 2. The memorial consists of 11 plinths with the names of 937 employees who died in WW1 and a solid metal plaque upon which the dedication is inscribed. There’s a detailed account here from Jane Roberts, a Yorkshire Based Professional Family History Researcher.
I’ve stopped to admire the memorial for a little while in the recognition that not many busy commuters will do so. Those arriving to catch their train are unlikely to see it, and those alighting at the station to head onwards into London are unlikely to give it a second glance. So I take this opportunity to remind others of its presence and if your interest is piqued, please spend a moment to reflect.
- Location: Kings Cross Station
- Date/Time: Thursday 17th September 2020
- Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/200; Focal Length – 75mm; Film Speed – ISO6400
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