Three hundred years ago, King’s Cross St Pancras was a rural area of highly productive hay meadows and pasture, of hedgerows, copses and unimproved riverine marshland.
Situated on the very skirts of
London, a local population of little more than one hundred men, women and children
dwelt in a few farmhouses and tenement cottages, while citizens seeking recreation
in the fields were served with refreshments in roadside petty inns and in alehouses and taverns standing by the field paths.
The location also of one of the country’s oldest sites of Christian worship (the St Pancras Old Church), over the following century several resorts developed into famous pleasure gardens, the once remote farming settlements connected by rows of newly built houses.
The King's Cross itself was a
brick and builders’ compo statue of George IV surmounting a monumental plinth,
erected in 1830 to honour the Royal House of Hanover following the death of the
It was built at a crossroads at the centre of what by then had grown to become the suburban village of Battle Bridge, so named from a medieval single brick arch over which the Gray’s Inn Lane from Holborn to Highgate had crossed a small Thames tributary, the River Fleet.
The statue and name change were an attempt at rebranding, the new suburb blighted
by the development of back streets of poor quality housing and the growth of
noxious industries serving a rapidly expanding metropolis.
Proving little more than an obstruction to traffic, however, after just a very few years the monument was knocked down; but the name stuck.
The account of the transformation of
the district, from frontrunner of the
agricultural revolution and bucolic retreat for the Citizens to
an insalubrious if bustling urban quarter, tells the
story of the early development of our modern world.
Through its growing population’s and its institutions’ close connections to London (to both the City and the West End) and via the London docks to the furthest corners of the globe, Battle Bridge/ King’s Cross provides a microcosm through which to explore the early development of many features of our everyday lives and popular culture.
The mid-C19 development of the King’s
Cross and the St Pancras railway termini having confirmed the
district's marginalized and transient character, KXStP is now at a well-advanced
stage of a comprehensive, multi-billion pound regeneration.
Situated today at the heart of London, with a local resident population the size of a substantial town, as well as its business and educational facilities and national and international travel links the area is home to the St Pancras British Library, the King's Place media and cultural hub, ateliers and galleries, clubs, bars and concert venues, theatres and dance studios; eateries, public squares, trees, grass and even a natural pond for swimming.
The rapidly developing King’s Cross Central (KXC) commercial, residential and cultural quarter on the former Railway Lands behind the mainline termini hosts the new premises of the Central St Martin's campus of the University of the Arts, with the Aga Khan Islamic cultural and educational hub and Parisbas UK bank in construction while the building and occupation of a new HQ for Google UK has now commenced.
And just north of the British Library-based Alan Turing Institute for Data Science, opposite the platforms of the St Pancras International terminal and amid a newly declared Knowledge Quarter (comprising a cluster of 35 world-renowned academic, scientific and medical organisations situated within a one-mile radius of King’s Cross) the multi-million pound Francis Crick Institute will bring together leading academics, doctors, engineers, computer experts etc in cutting edge C21 medical research.
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