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Time Travel Explorer Blog

Traveling Through Time: King's Cross

by Matt Brown 31. October 2010 14:33

King's Cross is one of the most rapidly changing areas of London. Only a couple of years after St Pancras was hooked up to the Eurostar, huge change is afoot alongside and behind King's Cross station itself. A new concourse is almost complete to the west of the main station building while vast swathes of former railway lands to the rear will become home to commercial buildings and a new campus for St Martin's College.

The pace of change is frenetic, but it has always been thus in this quarter. Time Travel Explorer lets us move between eras and see how local landmarks have come and gone in this unique area.

Views of King's Cross in 2010, 1862 and 1830. Use Time Travel Explorer to zoom in further.

Travelling back to 1862, the biggest change you'll spot is the road layout. St Pancras Road, following the curve of the buried River Fleet, sweeps round the southern foot of King's Cross station, covering ground now occupied by the green-canopied concourse. When you're next waiting for a train at King's Cross, consider that you're standing on a vanished road, which itself overlays a vanished river.

Actually, an even bigger change lies to the west. St Pancras station is completely absent from the 1862 view. We see instead a whole neighbourhood of streets, schools and churches just months away from demolition. The Great Northern Hotel, however, is extant, again following the ancient curve of the River Fleet. Behind it is a small park, an area which will soon serve as the new concourse for King's Cross station.

This view also shows us that the Great Northern Hospital once occupied the site now taken by McDonalds, Starbucks, Pret and other usual suspects.

Time to hop back a few more decades. Although less detailed, the 1830 map reveals plenty of interest. Neither station is present (King's Cross opened in 1852). Instead, we find a series of streets joining up to Maiden Lane (now York Way). In place of the Great Northern Hotel, we find a smallpox hospital. Not shown is the huge ‘dust heap' that accumulated next door, immortalised in Dickens' Our Mutual Friend. Finally, we also see a monument marked as ‘King's Cross'. This statue of George IV was erected in 1830, the year of our map. While it only lasted until 1845, this memorial made enough of an impression to impart the name King's Cross on the whole area, which had formerly been known as Battle Bridge.

Close ups of the station area in 1862 and 1830.