During the 19th century London was transformed into the world’s largest city and capital of the British Empire. Its population expanded from 1 million in 1800 to 6.7 million a century later. During this period, London became a global political, financial, and trading capital. the Industrial Revolution spread throughout Britain. The use of steam-powered machines, led to a massive increase in the number of factories (particularly in textile factories or mills). At the start of the 19th Century about 1/5 of Britain’s population lived there, but by 1851 half the population of the country had set up home in London. London, like most cities, was not prepared for this great increase in people. People crowded into already crowded houses. Rooms were rented to whole families or perhaps several families. The development of coal mining and the use of steam power generated from coal is without doubt the central, binding narrative of the nineteenth century. But we must realize that the use of horse and waterpower remained important well into the early 20th century. However, the trend was set and soon the environment felt the full impact of industrialization in the form of air and water pollution.
The story of King’s Cross begins with the Fleet River and a small settlement, which grew up at a place known as Battle Bridge, named after an ancient crossing of the Fleet River which flows beneath, near the northern end of present-day Gray’s Inn Road.Some of the earliest enterprises in the area were the spas, which developed around the Fleet’s springs, becoming fashionable resorts in the eighteenth century. It was, however, an early attempt at traffic planning which determined the area’s fate. Thomas Coram built the Foundling Hospital for children in 1742-1747 just south of the present day King’s Cross and ten years later, in 1756, the New Road was cut across the fields from east to west to channel traffic away from the city centre. Today, as the ever-busy Euston Road, it serves the same purpose.By the early-nineteenth century Battle Bridge had become a depressing place. It was low lying and subject to flooding. The Smallpox Hospital had been built in 1769 and a fever hospital was added in 1802. It had become notorious for its tile kilns, rubbish tips and noxious trades. The Regent’s Canal, opened in 1820, attracted other industries such as gas works. A rescue attempt was made in 1829. How different it could have been if the Panarmonion project, offering recreational and cultural activities, had been a success. It’s failure led to the site being developed for housing, leaving only Argyle Square as open space. Associated with the plan was a statue of King George IV built in the middle of the road junction. It gave the area a new name – King’s Cross.
Here are story of the remaining industrial buildings
The Coal Drops
These unusual buildings played an important role in Victorian times. They were built in the 1850s and 60s to transfer coal from rail wagons to road carts. The brick and cast iron structure originally carried four high-level railway tracks, from which wagons dropped coal into storage hoppers. From here the coal was loaded onto horse-drawn carts at ground level.
… and now
The coal drops were used to store goods for most of the 20th century. By the 1990s however, they were being used as workshops, studios and night clubs.The Coal Drops are currently being sympathetically restored and will become a unique new retail quarter. The Victorian brick arches will house shops, restaurants, galleries and music venues.
Gasholder No.8 was built in the 1850s for the storage of town gas. The gas was manufactured on site from coal by the Imperial Gas, Light and Coke Company. The gasholder formed part of the largest gas works in London and remained in use until the late 20th Century.
The gasholder is a Grade II listed structure. The distinctive 25 metre high circular guide frame has an internal diameter of over 35 metres. The frame has been painstakingly dismantled and is currently being refurbished by a specialist engineering firm in Yorkshire.
In 2013 it will return to King’s Cross and be re-erected on the north side of Regent’s Canal overlooking Camley Street Natural Park and St Pancras Basin. Here it will sit in new landscaping with paths leading down to the canal towpath. The frame itself will house a stunning new play area and event space designed by Bell Phillips Architects.
The Goods Yard
The Goods Yard complex, designed by Lewis Cubitt, was completed in 1852. The complex comprised the Granary Building, the Train Assembly Shed, and the Eastern and Western Transit Sheds. The buildings were aligned to the axis of the Copenhagen tunnel through which the trains arrived from the north.
The Granary building was mainly used to store Lincolnshire wheat for London’s bakers, while the sheds were used to transfer freight from or to the rail carts. Off-loading from the rail carriages was made easier by cranes and turntables powered by horse and, from the 1840s, hydraulic power. Loaded and unloaded carts were moved in to the Train Assembly Shed and formed into trains for departure northwards. Stables were located under the loading platforms – some of these remain in the Western Transit Shed.
In the 1860s, offices were added on either side of the Granary to provide more clerical workspace. Dumb waiters were used to transport papers up and down and windows between the offices and sheds allowed traffic to be monitored.
… and now
The Granary Building is now the stunning new home of the world famous arts college –CSM part of the University of the Arts London. The building has been transformed by architects Stanton Williams. Read more… While the has WESTER TRANSIT SHED been converted into unique office space.
The Fish and Coal buildings
The Fish and Coal buildings were built as offices to house clerks employed to monitor the flow of freight through the goods yards. The first block was built in 1851 as part of Lewis Cubitt’s design for the Goods Yard. Additional blocks were built in the early 1860s. The building was gutted following a fire in the 1980s. The floors and roofs have been rebuilt.
… and now
The buildings, which follow the curve of the canal, are being restored for use as offices and studios with restaurants on the ground floor.
This historic building dating from 1850 is set to become the House of Illustration. The House of Illustration is the world’s first dedicated home for the art of illustration; from adverts to animation, picture books to political cartoons and scientific drawings to fashion design.
As a home for the past, present and future of illustration it will be the place to enjoy and experience exhibitions, events and education projects. The world’s best illustrators, comic artists and animators will be there mixing with families, fans and the curious, and opening up the art of illustration to a whole new audience.The House of Illustration will also be a centre for learning, with an education programme that engages the public and the local community.
The House of Illustration is backed by a strong group of trustees, including Quentin Blake, one of Britain’s best-loved and most successful illustrators and children’s authors.
The Handyside Canopy (west&east)
W) Then …
This is a canopy roof constructed in 1888 to provide a covered area for unloading of fish and other perishable goods. The goods were unloaded from the railway carriages for distribution around London. Fish was sold here on Sundays when Billingsgate in the City of London was shut. Railway traffic ceased during the 1970s but the area continued to be used for deliveries and parking.
… and now
The canopy has been restored and will be used as an events space and to host weekly and seasonal markets.
E) Then …
This canopy was erected in 1888 to provide a covered area for unloading of potatoes. The area to the east of the canopy was a potato market. The gentle curve of the canopy follows the curve of the Midland Goods Shed to the east. Four telegraph poles poke through the eastern side of the roof – rare survivors of a once common sight.
… and now
The canopy will be restored and a structure built inside it to house retail, office or exhibition space.