Kings Cross Station

Built on the site of the London Smallpox Hospital,(now the Whittington), in a district formerly known as Battle Bridge! It was called King’s Cross to commemorate the monument to George 1V which stood at the crossroads near the site from 1830 to 1845.

The station, designed by Lewis Cubitt, was built in 1851-2 as the London Terminus for the Great Northern Railway and to accommodate the East Coast Main Line and was when it opened the biggest station in England. It replaced a temporary station next to Maiden Lane (now York Way)) that had been quickly constructed with the line’s arrival in London in 1850. The Midland Railway used it as well until St Pancras Station opened in 1868. The terminus was the fifth to be built in London and the second to be designed by Cubitt (Bricklayers Arms was finished in 1844). He set out to make a design that would “depend for its effect on the largeness of some of its features, its fitness for its purpose, and the characteristic expression of that purpose”. He achieved this with a straightforward functional building; twin train sheds, each 800 feet long and 105 feet wide, closed at the south end by a plain facade of London brick. In size, it was inspired by the 200 yards (180 m) long Moscow Riding Academy of 1825, The central tower, 112 feet high, holds a clock made by DENT for the Great Exhibition. Kings Cross was much admired when it opened and was said to wear a “magnificent appearance”-so much so that Edmund Denison, the Chairman of Great Northern, had to answer charges of extravagance from some shareholders. “It is” Denison riposted” the cheapest building for what it contains and will contain; that can be pointed out in London”.

Cubitt added the Great Northern Hotel in 1854, placing it to the west of the station on a curved site.

Towards the end of the 19th century Kings Cross was handling about 250 trains daily. It came under ownership of the London and North Eastern Railway as part of the Big Four grouping in 1923, who introduced famous services such as the Flying Scotsman and locomotives such as Mallard. The station complex was redeveloped in the 1970s, simplifying the layout and providing electric suburban services, and it became a major terminus for the high-speed InterCity 125. As of 2017, long-distance trains from King’s Cross are run by Virgin Trains East Coast to Edinburgh and Glasgow via York and Newcastle. The other long-distance operators include Hull Trains and Grand Central. In addition, Great Northern runs surburban commuter trains in and around north London.

In the late 20th century, the area around the station became known for its seedy and downmarket character, and was used as a backdrop for several films as a result. There was major redevelopment in the 21st century, including restoration of the original roof, and the station became well known for its association with the Harry Potter books and films, particularly the fictional Platform 9 ¾.

Steve Welsh

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