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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Kings Cross renewal.

I came back to London, my wife and the boat late on Monday night. On Tuesday Helen was going home at lunch time and after she had gone I set to changing the oil in the engine and gear box and the filters for the 750 hour service. I couldn't get the main fuel filter off so will have to get a strap wrench. I checked the first filter in line and it was squeeky clean so no hurry for changing it I'm thinking.

When I got up this morning there was only a little duck weed on the canal and the reflection of the gas holder and crane were great.

I was meeting my friend at the tube and then going on a walk but I had seen this statue on Monday night. At first I thought it was one of those human statues but then realised it was 2300 and it was a little larger than life. They must have put it in the concourse of Kings Cross during the weekend. It is off Sir Nigel Gresley. He was the Chief Mechanical Engineer for the Great Northern Railway 1911 to 1923 and then the London and North Eastern Railway 1923 to 1941. He had offices at Kings Cross and it was here that he designed the iconic locomotives like the 'Flying Scotsman' and the 'Mallard'. It was made by Hazel Reeves.

Our walk was round the Kings Cross development. They put on regular walks between March and November, look on for the details. This is the inside of the old grain store. The grain was brought in by train. You can see the circles on the floor and these were turntables where individual wagons were turned into bays.. From here it was sent off in carts and boats and barges.

On the left is the back of the granary building. A lot of the granary has been taken over by the St Martins campus of the University of Arts, London. The passage way under the metal beam was the western transit shed which is going to be filled with shops and restaurants accessed from outside. The area under the glass roof that joins it to the new section of the University was where the individual wagons were once again assembled into trains. You can still see on the brick wall the outline of the roof. There are still line numbers there too.

Behind the last photo was a similar access through the Eastern Transit shed that is being used by the University. You then come to this, the West Handyside Canopy. Under here fish and other perishable good would be handled. When Billingsgate was closed on Sunday sales took place here. Trains finished here in the 70's. It now still hosts regular markets and other events that can be undercover in this huge area. The building on the right is the Midland Goods shed. It was originally built as a temporary passenger terminal whilst the present Kings Cross station was built. Queen Victoria de-trained here several times and even once Kings Cross was completed she liked to get off here as she didn't like travelling under the canal. It is now a Waitrose, but not just any Waitrose as it contains a cookery school, cafe and restaurant and wine bar, and no car park.

This is a view down the length of the Western Transit Shed. The arches are original and were where the rail lines entered. Each will now be a shop or food outlet, 

There are two viewing towers on the site. This one has the Kings Cross pond in the foreground. It is temporary and is a natural pond, but man made. It is cleaned by the reed beds and other natural systems. It is limited to about 160 a day so that the cleaning system can cope. It is all booked on line, but beware it is unheated. In the background is the rounded metal roofed building with the many chimneys is the Francis Crick Institute that opened last year. It is a biomedical discovery and research institute. In the middle ground is Lewis Cubitt Square. Named after the builder from a family of builders that must have had a hand in much of the development of London in the Victorian age.

In the other direction a question of mine has been answered. St. Pancras's platforms are on a higher level than Kings Cross. Kings Cross lines enter the station through a tunnel but those of St. Pancras are above ground, and hence make a lot of noise by our moorings. The tunnel is called the Copenhagen Tunnel and the Granary and transit sheds are aligned with tracks coming out. The lines for St. Pancras run in the covered tunnel above it.

Of the 3 million sq metres of office space in the development Google will be taking a million of them. There headquarters will be in this area under the tents. To the right of the photo is St. Pancras Square that is finished and is a peaceful area away from the hustle and bustle of the station area and there are plenty of places to eat and drink too.

In a previous blog I talked about various sight lines that must be maintained. The Google office building is not allowed to be too high to block this view of St. Paul's. It just happens to have the Shard in the background too.

This is the front of the Granary and on such a lovely day it looked like folk had come for the day for the kids to play in the fountains. There are four lines of fountains and they follow the lines of the tunnels that carried the canal into the building for the loading of grain.

The canal runs at the foot of the green stepped area. Where those steps are was where the tunnels left the canal to enter the Granary. The old brick building are the Fish and Coal buildings. They housed the clerks that monitored the comings and goings through the complex and keeping the books. The original block was built in 1851 and later bits added in early 1860's. Latterly there was a couple of clubs in the building but the place suffered a fire in the 80's. The whole lot is being renovated and has been bought by Jamie Oliver's empire head office. There will be studios, bar and restaurant as well as a cookery school. To the right of the photo in the middle ground are the coal drops. This was where coal was brought in on trains on four elevated lines and the coal was dropped into hoppers for transfer to carts. It was built in 1850 and has part of the overall complex. There are two lines of drops and they are being connected by a canopy. These will become a huge retail area for individual outlets.

This is the back of the Fish and Coal buildings. At present there is a floating pontoon to replace the tow path whilst building work is taking place. In the planning it says that there is to be an elevated park, or viaduct, along the front of the building that will connect up with the gasholder park. I'm not sure which is the front or the back and how they will elevate it on either side so it will be interesting

This is gas holder No.8. There were 15 in all. It was put up in 1850's. No.8 has been made into a park. It is stunning and the cast iron framework has been disassembled and sent to Yorkshire for reconditioning before re-erecting. The mirrored steel uprights and the grass area all makes it for a very pleasant. Net to the park are Gas Holders 10,11 and 12. They were built in 1860-7 and enlarged in 1879-80. These three holders were actually linked like Siamese twins. They have also being reconditioned and now they have had apartments built inside them, with windows so placed that the columns do not block any windows but can be seen from them.

The whole area is 67 acres, with 50 new or restored buildings, 1900 new homes, 20 new streets, 26 acres public areas with 42000 people living and working in the area. The development is to take 25 years from start to finish and it has already brought lots of people into an area that was a bit of a no go area, certainly late at night. I would recommend people come and have a look as there is plenty to please the eye and each time you come it will be different.

My mate headed off after we had a few drinks and lunch at the Lighterman on the edge of Granary Square where my daughter joined. 

Amy and I then headed back to the boat for a rest in the heat. We passed the Camley Street Natural Park. The gates are impressive and behind is a two acre space that were once coal yards. It became a park in 1984. We went for a look and it was being very well used by lots of parents with their kids. There was pond dipping going on, and lots of areas to sit in the shade.

I loved this dragonfly piece made out of stuff. I loved the head made out of a portable stereo.

Once back at the boat with a drink we both had a little nap in the heat. Our time in London is coming to a close and I should be returning to daily blogging again as we head north.


  1. That statue of Gresley has been there for a while. The original plan included a small mallard duck standing at his feet but his relatives (grandsons?) objected saying it would show a lack of respect to the man - the pillocks!
    And so, passing railway enthusiasts have been known to leave rubber ducks there instead. I could post a pic or two if I knew how.
    NB 'Red Wharf'

    1. Thanks for the information Sam. It must have been hidden by the 'numpties' queuing for the Platform 93/4 when I passed! Nice to see the designer of the beautiful locos getting some prominent recognition even if sans duck. If they had suggested a set of bag pipes or a haggis do you think they would have been happy?
      Cheers, Tony