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APRIL - We began with coffee in the stunning foyer of King’s Place, a relatively new concert hall, exhibition and education venue, opened in 2008 and housed in the building which is also home to the The Guardian and Observer newspapers. From the terrace at King’s Place it was possible to see both the Regent’s Canal mooring basin and the canal proper. Crossing into the newly developed KX (King’s Cross) area we reached Granary Square with its 1,000 choreographed fountains. The old Granary building designed by Lewis Cubitt in 1852 has been beautifully restored and is now the new home of the Central Saint Martin’s School of Art. It is possible to walk through the huge warehouse and we tried to imagine what it was like when it full of dusty bags of grain and flour.

King’s Cross was once a village called Battle Bridge and became King’s Cross when a memorial to King George IV was erected at the junction with Euston Road and Grays Inn Road in 1836. With the building of King’s Cross station (1852) and St Pancras (1870s) and the construction of the Regent’s Canal the whole area was dominated by transport, haulage and commerce. The trains into King’s Cross approached through tunnels under the Regent’s Canal with a steep descent and the area north of the station was used to tip out the coal that came down from the mines of northern England, before being distributed by horse drawn carts. The later construction of St Pancras station brought the trains over the canal. Barrels of beer from the breweries of Burton Trent were stored beneath platform level before being taken by horse and cart to the many London pubs.

In the redevelopment the old Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross has been transformed into a two storey area of boutique shops and upmarket restaurants. With the coming of the rail-

ways coal from mines in Yorkshire and the north of England could reach London in a

matter of hours; previously it had required hazardous journeys in "colliers" down the North Sea coast or a journey of several weeks by canal. The first supply of coal to London via rail was made in 1845. Advertisements at the time confirmed that customers could "send their own wagons and sacks, pay cash on order, or on delivery, the coals being the produce of the best pits in the South Yorkshire Coal Fields, of good quality and large size…." Many hundreds of horses were used in transporting the coal and stabling, under the supervision of a capable horse master, was eventually provided to improve the welfare of the horses.

Gas holders were constructed in the 1850s and these were in use until decommissioned in 2000. These gas holders have now been dismantled, taken bit by it to Shepley Engineers in Yorkshire for cleaning and rebuilt in 2013. Luxury flats have now been built inside the holders with one of them becoming a garden with reflective features.

We finished with a return visit to the Eurostar platforms at St Pancras and ended the walk under the new "diagrid" roof over the concourse at King’s Cross. This is part of a £500m redevelopment and spans 150metres with not one visible bolt in the entire structure. Designed to cover the largest area without the need for supporting columns in the middle, this vast bright space is ‘the head of the matchstick’ the engineers explain – the steel piles underpinning the visible lattice are driven 50metres into the ground.

Schoolchildren were queueing at Platform 93/4 (nine and three-quarters) for the train to Hogwart’s. We returned to the humdrum Metropolitan Line for the journey home.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)







1 Regent's Canal Basin from King's Place Concert Hall.

2 Luxury apartments constructed within reconstructed 19c gas holders - now Grade II listed.

3 Barges moored on Regent's Canal Basin

4 The wow factor.  Part of the new 'diagrid' roof over the concourse at King's Cross station. A span of

   150 metres with not one visible bolt in the entire structure.

5 No 3 gas holder with landscaped gardens and reflective features.

6 The 19c Granary Building

7 Scale of model of the redeveloped Coal Drops Yard.

8 Henry Moore ' Spindle' sculpture 1974 outside Kings Cross Station

9 Regent's Canal Basin

10 St Martins College of Art now located in redeveloped Granary Building

11 Water feature in Granary Court

12 "Down" to exciting shopping experience in Coal Drops Yard

13 External walls of Coal Drop Yard

14 New pupils for Hogwarts looking for Platform 9 3/4 (nine and three-quarters)











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MARCH - On a very blustery morning we set off to walk from Westfield, at Stratford through the Queen Elizabeth II Park towards Hackney Wick. We noted the 23 ton bell cast for the Olympic Games in 2012 now sited permanently in the park. The landscaped banks of the River Lea were looking very good with tall clumps of reeds blowing in the sunshine. Cutting down beside the Copper Box stadium, now used for basketball, netball, dance and exercise events, we soon hit the old industrial area of Hackney Wick. The area is slowly being redeveloped. Old canal-side warehouses and bars covered with lively ‘street art’ are giving way to new flats and offices.

Ghosts of some of the earlier factories here can still be found including, Lesney (Matchbox Toys), Clarnico sweet factory, Achille Serre who introduced dry cleaning to the UK, Eugene Carless, oil distilling and refining business from 1859

who invented the brand name ‘petrol’, and wonder of wonders, apparently perforated toilet rolls were first invented here.

Crossing the footbridge over the A12 we entered Victoria Park where many local school children were playing football. Two stone alcoves from the original medieval London Bridge were given to the park when a new London Bridge, designed by John Rennie, opened in 1831. There were fourteen of these alcoves on the original bridge. In turn, John Rennie’s bridge was sold to the McCullough Oil company in the United States in the 1968s for $2,460,000, dismantled, shipped to California via the Panama Canal and reassembled in Lake Havisu in Arizona where it has become a popular visitor attraction. The current London Bridge opened in 1973.

Passing the interesting children’s paddling pool (dry for winter) we found lake used by the Victoria Model Steam

 Boat Club, founded in 1904 and still active today. A stunning Victorian drinking fountain given by Angela Burdett-Coutts the Victorian philanthropist in 1982 has been restored as part of a £14 million Lottery Fund refurbishment of the park in 2010 and new decorative pools created around it. Crossing the rustic bridge we passed the Chinese Pagoda, destroyed with much of the west park during WWII, but recreated by the use of eye-witness information and many pre-war photographs.

Dropping down on the towpath of the Regents Canal we followed it all the way to Mile End diverting through the park to cross the pedestrian bridge built over the road in 2000. On the way we were able to pick out some features and buildings that we regularly see from the train windows on our journeys to and from Liverpool Street.

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)


Top (l to r) Info re stone alcoves from the medieval London bridge.

Sheltering from the gales.

I think we are going to need a bigger alcove.

Bow Heritage Trail marker.


Bottom (l to r) Strange bronze figure in the children's padding pool - not in this weather though

Model boating lake created in 1904 still used today for model regattas.

Another view of the model lake.

Angela Burdett-Couts drinking fountain 1862. .

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Brentwood U3A web site was created and is managed by Brian Leith

Page last updated

Monday, 19 August 2019