Chalton Street, NW1

Road in/near Somers Town, existing between 1793 and now

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Road · Somers Town · NW1 ·

Chalton Street was formerly Charlton Street.

Until 1800, the whole of the Somers Town area (the triangular space between the Hampstead, Pancras, and 632' target='_top'>91674' target='_top'>Euston Roads) was almost exclusively pastoral. With the exception of a few straggling houses near the "Mother Red Cap," at Camden Town, and also a few roundabout the old church of St. Pancras, there was nothing to interrupt the view of the Hampstead uplands from Queen’s Square and the Foundling Hospital.

Mr Jacob Leroux became the principal landowner under Lord Somers. The former built a handsome house for himself, and various streets were named from the title of the noble lord.

Jacob Leroux (c.1737-17632' target='_top'>9632' target='_top'>9) was born in Convent Garden. In 1766 he was employed by Francis and William Goodge to supervise the development of their estate near Tottenham Court Road. In 1768 Leroux was engaged by Isaac Mallorie and John Carnac to design their planned Polygon development in Southampton - an ambitious scheme designed to match the new, genteel buildings of other spa towns like Bath and Tunbridge Wells.

In 17632' target='_top'>93 Leroux erected a second Polygon, with the same layout as that planned in Southampton, on the Somers estate. This scheme fared rather better than the Southampton Polygon, but was similarly not fully completed.

Charlton Street was laid out with barracks for the Life Guards regiment. It continued north as Union Street and Stibbington Street before these were renamed and combined as "Chalton Street".

Gradual advances were made on the north side of the New Road (now the 632' target='_top'>91674' target='_top'>Euston Road), from Tottenham Court Road, and, finally, the buildings on the south side reached the line of Gower Street. The gap between Southampton Place and Somers Town was soon one vast brick-field. The barracks in Charlton Street, became covered by Clarendon Square.

The Company of Skinners owned thirty acres of land which covered the north side of the New Road from Somers Place to Battle Bridge (632' target='_top'>91668' target='_top'>632' target='_top'>916632' target='_top'>91634' target='_top'>5632' target='_top'>91634' target='_top'>5' target='_top'>Kings Cross) which then became when built Skinner Street, Judd Street and Tonbridge Place and other streets.

In Chalton Street, a public house was built - the Somers Town Coffee House. Before it was a pub it was the only coffee-house in the neighbourhood. "Early in the last century Somers Town was a delightful and rural suburb, with fields and flowergardens. A short distance down the hill," writes a Mr Larwood in the nineteenth century, "were the then famous Bagnigge Wells, and close by the remains of Totten Hall, with the ’Adam and Eve’ tea-gardens, and the so-called King John’s Palace. At this time the coffee-house was a popular place of resort, much frequented by the foreigners of the neighbourhood as well as by the pleasure-seeking cockney from the distant city. There were near at hand other public-houses and places of entertainment, but the speciality of this establishment was its coffee. As the traffic increased, it became a posting-house, uniting the business of an inn with the profits of a tea-garden. Gradually the demand for coffee fell off, and that for malt and spirituous liquors increased. At present the gardens are all built over, and the old gateway forms part of the modern bar; but there are in the neighbourhood aged persons who remember Sunday-school excursions to this place, and pic-nic parties from the crowded city, making merry here in the grounds."


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Somers Town

Somers Town is a district close to three main line rail termini - Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross.

Historically, the name Somers Town was used for the larger triangular area between the Pancras, Hampstead, and Euston Roads, but it is now taken to mean the rough rectangle bounded by Pancras Road, Euston Road and Eversholt Street.

Somers Town was named after Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers (1725–1806). The area was originally granted by William III to John Somers (1651–1716), Lord Chancellor and Baron Somers of Evesham.

In the mid 1750s the New Road was established to bypass the congestion of London; Somers Town lay immediately north of this east-west toll road. In 1784, the first housing was built at the Polygon amid fields, brick works and market gardens on the northern fringes of London. The site of the Polygon is now occupied by a block of council flats called Oakshott Court.

The Polygon deteriorated socially as the surrounding land was subsequently sold off in smaller lots for cheaper housing, especially after the start of construction in the 1830s of the railway lines into Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross. In this period the area housed a large transient population of labourers and the population density of the area soared. By the late 19th century most of the houses were in multiple occupation, and overcrowding was severe with whole families sometimes living in one room, as confirmed by the social surveys of Charles Booth and Irene Barclay.

When St Luke’s Church, near King’s Cross, was demolished to make way for the construction of the Midland Railway St Pancras Station and its Midland Grand Hotel, the estimated twelve thousand inhabitants of Somers Town at that time were deprived of that place of worship, as the church building was re-erected in Kentish Town. In 1868 the lace merchant and philanthropist George Moore funded a new church, known as Christ Church, and an associated school in Chalton Street with an entrance in Ossulston Street. The school accommodated about six hundred children. Christ Church and the adjacent school were destroyed in a World War II bombing raid and no trace remains today, the site being occupied by a children’s play area and sports court.

Improvement of the slum housing conditions, amongst the worst in the capital, was first undertaken by St Pancras Council in 1906 at Goldington Buildings, at the junction of Pancras Road and Royal College Street, and continued on a larger scale by the St Pancras House Improvement Society (subsequently the St Pancras & Humanist Housing Association, the present owner of Goldington Buildings) which was established in 1924. Further social housing was built by the London County Council, which began construction of the Ossulston Estate in 1927. There remains a small number of older Grade 2 listed properties, mostly Georgian terraced houses.

During the early 1970s the neighbourhood comprising GLC-owned housing in Charrington, Penryn, Platt and Medburn Streets was a centre for the squatting movement.

In the 1980s, some council tenants took advantage of the ’right to buy’ scheme and bought their homes at a substantial discount. Later they moved away from the area. The consequence was an influx of young semi-professional people, resulting in a changing population.

Major construction work along the eastern side of Somers Town was completed in 2008, to allow for the Eurostar trains to arrive at the refurbished St Pancras Station. This involved the excavation of part of the St Pancras Old Churchyard, the human remains being re-interred at St Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley.

Land at Brill Place, previously earmarked for later phases of the British Library development, became available when the library expansion was cancelled and was used as site offices for the HS1 terminal development and partly to allow for excavation of a tunnel for the new Thameslink station. It was then acquired as the site for the Francis Crick Institute (formerly the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation), a major medical research institute.
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