The area north of King’s Cross was predominantly rural until the end of the eighteenth century - the whole area was then known as Battle Bridge. John Rocque’s map of 1745 shows fields adjacent to York Way
(formerly Longwich Lane and then Maiden Lane
). This road, and Pancras Road
(formerly King’s Road), were traditional routes out of London to the north being the route to Hampstead, Highgate and Kentish Town.
With the completion of the Regent’s Canal in 1820, the area became linked to major industrial cities in the north of England. Another feature of the area’s growing industrial importance was the arrival of the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company. The company opened Pancras Gasworks to the south of the canal in 1824.
During this same period a number of other “polluting” businesses such as paint manufacture and refuse sorting were established in the area but much of the land to the north of the canal remained open fields. In a move to raise the rather tarnished image of the area, a statue of King George IV was erected at the Battle Bridge crossroads in 1830. The statue attracted ridicule and was demolished in 1842, but the new name for the area – ‘King’s Cross’ – stuck.
Between 1849 and 1852 the Great Northern Railway (GNR) developed their London terminus
in the area. The GNR purchased land for the station to the south of the canal and land to the north for its goods station and steam locomotive depot.
The first temporary passenger station opened in 1850 to the north of the canal. This station was used until King’s Cross station opened in 1852. The Great Northern Hotel opened in 1854, largely for the patrons of the railway. The temporary station became part of the wholesale Potato Market. Grain, another valuable commodity, was transported from East Anglia and stored in the specially constructed Goods Yard complex (1850-2) before being transported on across London. Coal was stored in the Eastern Coal Drops (1851) and Western Coal Drops (1860s).
On the western side of King’s Cross, the terraces and squares of Somers Town were built. An area between Somers Town and the Goods Yard was leased to workmen to build their own homes and quickly became associated with poor quality dwellings, known as Agar Town
and areas of Somers Town were redeveloped in the 1860s to create space for the tracks, terminus and goods yards of the Midland Railway. This included St Pancras
, built between 1866 and 1868, and the Midland Grand Hotel completed in 1876. The German Gymnasium was built in 1864-5 as a club and sports facility for the German Gymnastics Society.
Major increases in rail traffic necessitated the widening of the railway lines into King’s Cross Station and the extension of the station on its west side. Several of the gasholders were also expanded in the 1880s and by 1900, Pancras Gasworks covered 11 acres.
More housing was knocked down for this expansion and by the mid 19th century onwards it became more difficult for railway workers to find decent affordable housing close to their place of work. As a consequence, the Improved Industrial Dwellings Society built the Stanley Buildings to accommodate 104 families in 1864-5 to the west of King’s Cross station.
Good Way was laid across the gasworks around 1900.
After the havoc of wartime and the Nationalisation of 1948, the transport of freight by rail suffered a speedy decline. In the southern part of the Goods Yard, most of the rail lines were lifted in the 1980s.
Although six gasholders remained in service until 2000, the area went from being a busy industrial and distribution district to an under-used site. Many buildings became derelict. This had an impact on local communities whose residents lost opportunities for work and associated trade from the business of the goods yards.
Since the arrival of the 21st Century, the area around King’s Cross has seen an investment of over £2.5 billion on transport infrastructure.
Goods Way, part of the pre-war industrial N1 heartland in 2010s become the heart of the new developments north of Kings Cross
Goods Way features in a scene from the 1955 movie "The Lady Killers".