Walk 85: Kings Cross & Camden Circular: Harry meets Amy & back (to black)

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 5 miles (8.05km)

Time to walk: There’s several diversions on this route & lots of things to stop & look at. It took us about 3 hours, although we didn’t spend long at Camden Market as we’d visited before. Really you could take all day if you fancy it

Difficulty: Easy, flat & all on hard paths

Parking: The starting point is Kings Cross Station so just catch the tube or bus to there

Public toilets: Plenty on the route in cafes, bars etc

Map of the route: 

Kings Cross has always been thought of as a particularly seedy part of London, but that is now all in the past because, as we’ll see on this walk, the amount of investment & regeneration that’s going on is incredible. We’ll even walk down a brand new street!

The area was previously a village known as Battle Bridge or Battlebridge which was an ancient crossing of the River Fleet. The original name of the bridge was Broad Ford Bridge. The corruption “Battle Bridge” led to a tradition that this was the site of a major battle in AD 60 or 61 between the Romans & the Iceni tribe led by Boudica (also known as Boudicea) There’s a suggestion that Boudica is buried beneath platform 9 or 10 at King’s Cross Station, but that seems to have been urban folklore since the end of World War II

The current name has its origin in a monument to King George IV which stood in the area from 1830 to 1845. It was built at the crossroads of Gray’s Inn Road, Pentonville Road & New Road, which later became Euston Road. It was sixty feet high & topped by an eleven foot high statue of the king

There were also once woolly mammoths here – the remains of one was dug up near the station in 1690

Our route today starts at Kings Cross station & passes St Pancras International & Euston, before turning north to Mornington Crescent & Camden Town. We then pick up & follow the canal all the way back to Kings Cross

There’s lots to see & experience. plus its a glorious spring day so…

Let’s Walk!

1. Even though its facade is outshone somewhat by its illustrious neighbour, the station is still an imposing building…

Kings Cross was designed by Lewis Cubitt & built between 1851 & 1852 on the site of the London Smallpox Hospital. It originally served the Great Northern Railway & is the southern terminus of the East Coast Main Line. The Cubitt brothers were probably responsible for developing more parts of London than any other families

Walk inside the station & be prepared for a ‘Wow’!

In 2005, a £550 million restoration plan was announced by Network Rail. The incredible lattice roof is the size of six Olympic swimming pools. The development also included the rear of the station with a new street & buildings covering what were 70 acres of some of the seediest parts of the city

2. Whilst inside the station you’ve got to go & find Platform 9 3/4. It looks like everyone else had the same plan – look at the queue to have your photo taken!

As any fan of J.K.Rowling’s bestselling series will know, King’s Cross is where students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry catch the Hogwarts Express.

In the wizarding world, Harry Potter & his friends get onto the platform by walking through a brick wall between platforms 9 & 10. Meanwhile in the real Kings Cross, platforms 9 & 10 are separated by tracks, but you can find a platform 9¾ on the wall

Look out for a luggage trolley embedded in the wall & you can pretend you are off to start your magical school journey…

Must be a Muggle

…& once you’ve queued to have your photo taken why not buy a wand in the Harry Potter Shop close by

3. Come back out of the station & look left & up. When was the last time you saw a lighthouse in the middle of London?

The Lighthouse stands on the corner of Pentonville & Gray’s Inn Roads. No-one really knows what it was used for. The building itself reminds us of the Flatiron in New York. Even the blue plaque on the ground level must be the most indecisive blue plaque in London, throwing up more questions than answers, reading, “Oysters were once sold here…or was that a fairground?” 

The most enduring & official view is that the lighthouse was built to promote Netten’s Oyster Bar, which occupied the ground floor. Oysters were a type of Victorian fast food, a sort of McDonalds of their day. A more obscure theory is that it contains a secret staircase that leads down to an abandoned underground platform!

4. Time to move on & head west down the very busy Euston Road. It runs from Marylebone Road to King’s Cross & forms part of the London congestion charge zone boundary

The road was originally the central section of New Road from Paddington to Islington which opened in 1756 as London’s first bypass providing a route along which to drive cattle to Smithfield Market avoiding central London

5. Look across to the South Side to see the magnificent mural on the building housing Barclays Bank. In March, 2012 the vivid artwork was commissioned by the building & hotel owner, Tony Megaro. “The idea is basically to bring a bit of fun & colour to a drab stretch of road,” said Mr Megaro. “Now when you come out of St Pancras, you’ll think: wow, what’s that?”

Mr Megaro denied that it marred or diminished the building & said the work was a colourful enhancement: “When you go to Barcelona you see all the coloured tiles & things like that. I think in this country we tend to be a bit conservative…it’s an impressive building, not an ugly building that we want to camouflage.”

We love it, but had never noticed it – how could you miss that?

6. Next door to Kings Cross Station is London’s grandest station – the revamped magnificent St Pancras International…

St Pancras railway station, known since 2007 as St Pancras International, is widely known for its Victorian architecture. Designed by William Barlow, it was built on top of a slum area of 4000 houses called Agar Town after the early 19th century landowner William Agar. Charles Dickens described the area as a “complete bog of mud filth…the stench of a rainy morning is enough to knock down a bullock”

The station was opened in 1868 by the Midland Railway as the southern terminus of its main line, which connected London with the East Midlands & Yorkshire. When it opened, the arched Barlow train shed was the largest single span roof in the world

After escaping planned demolition in the 1960s, the complex was renovated & expanded from 2001 to 2007 at a cost of £800 million with a ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II & extensive publicity introducing it as a public space

7. Walk back down to the spire end to enter the station & you’re immediately hit by the sheer size of the roof which spans 240 feet & is over 100 feet high. As you enter turn left to see the magnificent statue called ‘The Meeting Place’…

The 9m tall bronze statue of an intimate pose by the world renowned sculptor Paul Day The Love is known commonly as ‘The Lovers’ statue. It stands underneath The Dent clock

8. Continue to the left where there’s another statue, this one’s of Sir John Betjeman who led the campaign to save the station. He’s gazing in wonder at the roof…

but could also be watching the Eurostars

9. Come back out of the station & walk down to the other end of the building which used to be the Midland Grand Hotel. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott, who also designed numerous churches & the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park. The Hotel opened in 1873 & closed in 1935. Between 1935 & the 1980s it was used as railway offices

Planning permission was granted in 2004 for the building to be redeveloped into a new hotel. The main public rooms of the old Midland Grand were restored, along with some of the bedrooms. The former driveway for taxis entering St. Pancras station, passing under the main tower of the building, was converted into the hotel’s lobby. In order to cater for the more modern expectations of guests, a new bedroom wing was constructed on the western side of the Barlow train shed

The new hotel contains 244 bedrooms, 2 restaurants, 2 bars, a health & leisure centre, a ballroom, & 20 meeting & function rooms. At the same time, the upper floors of the original building were redeveloped as 68 apartments

The fabulous 5 star St Pancras Renaissance Hotel opened on 14 March 2011 to guests, however, the formal Grand Opening was on 5 May…exactly 138 years after its original opening in 1873

We can recommend cocktails in the Hansom Lounge, but take your credit card!

10. Walk back out onto Euston Road & carefully cross over & down Bidborough Street to arrive at a classic old style St Pancras pub…The Dolphin

Turn right at the pub along. We’ll be heading to Camden shortly, but the large building almost opposite The Dolphin is Camden Town Hall, previously known as St Pancras Town Hall

It was here in January 1959 (the month & year we were born!) that a small Caribbean carnival took place in response to brutal race riots that had erupted in Notting Hill. By the mid 1960’s the carnival had moved to Notting Hill & eventually became the second biggest street festival in the world

11. Turn right at the end & ahead, across Euston Road once more, you can see our next stop…the British Library

Carefully cross the busy road again & walk through the entrance

The first thing that hits you once you walk through the impressive arch into the courtyard is the enormous statue which is based on William Blake’s study of Isaac Newton. It was sculptured by Eduardo Paolozzi

The British Library is the national library of the UK & the second largest library in the world by number of items catalogued. It holds well over 150 million items from many countries. As a legal deposit library, the British Library receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom & Ireland, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK

It’s also a major research library, with items in many languages & formats. The collections include around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts & historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC

The design of the building wasn’t to everyone’s taste…Prince Charles said that the assembly hall was like “a secret police academy!”

12. Come back out onto that Euston Road again, walk along & then cross over down the back of the church on the corner into Duke Street. We’re now taking you down towards a gem of a street that we bet you’ve never heard of…

Firstly though have a look at the brightly coloured building on the left that’s the former headquarters of the 2oth Middlesex (Artists’) Rifle Volunteers. Look above the door to see the heads of Mars (God of War) & Minerva (Goddess of Wisdom) looking down at you

The Volunteers were an unlikely bunch in the British Army, being formed of painters, musicians, actors, architects & others from creative professions. The regiment (now known as The Artists Rifles) still exists & is part of the Special Air Service (SAS) & was where Bear Grylls had his training

13. At the end turn right into the extremely quaint Woburn Walk which contains some charming 18th & 19th century houses

It was designed by architect Thomas Cubitt in 1822 as a pedestrian street, hence the street’s name today ‘Woburn Walk’. As such it was London’s first purpose built pedestrianised shopping street. There’s some cracking little delis & shops along here & it’s worth spending some time exploring

14. At the end of Woburn Walk turn right towards the crossroads…

We walked past the rear of St Pancras church a few minutes ago which is also known as the ‘New Church’. Now we’re at the entrance…

St Pancras Church is a Greek Revival church built in 1819 to the designs of William & Henry William Inwood. It was historically often referred to as St Pancras New Church, in order to distinguish it from St Pancras Old Church, which we’ll see later

It was the most expensive church built in the city since St Paul’s Cathedral rose after the Great Fire of London. If you have time wander into the churchyard to find the memorial to the victims of violence designed by Emily Young after the 7th July 2005 terrorist attacks in London

Emily Young was said to be the inspiration for Pink Floyd’s ‘See Emily Play’

15. Cross over the road again & approach the monstrosity that’s Euston Station

 

Euston is the southern terminus of the West Coast Main Line, the busiest intercity passenger route in Britain & the main gateway from London to the West Midlands, the North West, North Wales & parts of Scotland

The site was chosen in the early 1830s by George & Robert Stephenson, engineers of the L & BR. The area was mostly farmland at the edge of the expanding city. The station was named after Euston Hall in Suffolk, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Grafton, the main landowners in the area. Objections by local farmers meant that, when the Act authorising construction of the line was passed in 1833, the terminus was at Chalk Farm. These objections were overcome & in 1835 an Act authorised construction of the current station

In the early 1960s it was decided that a larger station was required, but because of the restricted layout of track & tunnels at the northern end, this could be done only by expanding southwards over the area occupied by the Great Hall & the Arch. Amid much public outcry the station building & the Arch were demolished in 1961to be replaced by the lifeless building we have today

Today the only remains of the old station that can be seen are the lodges outside the entrance…

Euston Square, the green area outside the station was once one of the elegant squares in London. Sadly today that’s no longer the case

16. Walk up the steps to the front of the station…

 The statue is of Robert Stephenson, son of George Stephenson (of The Rocket fame)

 17. After the statue turn left & walk down the steps to Melton Street & turn right…

Over the road at the junction with Drummond Street is an abandoned entrance to Euston Underground Station

If you’re feeling peckish then a detour down Drummond Road could well be for you. This street contains some superb Indian Vegetarian restaurants – we can definitely recommend the buffet option at Ravi Shankar

18. Continue along Melton Street, turning left into the charming St Jame’s Gardens. Following an Act of Parliament, the site was originally purchased in 1788 as an additional burial ground for St James, Piccadilly

Encroached upon by the railway to the east, it was laid out as a public garden by the St Pancras Vestry in 1887, & the headstones mostly cleared to the boundaries

Walk through the park & exit through the gate on the other side onto Hampstead Road

19. Hampstead Road’s going to take us towards Camden & Mornington Crescent so turn right & head north. The building on the corner has an interesting scripture above the door…’The St Pancras Female Orphanage’

St Pancras Female Orphanage & Charity School was founded in 1776 to maintain, clothe. educate & train for domestic service female orphans belonging to the parish of St Pancras

The Orphanage occupied premises at 108 Hampstead Road which in 1890 could accommodate 65 girls. Admission was by a periodic election of the charity’s subscribers, with those being received between 9 & 11 years of age

20. It’s good to finally get away from busy Euston Road…

There was a sign directing us towards a pub that made us smile…

Cross over the railway line to reach Mornington Crescent. However, before we venture down there, there’s a very interesting looking large white building ahead that demands our attention…

21. The fabulous (& unknown to us) Carreras Cigarette Factory (known as the Arcadia Works) is a large art deco building & is a striking example of early 20th Century Egyptian Revival architecture. It was built in the 1920’s by the Carreras Tobacco Company, owned by the Russian-Jewish inventor & philanthropist Bernhard Baron

The building’s distinctive Egyptian style ornamentation originally included a solar disc to the Sun God Ra, two gigantic effigies of black cats flanking the entrance & colourful painted details. When the factory was converted into offices in 1961 the Egyptian detailing was lost, but it was restored during a renovation in the late 1990s & replicas of the cats were placed outside the entrance

22. Retrace your steps & turn right down the famous Mornington Crescent…

Mornington Crescent was built in the 1820s, on a greenfield site & was named after the Earl of Mornington, brother of the Duke of Wellington. Comprising three curved terraces grouped in a crescent form around communal gardens, it has 36 spacious houses, most of which have now been converted into flats & apartments

The crescent has a number of literary & artistic associations, however the most notable group of artists were known as the Camden Town Group. There’s a plaque on No.6 showing it as the home of Walter Sickert

Sickert claimed that ‘the district had been so watered with his tears that something important must sooner or later spring from its soil’. He has also been the subject of several theories that he was, or was associated with Jack the Ripper & believed he had lodged in a room used by the notorious serial killer. He had been told this by his landlady, who suspected a previous lodger. Sickert did a painting of the room & titled it “Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom”. It shows a dark, melancholy room with most details obscured. This painting now resides in the Manchester City Art Gallery

Although for over 70 years there was no mention of Sickert being a suspect in the Ripper crimes, in modern times three books have been published whose authors maintain that Sickert was Jack the Ripper or his accomplice

In 1976, Stephen Knight, in his book “Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution”, maintained that Sickert had been forced to become an accomplice in the Ripper murders. Knight’s information came from Joseph Gorman, who claimed to be Sickert’s illegitimate son. Even though Gorman later admitted he had lied, Knight’s book was responsible for a conspiracy theory that accuses royalty & freemasonry of complicity in the Ripper murders

In 1990, Jean Overton Fuller, in her book “Sickert & the Ripper Crimes”, maintained that Sickert was the killer

In 2002, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell, in “Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper—Case Closed”, maintained that Sickert was Jack the Ripper. A psychological motivation for Sickert was said to be a congenital anomaly of his penis. Cornwell purchased 31 of Sickert’s paintings, & some in the art world have said that she destroyed one of them in a search for Sickert’s DNA, but Cornwell denies having done this. Cornwell claimed she was able to scientifically prove that mitochondrial DNA from one of more than 600 Ripper letters sent to Scotland Yard & mitochondrial DNA from a letter written by Sickert belong to only one percent of the population

In 2017, Cornwell published another book on the subject, “Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert” in which she uncovers what she believes to be further evidence for Sickert’s guilt

We found it in Waterstones

In 2004, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in its article on Sickert, dismissed any claim that he was Jack the Ripper as “fantasy”

23. Continue round the crescent. After seeing the front of the ‘Egyptian’ building would you be surprised if there was an obelisk at the back? No, we didn’t think so…

Keep going to arrive at Mornington Crescent Underground Station…

Opened in 1907,  in 1992 the station was shut so that the then 85 year old lifts could be replaced. The intention was to open it within one year, however the state of neglect meant other work had to be completed and the station was closed until 1998

A campaign to reopen the station was launched, due to the popular BBC Radio 4 panel game ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’. The show frequently features the game Mornington Crescent, which takes its name from the station. The station was reopened by the regular cast of the show (Humphrey Lyttelton, Barry Cryer, Tim Brooke-Taylor & Graeme Garden) & a memorial plaque to the late Willie Rushton, one of the longest serving panelists, was installed just inside in 2002

24. Right…this walk goes from ‘go, go, go’ to serenity & now, as we head up Camden High Street, it’s going to turn more & more crazy!

We love Camden High Street as it’s so full of life & there’s always something going on. It’s also got some excellent food shops including The Camden Bakery…

Music has always played a large part in Camden’s life as we’ll see as we walk round. Over the road’s The Blues Kitchen which is one of the legendary venues round here

Camden’s named after 18th century landowner Charles Pratt who was the 1st Earl of Camden who took the name from Camden Place where he lived in Chiselhurst. In the late 18th century the area was still mainly fields with only two main buildings – the Old Mother Red Cap (now the World’s End pub) & the Mother Black Cap (today’s Black Cap pub), both of which we’ll come across later. Both of these places are associated with an old urban myth about a witch that once lived here

During the 19th century the area grew & was popular with immigrants, particularly the Irish. Camden began to grow quickly into the youth entertainment centre of north London

25. Turn right up Pratt Street…

…& then left into Bayham Street where, over the road, we find a mural of one of Camden’s most famous residents

We’ll come across Amy Winehouse more as we progress along the route, but it’s clear her memory is still alive & well

26. Towards the end of Bayham Street turn left up Greenland Road…

You’ll remember we mentioned the World’s End pub? Well it’s here on the right. The first reference to a tavern in the area is in 1690, but the present building dates from 1875

The pub & venue is the work of Andrew Marler, a serial developer of Licensed Premises, who owned it as a 200 capacity pub & in 1988 bought the whole ‘island site’ on which it stands

He then enlarged the pub to a capacity of 1,000 & built the 500 capacity Underworld venue beneath the pub. Marler went on in 1994 to buy the BBC Television Theatre from the BBC & refurbish & launch the site as The Shepherd’s Bush Empire

The World’s End & its Underworld Club have hosted bands/artists like Dave Stewart, The Cranberries, Stuck Mojo, The Datsuns, The Darkness & Radiohead, as well as a host of extreme metal bands

27. We mentioned the other pub associated with the witch, the Black Cap, which is now closed. If you want to see it turn left down the right side of Camden High Street & it’s about 50 yards away

A former drag club, this place has another dark association as it was a favoured haunt of serial killer Dennis Nilsen who would find his victims here. Dennis Nilsen, also known as the Muswell Hill Murderer & the Kindly Killer, murdered at least 12 young men in a series of killings between 1978 & 1983. Convicted of six counts of murder & two of attempted murder at the Old Bailey, Nilsen was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 25 years

He is currently incarcerated at HMP Full Sutton maximum security prison

28. You see you never know what you’re going to come across on our walks, so now let’s move back to the crossroads with Parkway & have a look at a ladies toilet!!

Ladies, this was the first such lavatory in the country, installed following a campaign by George Bernard Shaw who, as well as being a playwright, was also a councillor in Camden. He campaigned for many years for the right of ladies to go to the loo anywhere else apart from in their own homes!

29. Walk up Parkway where, on the left’s a venue we know well…The Camden Jazz Cafe. A cracking small venue to see a band, we’ve seen the Average White Band & Robert Cray there

Parkway’s another extremely eclectic street & the pubs along here are steeped in musical history…

On the left is The Earl of Camden which holds music events every night & on its wall is another Amy Winehouse mural

Amy Jade Winehouse, who lived in Camden, was known for her deep expressive contralto vocals & her eclectic mix of musical genres. Her debut album, Frank (2003), was a critical success & was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Her follow-up album, Back to Black (2006), led to five 2008 Grammy Awards, tying the then record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night, & made her the first British woman to win five Grammys, including Best New Artist, Record of the Year & Song of the Year.

Amy Winehouse won three Ivor Novello Awards in 2004 & also won the 2007 Brit Award for Best British Female Artist, having been nominated for Best British Album, with Back to Black.

A troubled sole, she died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, aged just 27

30. Almost next to this pub’s The Spread Eagle

Who put that tree there?

…which was one of the origins of Britpop in the mid 1990’s & was frequented by Oasis & Blur. Graham Coxon, guitarist with Blur returned for a surprise gig in 2009 & played so loud that some of the pub’s light fittings fell down!

31. Just past The Spread Eagle on the other side of the road’s the brightly coloured Dublin Castle

The Dublin Castle was built for Irish navvies working on railways in London, but gained prominence as a venue in the late 1970s after the band Madness established a live reputation there. According to Suggs, they had to pretend they were a jazz band to get the booking

Subsequently, it was an important venue in the early stages of several bands’ careers, including Blur, Coldplay, Supergrass & The Artic Monkeys & contributed to the Britpop musical genre. Amy Winehouse was a regular visitor to the pub & could often be seen serving behind the bar

32. Turn back over the road & walk up the side of The Spread Eagle along Albert Street…

There was a guard standing outside a building on the right. It turned out it was The Jewish Museum. We had a bit of a chat to him & he explained they had to take this measure due to valid threats

We did this walk in March 2017 & 3 days later heard on the news that an attack had been foiled…

33. At the crossroads turn right along Delancey Street. On the right at number 54 is a blue plaque showing that this was where Dylan Thomas lived between 1914 – 1953

Apparently the neighbours were always complaining about the rows Thomas & his wife used to have, plus the gypsy caravan that was parked outside. The pair split & Thomas left for America only to die of alcoholic poisoning a year later

If you fancy a break before the mayhem that Camden Lock is shortly to impose, then we can recommend the Edinboro Castle on the right which has a very nice beer garden

34. At the end of Delancey Street head straight over the crossroads & then bear right down the very posh Gloucester Crescent…

Houses in the Crescent sell for more than £3 million. Does it look familiar? It should do…

David Bailey & George Melly have been residents here, but it’s been more recently publicised as the street in the film ‘The Lady in the Van‘ & the home of playwright & author Alan Bennett. He let elderly eccentric Mary Shepherd move her van & possessions into his front yard. What was supposed to be a temporary arrangement lasted 15 years

Bennett moved out of the house in 2015, but it was the one used in the film…

35. After Alan’s house, turn right down Inverness Street. Immediately on the left side is a rather derelict looking wall with a door & some faded writing…

This used to be a famous record shop called ‘Sounds that Swing’ that was here for many years & has now relocated to Parkway. Frequent visitors were Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin & Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream

36. Walk along Inverness Street to the corner with Arlington Road – The Good Mixer pub’s on the corner

The large red brick building on the right is Arlington House which is a hostel for homeless men that opened in 1905. For its first 80 years since opening in 1905, it had a capacity for 1200 tenants, later reduced to 400. It was refurbished in 2009 & opened as a conference centre, plus accommodation for 150 homeless, vulnerable, & low income tenants

It’s been described as the biggest homeless hostel in Europe & home to more Irish men than any other building outside Ireland

37. Walk back to the corner & continue along Inverness Street. We starting to get towards the ‘colourful’ part of Camden now…

Inverness Street was originally famous as a fruit & vegetable market, but today there were only a few stalls & it’s more touristy, although there were a couple of very good street food vendors

38. Right…are you ready for Camden? Then at the end turn left & explore!

We just love this part of London & don’t forget to look up as well as down…

39. At the end of the High Street’s the most famous part of this area…Camden Lock on the Regent’s Canal

It’s time now to have a break in the walk & spend some time exploring this vibrant area & probably grab a bite to eat. The Hampstead Road lock is next to an area that was once a timber yard, but now forms part of the market

Walk into the market. A tip would be to avoid it on a weekend if possible when this area is heaving

Plus there is (pricey) street food from all over the world

40. Once you’ve had enough of being pushed & shoved about, the return trip to Kings Cross is a lot more sedate. Walk down to the lock & then turn immediately left onto the canal path & under the bridge we were just standing on…

We’re going to follow the Regent’s Canal (with the odd diversion) all the way back to the start of this walk

41. The Regent’s Canal runs for 9 miles between Paddington Basin & Limehouse running through Little Venice, Camden, Regent’s Park, Kings Cross & Islington

Suddenly the whole world seems a lot calmer, apart from the odd jogger

42. After a short stretch we past some rather futuristic buildings…

There’s a Sainsbury’s behind them & these houses were commissioned by the supermarket & designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw & won several awards. Grimshaw also designed Waterloo International station plus the Eden Project in Cornwall

43. There’s another ‘beer stop’ coming up in 10 minutes so keep going to pass under St Pancras Way, a road that follows the route of the underground River Fleet

Just under the bridge is a pub called The Constitution which is a real locals pub. It’s also got some great graffiti on the canal side wall

 44. We gave it a miss as we had two walks to do today & continued along the next fairly long stretch of the canal to the steps before the next bridge at Camley Street…

Walk up these steps to the bridge. If you want to stock up there’s a Co-Op at the top & we munched on a ham & cheese sandwich on the bench overlooking the water

45. We’re now going to have one of those slight diversions to visit a rather special place so cross over the canal down Camley Street…

…& continue down the hill, looking for the steps on the right just before the bridge leading up into St Pancras Gardens

46. This is a place to stay a while & admire the beauty & history of somewhere that the average tourist never visits…we had the whole place to ourselves

The gardens were built over the former graveyards of St Giles in the Fields. Have a wander around – we went to the left so the first structure we come to is the Sir John Soames monument

Soames designed this for his wife & it’s one of only two listed status tombs in London, the other being Karl Marx‘s in Highgate

47. Carry on left walking towards the fenced off ash tree that’s known as Hardy’s Tree. Walk up to it & look at the gravestones that surround it…

Thomas Hardy (before turning to writing full time) studied architecture in London under Mr Arthur Blomfield, an architect based in Covent Garden. During the 1860s the Midland Railway line was being built over part of the original St. Pancras Churchyard. Blomfield was commissioned to supervise the proper exhumation of human remains & dismantling of tombs. He passed this unenviable task to his protegé Thomas Hardy in l865. Hardy would have spent many hours in St Pancras Churchyard overseeing the careful removal of bodies & tombs from the land on which the railway was being built. The headstones around this ash tree would have been placed here about that time. The tree has since grown in amongst the stones

Hardy was tormented by what he saw, especially when he discovered the two headed body of a man inside a coffin. He soon returned to the calmer Dorset to continue his writing. In his poem, ‘The Levell’d Graveyard’ he wrote of his experience at St Pancras…

” O passenger, pray list & catch

Our sighs & piteous groans

Half Stifled in this jumbled patch

Of wretched memorial stones”

 48. Ready for a hidden treasure? Then let’s have a look at St Pancras Old Church…

We’re looking at what is believed to be the oldest church in London, founded in 314AD. It has links back to Saxon, Roman & Norman times

The church, in the past, has been subject to defamation & was closed for many years. It’s good to see it open once again so step inside & enjoy its beauty & simplicity…

49. Come out of the church & turn right, walking across the churchyard to the other large monument that’s the Burdett-Coutts Memorial Sundial near to the western entrance

The Memorial contains the names of notable people buried here, including John Mills, the last surviving prisoner of the ‘black hole of Calcutta’ & Johann Christian Bach, son of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach

The Beatles visited the park one Sunday afternoon in 1968 for a photo shoot & Charles Dickens referred to it in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ as a place where the villain Jerry Cruncher liked to go body snatching

What a fabulous place it is, but hey…let’s keep it to ourselves!

50. Time to continue the walk so head back up the hill to where we left the canal, descend the steps & rejoin the path. We now entering the area of Kings Cross that’s undergoing massive regeneration & the amount of money going into it must be incredible

We were amazed by what they were doing with the Victorian Gasholders that were built around 1880 by the Gas, Light & Coke Company. These were once earmarked for demolition, but are now being converted into the most stunning apartments with incredible sale prices!

What an amazing place to sit for a while by the canal…

…& this is what they’ll look like

51. Walk past the lock & marina. There was a temporary boardwalk when we were there, but it leads round to the left…

The large building on the left’s the Granary Building which is home to the London University of Arts. Former students include Jarvis Cocker, Sade, designer Jeff Banks, Lucian Freud, & Gilbert & George

52. Continue past the University & leave the canal at the next bridge. There was an excellent ‘book boat’ moored along here which was well worth a browse…

Climb the steps on the left & cross the canal & the road walking towards the new cultural building that has a certain ‘waviness’ about it – it’s actually a centre for the arts, music, food & dialogue

If you fancy a look at the London Canal Museum & basin in which it sits then turn left just after the above building & walk down to the water – again it’s a rather peaceful little area just yards from the busy streets & known as Battlebridge Basin

The museum is in a building once owned by Swiss-Italian millionaire Carlo Gatti who, in the 19th century, became the main ice trader in London, as well as also running several music halls. He’s more famous though for making ice cream popular in the UK

53. Walk back out of the basin, cross the road & walk straight along the road along which there will be many taxis queuing up to get into the station

Just after crossing the railway lines turn left along one of London’s newest streets, King’s Boulevard

This is another regeneration area & there’s a huge Nike store & other buildings along here. As you walk down it you also get a real perspective of the sheer size of the St Pancras Station arched roof

54. At the bottom on the right is a large building that is the German Gymnasium. Designed by Edward Gruning, the German Gymnasium was the first purpose built gymnasium in England & was influential in the development of athletics in Britain. It was built in 1864 for the German Gymnastics Society. This sporting association was established in London in 1861 by Ernst Ravenstein

The building cost £6,000 & was funded soley by the German community in London. The National Olympian Association held the indoor events of the first Olympic Games here in 1866. These games continued annually at the German Gymnasium until the White City games in 1908. The main exercise hall was a grand & elegant space with a floor to ceiling height of 57ft. Long forgotten sports were practised here, including Indian club swinging & broadsword practice. The German Gymnastics Society had a forward thinking approach to women’s exercise, with classes taking place here from as early as 1866

The building ceased to be used as a gymnasium some time pre-war & since then was used as offices, storage & exhibition space since that time. Under wraps for several years, this beautiful building has recently been revealed & is now home to German Gymnasium Restaurant by D&D London, the operator behind Le Pont de la Tour, Bluebird & Skylon

The restaurant is styled after the grand cafés & brasseries of Europe. Many of the original features remain, such as the vast laminated timber roof trusses & the original cast iron hooks from which budding Olympians swung. Even the menu is a nod to the building’s German heritage

55. We’re now back at Kings Cross Station where this piazza at the rear has a real European feel about it. What we really loved was the huge white bird cage that had a human ‘bird swing’ inside it. You can also see the St Pancras Station massive roof behind

So that’s the end of a superb walk that has a real variety of sights & sounds & some hidden parts of London we’ve never seen before. It’s easily one that could be turned into a full day out & the Jewish Museum is also worth a closer look as it has several interesting activities. In March 2017 it’s opening the ‘Amy Winehouse’ trail which takes in all the murals

Go Walk!