Is this a cheat? Probably. But it’s worthwhile, believe me.
Today it’s a tale of two Crosses. One Charing Cross sits towards the west of the City and the other, Kings Cross, to the north and east.
Kings Cross has a fascinating history.
Today it is known for its mainline railway stations: Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston.
But way way back it is the monks who brought the remains of St Pancras to England and set up here, on the edge of the River Fleet that started the community.
St Pancras Old Church sits on the site of the original
and in the churchyard is a splendid memorial to certain famous families, paid for by a philanthropist, Baroness Burdett-Coutts who sought to rid St Pancras and London generally of its slums.
Interestingly at its feet is a memorial stone to Johan Christian Bach the son of the famous composer who died in 1782 in London.
Going even further back the self same crossing point on the river was said to be where Boadicea fought the Romans and the warrior Queen was killed.
Reputedly she is buried under platform 9 of King’s Cross, rather close to platform 9¾. I wonder if there’s a link.
The position near a river led to the development of industry in the 19th Century especially a huge gasworks. With the industry and low level housing and increased pollution came dereliction. Attempts were made to tart the area up, including the erection of a statue to George IV, but that merely caused cynical amusement and, while it led to the name by which we know the area today the statue was removed and not missed.
By the time I arrived in London you went to Kings Cross for trains; you certainly didn’t go wandering the streets. It was violent a drug users and abuses area of prostitution and low level crime.
Those mindless bureaucrats in charge of the railways even wanted to demolish the Great Eastern hotel and St Pancras and, but for Sir John Betjeman’s campaign they might have succeeded.
What a loss had they.
Now the station is the gateway to Europe, King’s Cross is both a magnificent structure once again and tourist destination for its arts campus and restaurants in Granary Square
its theatre and the old engine sheds which form part of an increasingly vibrant science and arts area with entertainment and leisure to the fore.
There are highlights – its child-friendly fountains
The Regent Canal winds round the back and along its banks is the Nature reserve at Camley Street with its pond dipping
The British Library sits alongside St Pancras Station
The German Gymnasium
is over 100 years old and still providing healthy facilities. It is getting there as a place to visit.
And of course if you came to last year’s Bloggers Bash or are coming this time, well this is where you will end up. What more reason do you need?
By contrast Charing Cross is just a station on the north bank of the river next to Trafalgar Square. But in some ways it is more important than Kings Cross, indeed than any other part of London.
Here in the car park to the station, surrounded by the taxi rank sits the monument to the route followed by Queen Eleanor’s body. In the 13th Century Edward 1 erected a series of 12 monuments indicating the route travelled by his late wife’s body, each topped with a cross. Only 3 remain. The original one at Charing Cross sat at the south end of Trafalgar square and was destroyed during the revolution in 1647. Today’s is a Victorian replica and was placed on what was originally the Royal Mews before the station was built. The original site is now the official centre of London and when you see ’10 miles to London’ on a sign post that is where the mileage runs from.
It hasn’t always been so.
Further west, in what is now Cannon Street there’s a strange little metal grating set in the wall of an otherwise unimpressive buildings. This casing juts out and on the top is a plate telling us this is the last fragment of the ‘London Stone’.
First recorded in the 1560s this is an ancient marker whose original purpose is unknown. But some speculated it marked the spot which was the centre of Roman London and from which distances were then measured.
Others have it holding mythical significance. Maybe it was the precursor to Charing Cross. If so this odd little box seems a negligent way to display something so potentially important.
Isn’t that typical of London?
This is part of the 2016 A to Z Blogging challenge. Please click here to find your way to other participants.