Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

King's Cross

A friend who is regular reader of this blog has sent me the link, courtesy of The Georgian Group, to this picture of the monument which gave its name to King's Cross in London. Indeed I used, unthinkingly, to assume that the area took its name from one of the Eleanor Crosses erected by King Edward I after 1290. The facts are, in fact, otherwise, and resulted in changing the name of the area from Battle Bridge.

King's Cross
Image: twitpic.com/The Georgian Group

It was erected in 1830 as a a monument to King George IV and was built at the junction of Grays Inn Road,, Pentonville Road and New Road, which later became Euston Road.

The monument was sixty feet high and topped by an eleven-foot-high statue of the King, and was described in 1878 by the author Walter Thornbury as "a ridiculous octagonal structure crowned by an absurd statue". The upper storey was used as a camera obscura while the base in turn housed a police station and a public house. The unpopular building was demolished in 1845, though the area has kept the name of Kings Cross, and King's Cross Railway Station now stands by the junction where the cross stood.

Thornbury's description of the cross in his 1878 book Old and New London, vol ii, is as follows:

"In 1830 Battle Bridge assumed the name of King's Cross, from a ridiculous octagonal structure crowned by an absurd statue of George IV., which was erected at the centre of six roads which there united. The building, ornamented by eight Doric columns, was sixty feet high, and was crowned by a statue of the king eleven feet high. Pugin, in that bantering book, "The Contrasts," ridiculed this effort of art, and contrasted it with the beautiful Gothic market cross at Chichester. The Gothic revival was only just then beginning, and the dark age was still dark enough. The basement was first a police-station, then a public-house with a camera-obscura in the upper storey. The hideous monstrosity was removed in 1845. Battle Bridge, which had been a haunt of thieves and murderers, was first built upon by Mr. Bray and others, on the accession of George IV., when sixty-three houses were erected in Liverpool Street, Derby Street, &c. The locality being notorious, it was proposed to call it St. George's Cross, or Boadicea's Cross, but Mr. Bray at last decreed that King's Cross was to be the name."


The demolition of the King's Cross in 1845

Although a somewhat eccentric piece of architecture I suspect that had it survived KIng's Cross might well have become a fondly regarded piece of the London cityscape one can imagine Sir John Betjeman celebrating it.

Thornbury's history of the whole area can be read here.

No comments: