King’s Cross, one of the most famous stations in London, was built for the Great Northern Railway to serve Yorkshire, the north-east of England and Scotland. The engineer was Joseph Cubitt and the station was designed by his older brother, Lewis Cubitt.
The station was built in 1851 – 52 on the site of the London Smallpox Hospital. When it opened it was the largest station in England and included coal stores, a six-storey granary and stabling for 300 horses.
King’s Cross has always been noted more for its trains than its buildings – the ‘Flying Scotsman’, Britain’s most famous train, made her last journey from here.
Compared to the elaborate St Pancras Station next door, the design of King’s Cross is functional. The facade, behind a forecourt building, is built of London brick and makes a features of the two train-sheds arches beneath an 120 ft Italianate clock tower. The 70 ft high train-sheds, one for arrivals and one for departures, extend for 800 ft to the rear of the station.
Soon after the station was built, two new platforms had to be created down the middle of the station between the two train-sheds, which proved to be narrow and inconvenient. In 1875 a small suburban station was built alongside to serve north London as far as Finchley and Barnet. The Metropolitan Line, which connects King’s Cross with the City and Paddington, was the first Underground in the world, and was opened in 1863.
Beside King’s Cross is the Great Northern Hotel, built three years after the station and designed by Lewis Cubitt. In the same style as King’s Cross, this impressive building is currently scheduled for demolition.