King's Cross

In 1755 influential residents of St Marylebone, Paddington and Islington, all separate villages close to London, petitioned parliament for the right to provide a turnpike trust road by-passing the northern boundaries of the built up area of London. The New Road from Paddington to Islington was built in 1756 to connect Paddington, now the terminus of the Grand Junction Canal, with the City via Battle Bridge and Pentonville. It was intended initially as a drovers’ road, a route along which to drive cattle and sheep to the live meat market at Smithfield from roads approaching London from the north and north-west, thereby avoiding the congested east-west route via Oxford Street and High Holborn.

In 1829 the first horse omnibus (‘for all’ in Latin) service in London was established by George Shillibeer. His example was followed by many others, and the New Road became the main artery for such traffic for the remainder of the century, linking the sought-after north-western suburbs of 'Tyburnia' (between Praed Street and the Bayswater Road) with the City. By the 1830s much of the road was bordered by fashionable houses.

To raise the reputation of Battle Bridge, Stephen Geary (architect of Highgate Cemetery) in 1835 erected a monument to George IV and, rather pretentiously, called the site ‘King’s Cross’. The monument itself was crowned with a statue of the king, a sorry representation that attracted derision from passers-by, who recalled an unpopular and indulgent 20 stone monarch. The building below had been used as place of exhibition, police station and finally beer shop until, in 1842, the St Pancras Vestry ordered the statue of the king to be pulled down as a nuisance to traffic.

Monument to George IV, Battle Bridge, 1835, George Sidney Shepherd  (London Metropolitan Archives)