GNR passenger station

The strength and simplicity of Lewis Cubitt’s design for the main passenger station was strong and simple. The station was constructed of yellow stock brick. Two lunette windows reveal the ribs of the arrival and departure shed roofs behind, and are separated by the central projecting clock tower and projecting sections at the margins. An arched arcade at the front provided a concourse, while the eastern side featured an arched opening to a cab road. The Great Northern Hotel is seen on the left beyond the western offices.

Arrival of Queen Victoria at King’s Cross Station, 1853 (courtesy of SSPL/NRM)

The semi-circular arches spanning the arrival and departure sheds are each 71 ft (22 m) high and 105 ft (32 m) wide. The timber ribs supporting the arches sprang from iron stanchions mounted on the two outer walls and on a third wall that runs down the middle of the station, pierced by broad elliptical arches. The ribs were 20 feet (6 m) apart. The plan shows 41 ribs running the length of the sheds, providing a shed length of 800 feet (244 m). Each rib was laminated, being made up of sixteen 11/2 inch (38 mm) boards screwed and bolted together.

The upper five eighths of the roof was glazed, the remaining lower part being slated over timber boards.

The thrust of the arched roof was taken on the west side by the three-storey office block. On the east side the thrust was taken by wooden flying buttresses spanning the cab road.

The single arrival platform was on the east side of the Arrivals Shed. From here it was but a few steps to the cab rank. This was paved with wooden blocks laid on a sub-stratum of concrete, the station thereby being spared the noise of vehicles and horses. Both arrival and departure platforms were paved with York stone.

The earliest surviving plan of the main passenger station is found in a French treatise on railway engineering. It was drawn in 1858 and published in Nouveau portfeuille de l’ingenieur des chemins de fer, 1866edited by  Eugène Lacroix (courtesy of E-Rara). The following plan and section are extracted from the drawing in this volume. There is an accompanying legend 

The cross-sectional elevation from the same source is drawn from a west-east line that runs through one of the two staircases of the Western Range, the three storey offices aligned alongside the departure platform, presumably the staircase opposite the engineers’ and superintendent’s offices, as the porte cochère or “marquise” is not seen. The Western Range housed the facilities listed in the legend.

At the southern end were the Registration Offices (Nos. 1-4) into which Leopold Redpath, the King’s Cross fraudster (Hayes, 2013) moved in 1852 from the Company’s temporary headquarters in Maiden Lane. Promoted to Registrar in 1854, he would, over eight years from 1848, forge share certificates and sell counterfeit shares to a value of £253,000, worth over £20 million today, enjoying a lavish and cultured lifestyle until discovered and deported to Australia.

The single departure platform was on the west side of the Departure Shed. Departing passengers would arrive via Station Road, a cab road leading off Old St. Pancras Road to the station, where they would disembark under the porte cochère or canopy over the entrance to the booking office (“marquise” in plan) and proceed through the Booking Hall (No. 13 in plan) to the Ticket Office (No. 14). Here they would ‘book’ a ticket and make their way to the departure platform with the help of porters if required. They could await their train in a Refreshment Room (No. 23 in plan), managed by the lessee of the Great Northern Hotel, Joseph Dethier.

A second arrival platform was built in 1862 to prevent delays in discharging trains. But until 1893 there was only one main line departure platform - used by 40 trains per day. Two more platforms were added that year, one on either side of the central wall. The same year two-storey offices were built over the cab road together with an iron footbridge to link the offices on the west and east sides.

The eastern (arrivals) train shed roof timbers had deteriorated over time and in 1866-7 the wooden ribs were replaced by iron ribs in the same configuration. A travelling timber stage, as had been used for the larger shed at St. Pancras, was used for the work, being placed in storage on completion in anticipation of further use for the western train shed roof. This was replaced 20 years later, over 1886-7.