BATTLE BRIDGE ESTATE
King's Cross Station on the Metropolitan Railway, now closed, was
situated in the middle of an area which was formerly a small common—waste
of the Manor of Cantlowes—extending on the south to within a short distance
of St. Chad's Place and on the north to the parish boundary along Pentonville
Road. (fn. a) The river Fleet, before it became an underground sewer in 1825,
flowed along the western side of Pancras Road and then eastward along the
south side of the common, crossing the old highway (now Gray's Inn Road)
north of St. Chad's Place. Here was no doubt the original "Broad Ford,"
which gave its name to Bradford Bridge, corrupted in Tudor times to Battle
Bridge. There is no foundation for the stories of a battle here between the
Romans and the Britons. The only Roman find discovered near Battle
Bridge is the fragment of a tombstone to the memory of "Saturninus, private
in the Twentieth Valerian Victorious Legion" found on the eastern side of
Maiden Lane in 1842. (ref. 93) The neighbourhood was generally known as
Battle Bridge until the erection of King's Cross (a memorial to George IV) in
1830 (see p. 115) when the latter name superseded it. But the name of Battle
Bridge was attached not only to the hamlet near the ancient bridge (and
specifically to the houses at the north-west corner of King's Cross Road), but
was also applied to the fields to the south, on both sides of Gray's Inn Road.
This chapter deals, therefore, with the area enclosed by the present Euston
Road, King's Cross Road, the Skinners' Company Estate on the west and the
Cromer-Lucas and Swinton Estates on the south, and divided into two parts,
one to the west and one to the east of Gray's Inn Road.
Battle Bridge Field, to the west of Gray's Inn Road (see Survey of
London, Vol. XIX, pp. 24–25) was owned by Richard Cliffe who, by his will
(1566) (ref. 94) bequeathed it to his brother Geoffrey Cliffe, who died in 1571.
It is described (ref. 95) in 1650 as "five closes now divided, but formerly
one close, containing 18 acres, and three houses at the nether end of Gray's
Inn Lane, in Pancridge, alias Pancrasse, alias Kentish Town, in the occupation
of Richard Gualter." The field was then sold by Thomas Wilford, gentleman,
of Dunball, Ashley Abbotts, Salop, grandson of John Hodges of Holborn,
gentleman, and Mary his wife, to Thomas Russell of St. Martin's Ludgate,
gentleman. In 1710, when it contained four closes (formerly two and later
five) with five houses, it belonged to the family of De Beauvoir of Hackney. (ref. 96)
When the New (Euston) Road was formed, its northern part was cut off and
its area reduced. In Horwood's map (Plate 1) it is shown divided into
two parts, the New Road Nursery occupying the upper portion. In Tompson's map (Plate 2) four of its original closes are shown: New Garden,
Holles's Field, Cow Lier and the part occupied by "Mr. Smith."
Prior to the year 1800 the property was owned by William Brock
who leased 3¼ acres (the New Garden) to William Marshall and the remainder,
some 12 acres of meadow, to John Smith. The estate remained in the possession of Brock till shortly before 1823, when it was purchased by Thomas
Dunston of Old Street, St. Luke's, William Robinson of Charterhouse
Square, and William Flanders of Colebrooke Row, Islington. (ref. 97) They decided
to develop it, and applied for an Act in 1824. The Act (ref. 98) recites that the land
consisted of 15¼ acres on the south side of the New (Euston) Road and 1¼
acres on the north side (on the site of the sloping carriage way in front of
St. Pancras Station, and extending slightly further east).
The streets which Messrs. Dunston, Robinson and Flanders planned
to create were Argyle Street and Manchester Street (now merged into Argyle
Street), Belgrove Street, Chesterfield Street (now Crestfield Street), Liverpool
Street (now Birkenhead Street) and Derby Street (now St. Chad's Street).
The strip on the north side of Euston Road was to have seventeen houses and
to be called Egremont Place. (ref. 99)
Although the houses which they built have the charm inherent in
diminutive dwellings of the early 19th century, with picturesque balconies and
fanlights, the Battle Bridge area was never "highly respectable" in the social
sense of the day. In the report of the destitute districts made by Mr. Sinclair,
in 1848, for the Deacons' Court of Regent Square Church, (ref. 100) he speaks of it
as "an extensive field of labour situated between Cromer Street and the New
Road on the one side, and Judd Street and Gray's Inn Road on the other" and
having a population of no less than 7,000 people, sometimes as many as five
families in a house, the occupants being labourers, beggars and street traders.
Drunkenness and squalor were prevalent.
Some reference should be made to an ambitious scheme projected (ref. 17)
by Signor Gesualdo (Gemaldo) Lanza (1779–1859), an Italian teacher of
music, to provide a centre for music and the drama on an island site facing
Euston Road and contained within Birkenhead Street and Argyle Street.
Lanza had a deserved reputation as a singing master, and with the help
of the architect, Stephen Geary, a plan was produced, a copy of which is
in the Crace Collection at the British Museum. In the centre of the
site was a large building styled the Grand Panharmonium Theatre, facing
north, with a refreshment room to the east and a ballroom to the west, stretching together across the whole site. The space south of the theatre was to be
occupied by pleasure gardens, with a music gallery built against the theatre
itself. In front of the theatre was a courtyard with two approaches from
Euston Road on the site of the present Crestfield and Belgrove Streets.
Residences were to be built on the Euston Road frontage and in other parts
of the site. A dramatic school was also to be built facing Birkenhead Street.
There were to be picture galleries, reading rooms and many other features
As far as can be gathered the only building actually erected was the
little theatre in Birkenhead Street (see p. 110) which may have been that first
intended as a dramatic school. But there seems to have been some preparation
of the grounds which were furnished with an overhead railway from which
cars were suspended (ref. 101) (see illustration on p. 104).
The opening day was on Thursday, 4th March, 1830, but the project
was short lived. On 28th February, 1832, particulars of sale were published
concerning bricks, balustrades, gates, plaster figures and unfinished buildings,
"late the Panarmonion Gardens." The ground was to be carved into plots
and laid into "a new square called Argyle Square." Demolition must have
followed immediately, for a newspaper cutting of 20th March, 1832, refers to
an accident when an arch was being pulled down "at the Piano Gardens near
Battle Bridge." A plan drawn by Ebenezer Perry in 1832 for a re-distribution
of the property shows the lay-out of the streets that exist to-day.
Battle Bridge Field, east of Gray's Inn Road, occupied the area south
and west of the Fleet Brook and north of the Swinton Estate. These boundaries
are clear from the numerous entries in the Middlesex Land Registry as the
land was divided into building plots. In Rocque's map of ten miles round
London, published in 1746, he shows a group of about nine houses at Battle
Bridge at the junction of Gray's Inn and King's Cross Roads, but these were
north of the river. In 1767 the field south of this belonged to John Smart of
Poplar and Mary his wife. Its rapid building development dates from this
year when they let (ref. 102) part of it to Richard Hedges, carpenter, of St. Pancras.
Britannia Street was the principal road leading eastwards from Gray's Inn
Road; parallel to it were George Street (south) and Charlotte Street, Field
Street and St. Chad's Place (north). Connecting these was Paradise Street,
running north to south behind the houses in Gray's Inn Road, called Chad's
Row or part of Constitution Row. The development was continued by
John Smart's only son and heir, Richard Smart, described as of Mile End Old
Town, Stepney, gentleman. Among the builders who took up leases were
James Usher, carpenter, of Laystall Street, St. Andrew's Holborn (1773),
John Seager of Battle Bridge, builder (1778) and Thomas Fish of Salisbury
Street, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, bricklayer (1783). (ref. 103) The whole of this
estate has been entirely demolished and rebuilt.
SUSPENSION RAIL–WAY, ROYAL PANARMONION GARDENS, LIVERPOOL STREET, KINGS CROSS, NEW ROAD, Sr. PANCRAS
WILLIAM THE FOURTH, ROYAL CAR.
Argyle Square is situated between St. Chad's Street (formerly Derby
Street), which divides the western part of the estate into northern and southern
parts, and Argyle Street (formerly Manchester Street) which bounds the
estate on the south. In 1840 the first two houses appear in the rate books,
entered in pencil, indicating no doubt that they were not yet occupied. Nos.
1 to 13 and 33 to 40 were
completed by 1844, and a
further three houses appeared
in 1849 when the square was
Nos. 40 and 41 Argyle Square
It is interesting to find
that the "town-planning" of
an area of even "third-class"
houses included a square, and
it certainly must have been
attractive with its modest
houses adorned with convex
fronted balconies and lotus
flowered railings. The north
side, comprising Nos. 1 to 6,
has been re-developed. The
remaining sides are numbered
clockwise 7 to 25 on the east,
26 to 35 on the south and 36
to 47 on the west. The houses,
now mostly hotels and boarding houses, are all of one type
with stucco-fronted basements
and areas, ground storeys
with architraves to the roundheaded doors and windows,
and three upper storeys of brick. There are the usual balconies to the first
floor. Straight joints in the brickwork indicate that the houses were erected
generally in groups of four. No 25 at the corner of Argyle Street was
badly damaged and has been restored. Nos. 7 and 47 at the corners of
St. Chad's Street and No. 36 at the corner of Argyle Street have their
entrances at the sides.
On the south side of the square, between No. 26 Argyle Square and
No. 68 Argyle Street stood the Swedenborgian New Jerusalem Church. It
was designed by J. D. Hopkins in the Anglo-Norman style, and was opened
on 11th August, 1844, a year after the foundation stone was laid. (ref. 104) The
church has been demolished and its site incorporated into the area covered
Argyle Street runs southward from Euston Road at a point opposite
St. Pancras Station and then turns sharply east to Gray's Inn Road, forming
the southern boundary of
the Battle Bridge Estate.
The owners of the land,
Messrs. Dunston, Robinson
and Flanders, decided to
develop it in 1832, and a
plan of the houses proposed
to be erected was prepared
by their surveyor Ebenezer
Perry. (ref. 99) The four parallel
streets (Argyle Street, Belgrove Street, Crestfield Street
and Birkenhead Street) were
set at right angles to the New
(Euston) Road leaving a triangular strip of land next the
Skinners' Estate and situated
behind the present theatre.
This was utilized for a brick
cow-shed and dairy offices
over 300 feet long, let in 1832
to Lewis Raphael, dairyman,
of Golders Green. (ref. 105)
Type of Balconies in Argyle Square
The Building of the
original Argyle Street was
begun in 1833, when the
poor rate books of St. Pancras
show the first eleven houses
on the western side southwards from Euston Road.
The same number opposite
on the east side were next
built and finished in 1839.
By 1849 the street of fortyone houses had been completed and was numbered
consecutively from No. 1 at the north-west corner to No. 41 at the north-east
corner. It has since been re-numbered (see below).
Manchester Street, the former name of the eastern section of Argyle
Street, does not figure in the rate books till 1826, when five houses at the
Gray's Inn Road end appear, followed by three others in 1827. There were
sixteen houses in 1830. In 1832 a building lease (ref. 106) was granted to Robert
Eckett of Hadlow Street, Burton Crescent, to build the first four houses
(exclusive of the corner house) on the southern side of the Gray's Inn Road end.
Britton's map of 1834 shows that at least a further ten houses had then been
added on this side. Thereafter building seems to have progressed slowly
until 1849, when there were forty-seven houses, which comprised the full
complement of the street.
The houses of Argyle Street differ from those in the square of the
same name chiefly by the absence of moulded stucco architraves around the
windows, which on the first floor are recessed within brick arches in the
external face of the wall. This feature they share with houses at the northwestern extremity of Gray's Inn Road. The smaller houses of Argyle Street
have only two storeys, but the larger ones have an attic floor contained within
a mansard roof. The present numbering of the street commences at the north
end with odd numbers on the east and even numbers on the west side.
Between Euston Road and St. Chad's Street, Nos. 7 to 19 and, south of the
latter, Nos. 27 to 47 remain, and are of one design. They are of brick having
the usual basements with railed areas, ground storeys with round-headed
windows and doorways, and two upper storeys; the first floor windows are
square-headed, set in shallow round-arched recesses, and have individual
Nos. 4 to 36 are similar but the doorways have archivolts and some
of the ground storeys are wholly stucco-fronted. No. 36 has been repaired
in yellow brick; the houses south of this, Nos. 38 to 44, to Whidborne
Street have been demolished. Most of these buildings are now hotels and
boarding-houses. No. 46, south of Whidborne Street in the angle, is a
plainer brick house retaining the sign of the Duke of Wellington.
At the bend, on the north side, are three later projecting shops
below a wall of modern brick, probably a post-war repair or alteration; a
doorway at the side of the corner shop is old and round-arched like the others
and may have belonged to the original No. 45.
The south side of the former Manchester Street continues the even
numbers. Nos. 48 to 54 are of brick with basements. The ground storeys
have round-arched windows and doorways, the latter with archivolts of
stucco. There are two upper storeys and mansard attics. The tall first floor
windows have no balconies. Nos. 56 and 58 are similar but have no stucco
work or attics. There are straight joints in the brickwork on either side of
Nos. 60 to 66 have basements and ground storeys with stucco
architraves to the round-headed doorways and windows, and three upper
storeys with stucco architraves to the first floor windows. Not only are these
houses higher but the storeys themselves are taller than those of No. 58, etc.,
to the west. The next house adjoining on the east is No. 35 Argyle Square.
East of the south range of the square stand the flats erected by the
St. Pancras Borough Council on both sides of the street, but at the east end
three old houses are still standing. Nos. 106 and 108 are still occupied; they
have basements, round-headed doorways and windows to the ground floor,
and two upper storeys with first floor balconies. No. 110 (next to the derelict
No. 249 Gray's Inn Road) has a shop front with two brick upper storeys.
CXXXI—Belgrove Street (formerly Belgrave Street)
Belgrove Street leads from Euston Road to St. Chad's Street. The
rate books indicate that building was begun at the Euston Road end in 1834,
when the first four houses are entered in pencil as shortly due for rating.
By 1839 there were seventeen houses. Daw's map of 1868 (on which it is
still spelled "Belgrave Street") indicates that this was its full complement,
much of its length being absorbed by the back and front gardens of Hamilton
Place (as the large houses facing the Euston Road were then called).
Nos. 7 and 8 Belgrove Street
Although the houses are narrow, rarely exceeding 16 feet wide, and
can have been intended only for tenants of moderate means, they exhibit
considerable ingenuity in design. All the detail is admirably executed and
they have a marked dignity of composition. The round-headed doors and
windows of the ground floor are spaced independently of the rectangular
windows above. The ground floor windows have radiating bars in their
upper sashes, which for the most part are square-framed for simplicity of construction and to prevent warping; they slide into square-headed recesses in
the walls so that they give the appearance of round-arched windows until
lowered for airing the rooms. The doors are four-panelled in place of the
earlier six-panel types and are hung to posts in the form of pilasters, with
Of the original houses only Nos. 1 to 8 on the west side remain.
CXXXII—Crestfield Street (formerly Chesterfield Street)
Crestfield Street leads from Euston Road to St. Chad's Street and is
parallel with Belgrove Street. In 1825 Messrs. Dunston, Robinson and
Flanders granted (ref. 107) to W. Forrester Bray of Liverpool Street, St. Pancras,
builder and auctioneer, the two end plots on the east side adjoining Euston
Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Crestfield Street
Mr. Bray's houses are the only ones appearing in the rate books till
1840, when there are pencil entries of four others shortly ready for occupation; the street is shown fully built in 1841.
The houses are similar to those in Argyle and Birkenhead Streets,
except that they are to a greater extent faced with stucco on their ground
floors. The patterns of windows, doors and fanlights follow those to be seen
in the neighbouring streets. The illustration of Nos. 1 to 3 on this page
shows their character.
CXXXIII—Birkenhead Street (formerly Liverpool Street)
Birkenhead Street leads from Euston Road to Argyle Street. In
1825 the rate books give its first two houses as newly built at the Euston
Road end, adjoining Hamilton Place. In 1827 five more were added. In
1833 there were thirty-three; by 1849 the full complement of sixty houses
was reached. Some of them were built by W. Forrester Bray, who appears
to have had limited capital and to have acquired sites on mortgage from the
landowners, Messrs. Dunston, Robinson and Flanders. It seems likely from
the similarity of the designs that he built much of Crestfield, Belgrove and
On the western side of the street near its northern end was the Royal
Theatre, and south of it, with one house intervening, is a Wesleyan Chapel.
They are shown on Perry's plan of the street in 1832 (ref. 99) and both appear in a
water-colour in the Council's Collection (Plate 78b). The theatre had a
front rendered in stucco with pilasters and niches above. It has been altered
somewhat in its design and is now converted into a restaurant. The Royal
Theatre, called the Royal Clarence Theatre during the reign of William IV,
was built as part of the Panharmonium project (see p. 103) and was first
used by Signor Gesualdo Lanza for his pupils. It was opened as a public
theatre by John Baldwin Buckstone and Mrs. Fitzwilliam in May, 1832.
In 1838 it was known as the New Lyceum and subsequently as the Regent,
the Argyll and the Cabinet. John L. Toole acted here and also Edmund
Kean. It was still in existence in 1867, in which year G. M. Polini, the
father of Marie Polini (who married Owen Nares) made his debut there. (ref. 108)
The view shows the chapel, with a brick façade, a central projecting
porch, upper round-headed windows and a pediment over the whole front
in stucco. At the end of the street a tree-planted area still existed on the
site of the present taxi exit at the south end of King's Cross Station; beyond
the Euston Road can be seen the gardens of the former Smallpox Hospital.
Another drawing in the Council's Collection (shown on Plate 78a) gives
an interesting view of the interior of the theatre.
The houses in Birkenhead Street are similar to those in Argyle Street.
Nos. 1 to 7 on the east side and Nos. 54 to 59 opposite are all that remains
of the original lay-out.
CXXXIV—St. Chad's Street (formerly Derby Street)
St. Chad's Street, runs from Gray's Inn Road across the head of
Argyle Square to Argyle Street. It is residential only at its east end, the
remainder merely connecting the transverse streets. According to the rate
books the first house was completed in 1827; five more were built in 1828,
and in the following year there were fourteen in all.
On the north side are now nine houses (Nos. 1 to 9) with basements
and areas. The ground floor windows and doors are round-headed and there
are two upper storeys. On the first floor the windows are rectangular within
arched recesses and are mostly furnished with balconies. Nos. 1 to 4 have
stucco architraves to the arched windows and doorways. Nos. 8 and 9 have
had their upper storeys rebuilt but are derelict.
On the south side, next the building at the corner of Gray's Inn Road,
are two houses (Nos. 13 and 14) of similar design except that the first floor
windows have stucco architraves and hoods. West of these is an entrance to
Whitbread's Bottling Depôt; this is contained within Birkenhead Street and
Gray's Inn Road, St. Chad's Street and Argyle Street, and on Britton's map
of 1834 is represented as a long courtyard building marked "Institution"
and on the 1871 ordnance as "The London General Depository." The main
entrance is from Gray's Inn Road (see further description below).
CXXXV—Gray's Inn Road West Side (Nos. 251 to 345), East Side
(Nos. 326 to 378)
The range of twenty-nine buildings (Nos. 251 to 307) between
Argyle Street and St. Chad's Street, with the exception of the entrance to
Whitbread's (No. 277, see
below), possess shops with
two storeys of plain brick
facing above. The first floor
windows are set in arched
recesses as elsewhere on this
estate. The twelve houses
north of St. Chad's Street
(Nos. 311 to 333) are similar.
Nos. 335 to 337 form a post
office. Nos. 339 and 341,
which are older, have plastered upper storeys. A number of the shopfronts are
original and have swept ends
to their fasçias.
No. 277 Gray's Inn Road
The building, now
occupied by Whitbread's,
which lies behind Gray's Inn
Road, was originally designed
for use as the North London
Horse Depository. The engraving (Plate 80), shows a
large courtyard, treated in
stucco with some architectural
pretension. Its principal entrance still exists under No.
277 Gray's Inn Road, which
has a stucco front with an Ionic portico of four columns framing the
central carriage way and flanked by its two arched doorways. The two
storeys above have plain sash windows and the whole is finished with a
pediment. The other entrance is on the north, from St. Chad's Street.
In September, 1832, Robert Owen, who, eight years before had started
a London Co-operative Society with rooms in Burton Street, took
over the building from its owner, a man named Bromley, to form an
"Equitable Labour Exchange," the purpose being "to promote the
exchange of all commodities by giving equal values of labour," the currency
used being specially designed "labour notes." The Bazaar, as it was called,
attracted a great number of customers, but owing to Bromley's exorbitant
claims for rent, Owen moved his Exchange in the next year to Charlotte
Street, Fitzroy Square. (ref. 7) When in April, 1832, Edward Irving was expelled
from his church in Regent Square, the larger part of the congregation,
numbering some 800, met in the Assembly Room here, but not relishing the
association with Robert Owen, they moved in the autumn to Benjamin
West's picture gallery in Newman Street. (ref. 72) After Owen's departure Bromley
attempted to carry on business as the Royal London Bazaar, and an additional
attraction was advertised when in December, 1833, Madame Tussaud's
Waxwork Exhibition came here from Brighton. The waxworks removed to
Baker Street in March, 1835, and to Marylebone Road in 1884. (ref. 109)
On the opposite side of the street there is little left for notice. No.
328, to the north of Swinton Street, preserves the name of its celebrated
predecessor in this neighbourhood, The Pindar of Wakefield. A little further
north (between Nos. 330 and 334) stood the Church of St. Jude. It was
the first church to be built in London by the aid of the Bishop of London's
Fund, initiated by Archbishop Tait when he was Bishop of London. (ref. 4) It
was designed by Joseph Peacock and was consecrated in 1863. It was
built in the style of the 13th century with red and yellow bricks and had an
aisled nave and chancel. The church was demolished in 1936 when the
parish was united with that of Holy Cross, Cromer Street, to which many
of its memorials and fittings were removed (see p. 95).
|1863||John Marshall Andrews (d. 1896)|
|1888||William Dalrymple Fanshawe|
|1898||Frederick Henry Bolingbroke|
|1920||Rowland Mark Pitt|
|1926–1935||George Wallace Johnston|
The entrance to St. Chad's Well was at one time situated between
Nos. 364 and 366. William Hone in his Everyday Book, published in 1841,
describes the faded inscription ST. CHAD'S WELL, which "stands or
rather dejects over an elderly pair of wooden gates" there, and the "low
old-fashioned, comfortable-looking, large-windowed dwelling" near the well.
The dwelling-house is the subject of a drawing in the Heal Collection
reproduced on Plate 79a. The waters here had some of the popularity of
those at Bagnigge Wells, but by the time Hone visited St. Chad's it had
ceased to be frequented, except by a few "locals" and "old cronies."
CXXXVI—King's Cross Road West Side (Nos. 127 to 215)
The houses on the west side of King's Cross Road were mostly built
in the middle of the 19th century. Nos. 127 to 137 and 143 to 147 are of
this period, the latter with shops and two storeys of plain brick above. Nos.
149 to 161 and 165 to 171 are later and taller buildings. Similar houses are
Nos. 173 to 179, and Nos. 187 to 205. Many buildings have suffered war
damage and only the shop of No. 215 survives.
Fanlights at Nos. 40, Argyle, Square, 22, Argyle Street, 2, Crestfield Street, and 7, Belgroove Street, Drawings by A. R. Hansen (London County Council)