From left: author Angela Inglis, Lord Chris Smith and former campaigner Diana Shelley, at Tuesday’s launch
Published: 13 July, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
THE battle by residents in Islington to stop their precious neighbourhood being destroyed in the multi-billion-pound international King’s Cross development is revealed for the first time in a new book published this week.
Lord Chris Smith, the former Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, who was at the forefront of the fight, helped launch the book, King’s Cross: A Sense of Place, at Kings Place on Tuesday night.
Authors Angela Inglis and Nigel Buckner describe a campaign to stop developers destroying four blocks of homes in the 1980s and 1990s at the south end of Caledonian Road.
The book is dedicated to two major campaigners, now sadly both dead. They are Lisa Pontecorvo, who fought for the preservation of the architectural heritage of the area, and Phil Jeffries, a “brilliant lobbyist” who helped found the King’s Cross Railway Lands Group.
His partner Diana Shelley, herself a formidable campaigner, also attended the event.
The plan had been originally to site the international rail terminal at King’s Cross rather than where it would eventually end up at St Pancras. It would have meant 150 buildings would have been demolished on 17 acres, including 88 homes, 168 workplaces and 59 shops.
Speaking at the book’s launch, Ms Inglis described the “ruthlessness” of former British Rail as similar to that described by Charles Dickens in reference to the old 19th century railway companies.
She added: “We owe a great debt to those campaigners in the 1980s and 1990s for managing to preserve a lot of more traditional and Victorian King’s Cross than the developers would have liked.”
The book regrets the loss of much of the industrial heritage.
The 1891 Culross tenements were demolished in 2008. This large tenement block stretched along Battle Bridge Road, with a mission hall at one end.
Campaigners also fought for the survival of Balfe Street in Islington in the 1970s and 80s, and more recently for what is now the Regent Quarter, to the east of York Way.
The book concludes with a description of Kings Place just to the north of the Regent Quarter.
Completed in October 2008, it has established itself as a thriving centre for music, the arts and business.
• King’s Cross: A Sense of Place by Angela Inglis, published by Matador at £19.95.