Just under 150 160 years ago the Great Northern Railway proudly opened its London terminus railway station at Kings Cross. However, it wasn’t the first attempt by the railway company at building a terminus station in London, and was a replacement for another railway station that had been in use for just two years.

No railway wanted to lose out on the bonanza from the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park during 1851, and while the Great Northern Railway had planned a great station building at King’s Cross, there were delays in buying up the land.

Facing a diminishing timeline, the railway company built a small station as a temporary measure – at Maiden Lane, just to the north of the modern Kings Cross.

Maiden Lane is now called York Way, and the original name ‘Maiden Lane’ comes from a corruption of the word ‘midden’, a dung heap!

Although commonly known now as Maiden Lane station, and also in the records – once it opened it was always referred to as King’s Cross. So the modern day railway station can be truly said to be the second station to bear that name.

Just like its larger successor, the station had just two platforms, arrivals and departures and passengers used side roads not the front of the station to arrive and leave.

There are some suggestions that the site could have become the permanent terminus building, but various factions within the company prevailed that the station as built should be temporary only – largely due to the distance to the main Euston Road.

The architect, Lewis Cubitt was appointed in December 1849, and it was agreed that the temporary station would be built above a cut/cover tunnel that would later take trains down to its replacement building a few years later.

After less than a year of construction work – the new terminus station opened to passengers on the 7th August 1850, although it would appear that the construction hadn’t been fully completed, with complaints about the unfinished glazing still being made several months later.

It may have been just a temporary station, but that didn’t deter Queen Victoria from using it – once – when taking a trip to Scotland.

The station served passengers throughout the Great Exhibition, but construction work was now underway of its eventual replacement – the second King’s Cross station, which eventually opened on 14 October 1852.

Within days of the switchover of buildings, the original station had been converted into, of all things, a wholesale potato market, which actually turned out to be hugely successful, and within a couple of years, another series of temporary buildings clustered around the old station building to cope with traffic.

In 1864 though, major works were carried out – including the demolition of the temporary buildings, but also the original station fittings – but not the side walls, or the roof. In 1888, further expansions to the potato warehouse were carried out.

After decades of success, the cargo facility — which had long since expanded beyond potatoes — traffic slowed to the point where it was closed down in the 1960s. Some reports – such as an article by the Greater London Industrial Archeological Society suggest that the original station was torn down.

However, trying to confirm that has proven difficult, and most other reports suggest that the frame of the building still stands. I have read (page 63) that bits of the structure were retained in the Goods Shed. That seems to corroborate other reports.

However, the front building is widely claimed to date from the 1850 station, although some of the claims lack context, and looking at some maps suggests its in the wrong location for the original.

Making the assumption that the front building is original though, and that the Handyside roof is modestly original, I took a wander around at the weekend to have a look and see what remains.

Probably the site of the original Station

Probably the site of the original Station

 

 

Frontage of the Goods Shed

Frontage of the Goods Shed - and alleged 1850 building

Oh, and thanks to the motorist who seeing me photographing the building decided to park his car right in front of it, use a nearby wall as a toilet – and then expected me to offer him directions to the London Canal Museum.

Rear of the goods shed

Rear of the goods shed

 

 

Original rail tracks preserved in the restoration

Original rail tracks preserved in the restoration of Handyside Roofing

Although the original King’s Cross/Maiden Lane station has long vanished, there was for a while an unrelated second Maiden Lane station, just to the north on what is today part of the London Overground network. There has been a simmering campaign (page 19) to rebuild that station and provide an additional transport option at the extremity of the regeneration area.

The once and future station might return, and add even more confusion to the railway heritage of the area!

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14 Comments

  1. What is the relationship (geographically) between Maiden Lane station and the adjunct to Kings Cross which houses the trains to Cambridge and is located north of the main Concourse?

    • IanVisits

      They are totally different buildings.

  2. With the regeneration there, I’d have thought an overground station was a no-brainer, especially when the apartments start going up. Heck, even with the volume of students going in and out of CSM.

  3. Also, that land is gagging for a weekend farmer’s market :)

  4. Edgemaster

    Quite a remarkable likeness in the sheds in image 1 and 3, I’ve wandered past the site myself, and had briefly considered its original purpose, but never committed the research into it, thanks.

    • Sykobee

      Yes, the support pillars on the right of the rusty shed and the ancient drawing are exactly the same. The brick building however doesn’t appear in the original drawing (there are pillars on the left of the rusty shed in the picture, but not on the photo), so maybe it’s newer – and built around the pillars. The floor has also been filled in at least 8ft from when it was a station.

      Looking at Google Maps I can see that the rusty shed is exactly directly over the railway line. The drawing has steam but I don’t think it’s a train, I believe that is on a lower level under the floor – and maybe the space in the centre of the drawing is the steps down to the platforms.

  5. If King’s Cross opened in October 1852, surely it is just under 160 years old?

    • IanVisits

      Corrected, thanks.

  6. Kit Green

    Somewhere in the goods building there used to be a Karting track where I proudly came second to last in an afternoon of racing.

  7. Sykobee

    The picture of the preserved railway line – you can see it entering the shed on this old map: http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/m/maiden_lane/map.gif

  8. steve dearman

    hi back in the early 1970s until the the early 1980s our family haulage film delivered thousands of tons of potatoes to the company stands of shuters and major brothers these were based in the kings cross potato market the loads were at that time loaded from the fens and norfolk farms ‘and mostly stored in clamps a apex shaped straw and fen soil covered system which protected the potato crop against the cold weather and farm vermin. when needed ‘the clamp would be opened and potato’s hand forked into 56lb papersacks and loaded on to our commer and bedford flatbed artic lorries by hand. ‘loads of 400-600 bags would be the norm {10-12ton in very cold weather straw would be placed on top of the load followed by a heavy canvas sheet ‘then straw then a another canvas sheet then roped ‘then delivery to kings cross potato market at about 6-7 am next morning. again the load would be hand unloaded into old brick stands by two porters with leather aprons and a old lister slated loader machine there would be a break halfway for a cup of tea and you never rushed the porters they’ed been there for donkeys years and set the pace and would give you a mouthfull if you pushed your luck. ‘quite right too.

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