Wednesday, 19 March 2014

St Pancras and Camden Town

The St Pancras Hotel

We were in London for dinner at the St Pancras Hotel and a walk around the area seemed to be the natural precursor. This walk, from Stephen Millar's London's Hidden Walks vol 2 starts in fact from King's Cross. As ever, I will be selective in what I comment on.

It is just wonderful how the redevelopment of the station has revealed Cubitt's train shed of 1852 and swept away the ghastly 1960s station concourse.

St Pancras is of course next door and its own refurbishment has rejuvenated Sir George Gilbert Scott's masterpiece. This is a detail of the main tower.

Next door is the unlovely British Library. We quite enjoyed this, what?, installation which is basically designed to draw attention to an exhibition called the Georgians Revealed. The main feature is a head of George I on a grassy pedestal.

Further along the Euston Rd, you turn left into Duke's Road to be greeted by the extraordinary Woburn Walk, a charming group of Georgian houses with unusual medallions around the windows.

St Pancras church (1822) is near by. It is that Greek-temple style church visible from Euston Road with the remarkable statues. There are in fact two sets of statues in vestries on either side of the nave. The technical name for these scupltures is caryatid: a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature.

Rejoining the Euston Road and heading east we pass the superb Fire Station of 1902, curiously not mentioned in the walk description. It is a remarkably modern building for its date.

Now we pass by Euston station and up the west side, through the rather sad St James's Gardens to walk up Hampstead Rd to reach Mornington Crescent to reach one of London's finest art deco buildings, the Carreras factory, the Arcadia Works. I included a full picture and more information in the London art deco walk we did November 2012.

Walking up Camden High St, then right into Pratt St and left in Bayham Road had me exclaiming, "aren't those almshouses on the right there?". Indeed they were, the St Martin in the Fields Almshouses of 1818. One of the fascinating things about almshouses is that they are almost almost readily identified as such.

Soon after this a meander around Camden (villagey Parkway, exclusive Gloucester Crescent and busting Camden High St) brought us to Camden Lock, already teeming with tourists.

We walked along the towpath beside the Regent's Canal for about a mile and a half. Great to be out of the traffic, but not really very scenic and requiring constant evasive action from the frequent bicycles. Redevelopment meant that we couldn't leave the canal at the intended place, but in consequence we had a great view of Gasholder no 8. Remarkably, this has been dismantled and cleaned up (in Yorkshire) before being re-erected in what will become a new public park.

We left the canal at the new Kings Bridge and walked along the Kings Boulevard towards St Pancras. We were very impressed with how this whole area is being redeveloped. We admired the Granary Building, home to the Central St Martins school of art.

As we approached, the St Pancras clock tower glowed in the evening sunshine opposite the refurbished Great Northern Hotel.

Conditions: cloudy, becoming sunnier; quite warm.

Distance: just under 5 miles.

Rating: four stars. Quite inspiring really to see what is being done to this once run-down area.

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