An Immense and Exceedingly Commodious Goods Station


The Archaeology and History of the Great Northern Railway’s Goods Yard at King’s Cross, 1849 to the Present Day

Rebecca Haslam and Guy Thompson, 2016.

PCA Monograph 19

Winner of the RCHS Transport History Book Awards 2019
Winner of the 2018 London Archaeological Prize-best archaeological publication in 2016–17
Winner of the Association for Industrial Archaeology Archaeological Report Award 2017


A redevelopment to the north of King’s Cross Passenger Station presented a unique opportunity to thoroughly investigate the archaeology, built heritage and history of one of the most important former railway termini in the country: King’s Cross Goods Yard, which forms the focus of this book. Thanks to the sympathetic nature of the redevelopment, that yard now happens to be one of the most complete and best preserved examples of its kind in Britain.

Built by the Great Northern Railway between 1849 and 1852, this rail, canal and road interchange would not only prove to be crucial to the success of that famous company but would also be a driving force that would fuel the economy of Britain and her capital for the remainder of the Victorian era. A vital hub during both World Wars, it remained a viable entity until the latter half of the 20th century, when an industrial downturn combined with the ever-growing supremacy of road haulage signalled the beginning of the end for the station’s rail head.
Supported by thorough historical research and never-before published archaeological work, this monograph comprehensively presents the story of this extraordinary complex from its inception through to its regeneration and salvation in recent times.
Based upon data that has been compiled by a multidisciplinary team of experts from Pre-Construct Archaeology (PCA), this book seeks to familiarise the reader not only with the various components of the complex, how they were built and how they functioned, but also animates and contextualises them via a powerful admixture of social, economic and technological historic research in combination with an analysis of the physical remains. This monograph is the first in a series of three that explores the history, archaeology and built heritage
of this fascinating London neighbourhood.
  1. Harold Mytum (British Archaeology)

    Most travellers leaving King’s Cross station head south towards central London, unaware of the rich heritage lying just to the north. But here you can find the sensitively adapted complex of buildings that once formed the goods-train terminus that supplied London through the later 19th and most of the 20th century. This book provides a detailed archaeological, technological and historical narrative of this fascinating site, using excavated and standing structures, finds, maps, documents and some oral history. Careful design allowed fast turnround of trains and goods, with grain moved around in the multi-storey granary. Everything else from cattle to coal, fish to glass bottles, rhubarb to potatoes – arrived and was rapidly transhipped at ground level to canal or road for redistribution across the capital. Innovative hydraulic systems and constant building changes are all described and beautifully illustrated. A must for railway buffs and an outstanding triumph of developer-funded research highlighting an under-appreciated side of London’s past.

  2. Allan Sibley (Great Northern News)

    It’s not every book that makes me go “wow!” at first sight but this one certainly did, even as soon as I took hold of the package from the courier! Weighing in at over 1.6kg it certainly is “immense and exceedingly commodious” as is the subject of its title. My immediate thought was of the Historic England book reviewed above and John Minnis’ preface comment about CHANGE AT KING’S CROSS by Hunter and Thorne, published in 1990, being “one of very few substantial investigations of railway warehouses published in book form”. Well now there is another, and what a magnificent work it is!
    The sub-title THE ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY OF THE GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY’S GOODS YARD AT KING’S CROSS, 1849 TO PRESENT DAY is a masterpiece of understatement for this book must surely represent the culmination of one of the most thorough and comprehensive archaeological investigations ever – certainly so far as (relatively) modern historical sites are concerned. To even summarise all its contents would take several pages of this GNN. Suffice to say here that it forms and will surely remain the definitive record of the archaeology of the site. It is tempting to say that it should set the standard for other investigations that combine archaeology and historical research but King’s Cross was probably a ‘one-off’ due to a combination of circumstances including, to quote John Minnis again, just the right amount of “benign neglect”. I have nothing but admiration for the researchers, authors and publishers of this magnum opus and by no means least for the printer, Henry Ling Ltd of Dorchester, Dorset. It is gratifying to see such excellent quality from a little-known British printer. Finally, and of no real consequence but interesting nonetheless, while £30.00 may at first glance seem expensive, for a book weighing 1.6kg it is actually excellent value for money!
    A note on the rear cover explains that this “Monograph 1” is the first of three about the King’s Cross neighbourhood and I am looking forward to seeing the second and third in due course.

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