PCA was commissioned to undertake archaeological excavation works and historic building recording at King’s Cross. The work was carried out between 2007 and 2017. The King’s Cross redevelopment comprised a transformation of a 27 hectare area surrounding the former Goods Yard, Regent’s Canal, 19th century railway structures and a former Gas Works, all located to the north of King’s Cross Station. The mixed-use development included the construction of new buildings and the renovation of existing structures. It also involved creating public open spaces, commercial units and buildings forming part of the University of the Arts, London.
On the Goods Yard project alone, PCA undertook historic archival research, historic building recording, 149 watching briefs and 23 archaeological excavations. The Grade II listed Goods Yard buildings were recorded to Level 4 of English Heritage guidelines – the most comprehensive type of building recording.
The Goods Yard comprised a well-preserved railway depot, built from 1850 onwards, and used as a goods terminus and interchange hub between rail, canal and road – ideal for the purposes of the Great Northern Railway. To compete with local rivals, the Goods Yard was designed to the highest of standards and built to house a state-of-the-art hydraulic network. The changing needs of a growing London and Empire resulted in continual modifications and upgrades, which helped to facilitate the yard’s survival into the 20th century. Inbound and outbound traffic from and to the midlands and the north included coal, bricks, stone, grain, fish, potatoes and other vegetables. Two World Wars and depression impoverished the various railway companies and led to the eventual demise of the Goods Yard at King’s Cross.
The archaeological excavations identified the remains of the hydraulic system which powered the cranes, hoists and turntables of the yard. Stables for the horses used throughout the yard survived beneath the Goods Shed and were recorded by the PCA team. Railway turntables and rails were exposed and excavated, some of which were later restored and reinstated into the hard landscaping. The heavily contaminated former Gas Works in the south of the site was safely excavated and recorded in order to understand how it functioned. A large roundhouse and Top Shed for repairing trains was also excavated and recorded.
The archaeological and historical research has revealed much about the site’s industrial heritage. More information can be found within the first monograph of a three-part series, which explores the development of the King’s Cross area.