*Virginia Woolf , commenting on her novel “To the Lighthouse”(1927).
Image: (Urban75.net) “A recent excellent article by David Hayes in Camden History Review (Vol 23) attempts to unravel the mystery but comes to no definite conclusions. Apparently the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society visited the ‘lighthouse’ in 1984 but there is no reference to this in the index to the GLIAS newsletter. The official view used to be that the ‘lighthouse’ was an advertising feature intended to promote Netten’s oyster bar which was immediately beneath on the ground floor. This is now shown to be unlikely.
An architectural practice called Richard Griffiths has been charged with redeveloping the area, so it’s already spawned a suitably gentrification-friendly, nom-de-plume, ‘The Regent’s Quarter.’ According to their diagrams, the ‘Lighthouse Block‘ will be retained and restored as the area goes ‘vibrant’, although there’s no mention of when this is actually going to happen.”
“Gray’s Inn Road (or Grays Inn Road) is an important road in the Bloomsbury district of Central London, in the London Borough of Camden. The road begins at the City of London boundary, where it bisects High Holborn, and ends at King’s Cross and St. Pancras Station.”
“A map from 1745 shows the King’s Cross site as open fields adjacent to York Way (formerly Longwich Lane and then Maiden Lane). This road, and Pancras Road (formerly King’s Road), were traditional routes out of London to the north. Dotted throughout the fields were small settlements, such as Battle Bridge. The area was popular with Londoners escaping the city to health spas and country inns. It was also the route to and from Kentish Town, Highgate and Hampstead. These were retirement and commuter villages even in the 18th Century.
Euston Road (known as ‘The New Road’ until 1857) was completed in 1756. This kick-started development on the southern part of the King’s Cross site. Buildings were generally low quality two-storey terraced houses but also included the Small Pox Hospital, built in 1793-4, and the Fever Hospital completed in 1802.”
From the website of the UCL Bloomsbury Project:
“White Hart Row: also known as Gray’s Inn Road, of which it became part in 1862. It was the name given to the terrace at the very north end of Gray’s Inn Road, on the east side, probably on the Battle Bridge estate. In 1862, if it still existed, it was integrated into Gray’s Inn Road proper and renumbered. By 1866 its site had been swept away for the Metropolitan Railway’s King’s Cross Station and associated railway lines and cab stand, which can be seen on Weller’s map of 1868 and the Ordnance Survey map of 1867–1870. In the twentieth century its site was used for the quirky Lighthouse building.
The Battle Bridge field was originally a field to the west and east of Gray’s Inn Road, sharing its name with the name usually applied to this part of London prior to the erection here of the memorial to King George IV in 1830, when the area became known as King’s Cross instead. The development of the New Road (Euston Road) in the middle of the eighteenth century cut across the 18-acre part of the field west of Gray’s Inn Road, leaving most of it south of the new road. This land was owned by William Brock in 1800 and continued to be used for gardens and meadows until the early 1820s, when it was purchased by Thomas Dunstan, William Robinson, and William Flanders.
The entire site they purchased was 16½ acres, 15¼ of them south of Euston Road but also including part of the north side of the road around what later became St Pancras station, in the north-east corner of Bloomsbury. Dunstan, Robinson, and Flanders subsequently applied for an Act of Parliament to develop the land, in 1824, at the same time as the neighbouring Skinners’, Cromer, and Harrison estates were being developed, although development of the Battle Bridge estate proceeded more slowly and was not completed until the 1840s.
Development was delayed in part by the failure of the ambitious Panarmion scheme, a large entertainment complex with a theatre, galleries, and reading rooms as well as gardens and pleasure grounds, opened in 1830. This would ultimately have filled a large area bordered by Argyle Street, Liverpool Street, and Derby Street but which closed after two years in 1832 and was demolished, without ever having all been built. The subsequent residential development was not particularly high-class: “Although the houses which they built have the charm inherent in diminutive dwellings of the early 19th century, with picturesque balconies and fanlights, the Battle Bridge area was never ‘highly respectable’ in the social sense of the day”.
The main part of the estate, comprising Liverpool Street, Manchester Street, Derby Street, and Belgrave Street, was reported to be healthy in 1842. This was in marked contrast to the neighbouring Cromer estate to the south, the courts at the northern end of the Foundling estate, and the other part of the original Battle Bridge field to the east of Gray’s Inn Road, which had the highest death rate of the local areas. However, the whole area was reported to be overcrowded and squalid in 1848, and the coming of the railways in the latter half of the century, with the opening of the stations at King’s Cross and St Pancras, rendered it particularly vulnerable to the conversion of its houses into lodging-houses and cheap hotels, many of which rapidly acquired a dubious reputation which continued well into the twentieth century.”