Naming the new Kings Cross
The redevelopment of the former Kings Cross goods yard is moving into a new phase this year as work concentrates on building the residential areas at the North of the huge site. This means new streets are being laid out, and new streets need new street names. Interestingly the developers have asked the public for ideas, which they can contribute at their website or via Camden and Islington libraries. It’s not often you get the chance to name part of London so the Footprints of London team have entered their suggestions. We thought we would try and get some of our London heroes and heroines a well deserved mention, and also stick with a Kings Cross theme. There are ten streets that need a name – here are five we came up with.
1 Bessemer Street
Sir Henry Bessemer lived and worked in Kings Cross during the 1840s. It was here that he carried out some of the early experiments that would lead to the Bessemer process – a revolutionary way of making better and cheaper steel. This invention makes cutlery affordable, and ships fast enough and strong enough to make Transatlantic trade more viable. Although there are towns named Bessemer in his honour in the USA, there isn’t even a blue plaque to record the site in Kings Cross.
2 Wollstonecraft Square
In her lifetime Mary Wollstonecraft was named the most famous woman in Europe, and in her short life she lived in many places. By the age of 30 she had already written a novel, set up a school for girls and written a treatise on education for women. In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman she sets out ideas that go on to form the basis of feminism. Sadly she died not long after giving birth to her daughter Mary Shelley and was buried in St Pancras Churchyard. While there is a campaign to build a statue of her on Newington Green, a street in Kings Cross near the university might be a good way to remember her too.
3 Gresley Way
Sir Nigel Nigel Gresley designed some of the most famous and advanced steam locomotives in the world, notably the iconic A4 class typified by the record breaking Mallard, and the famous A1 class Flying Scotsman. His office was based by the side of Kings Cross station, near where the new departure hall is today. Sadly the Blue Plaque to record this has yet to reappear, but a street named after him would be nice.
4 Burdett-Coutts Street
Angela Burdett-Coutts was the most generous philanthropist of the nineteenth century, using money inherited from the banking business to support hundreds of charities and improvement schemes, all over the world. She supported social housing, education for the poor, created employment opportunities for the homeless, and with her friend Charles Dickens set up a home to help women who had been forced to work as prostitutes. In the Kings Cross area she paid for a sundial recording the names of those who had their graves disturbed by the building of the railways, and set up the Boot Black Brigade, a scheme to teach homeless boys how to clean shoes so they could earn a living, while educating them during the evenings.
5 Keskidee Rd
This one is named after a building rather than a person, the Keskidee Centre which opened in 1971 in nearby Gifford Street, and was Britain’s first black cultural centre. Opened by Guyanese architect Oscar Abrams, it provided educational and cultural facilities and pioneered the teaching of black history, which was ignored by mainstream teaching at the time. Sadly the Centre itself closed down many years ago and last year the building that housed it burnt to the ground. Perhaps the best tribute would be for a new community building to be built bearing the Keskidee name, but failing that a street name would at least keep the memory alive.
So what would you name these new streets? Footprints have already entered our suggestions in the competition, but it would be interesting to hear your ideas.