Thursday, August 07, 2008


I thought there was something missing when, as usual, I looked across the tracks which emerge from King's Cross station towards the gasholder from the 91 bus on York Way. And sure enough, when I bypassed St Pancras Station today, my suspicions were confirmed: Culross Building has been demolished.


Culross had its moments of fame. It starred in The Ladykillers, and Mike Leigh's High Hopes. In the 1980s, it was run as social housing by the co-operative association Shortlife Community Housing. In Angela Inglis's wonderful book Railways Lands, she recalls what it was like to live there:

Graham Nobbs [a gardener] helped the residents to create six roof gardens, one for each block. It was an area where plants and small trees grew in pots, where sculptures and murals were displayed, where climbing plants entwined the railings, where coloured lights at night were a permanent feature. There was also a small rooftop pond with goldfish, a built-in barbecue, an entertainment area under a tent and sofas and deckchairs for comfort. t was a place for people to meet and relax, to listen to music, to talk, to admire the sunsets over St Pancras, to look at the skyline and pick out the London landmarks such as St Paul's Cathedral. Ray Yates writes: "Culross roof was the centre of our world."

It had stood empty for years, the last residents having left in 2002. But what made demolition inevitable was its position - parallel to and just south of the canal. This is where Argent plan to build Pancras Square, and there is no place for Culross in that plan. Both the north and south Stanley Buildings have been sacrificed for the extension of the St Pancras International (one demolished, the other hidden from view by a mural), the Battle Bridge flats were knocked down in 2001, and now Culross has suffered the same fate. There is now no housing in the immediate vicinity of the station.


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