Goodbye To The Gasometers
‘The back-lands of King’s Cross are like the arse end of Manchester or Leeds,’ wrote a New Statesman journalist in 1999. ‘I love it here. I go down into them, dodging the lorries driving in to collect ready-made cement from hoppers as big as grain silos. I huddle up against the canal wall. An Austrian woman tourist was raped by a gang of schoolchildren and thrown into the water to drown. Magazines like to use the back-lands for fashion shoots. Ealing Films made The Ladykillers here. Mike Leigh set High Hopes just the other side of the canal. The gasometers are always in every view.’
Not any more. Gasometer No. 8, the last of the iconic holders that stood for so many decades on the King’s Cross skyline, is being dismantled today. It’s supposed to go back up with 144 flats inside it, or possibly a park, but while a competition has been run to find a way ‘to create an enchanting place, one of Londonâ€™s gems…to establish a place that draws people, both locals and visitors, to relax, to have fun and to play’ I suspect it’s gone for good, to be quietly relinquished along with its seven brothers once Londoners have started to forget.
And to be honest, are they really worth keeping? I would like to see at least one put back, but moved from their original sites and turned into something else, don’t they just become heritage window-dressing for the ubiquitous retail ‘n’ offices? I can see the stark charm in the rapidly deteriorating Battersea Power Station, but there are still other gasometers in London, and we’ve lost far more beautiful landmarks in the past. King’s Cross has transformed from the place it once was, and maybe that’s a good thing.
For a fuller history of the area, read ‘Bryant & May On The Loose‘.