Goodbye To The Gasometers

Bryant and May, London

‘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 London’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‘.

5 comments on “Goodbye To The Gasometers”

  1. Alan Morgan says:

    It was always pretty awful round there, but for it to be gone? Of course cities change, it’s why they aren’t towns still – but the times I’ve walked down there are many, on the way or back again. For me it’s The Pogues Dirty Old Town round there. ‘Course I’ve not got to live with ’em.

  2. Martha says:

    That was my stomping grounds, the place where I really finally grew up. All things change. Those images emerging on the skyline as I crept out from under a railway bridge after a night in Camden town, will exist inside me as long as I exist on this planet.

  3. Anne Fernie says:

    Not sure what is worse – seeing these things come down or the Disneyfication of old working buildings. The impact may have more resonance if you can remember places in their heyday – milling with people, smoky and loud and that is something that will never return. Still I adore structures that are allowed to rot and collapse with a degree of dignity – they have their own beauty. There’s something quite upsetting about watching demolition crews at work – like shooting elephants or felling a 200 year old tree: not quite right somehow……

  4. Mel says:

    I didn’t realize there were places that still had them. Baltimore used to have some too but they were removed around the time they made the new football stadium in the late 90s.

  5. jan says:

    Hiya Anne (Fernie as above) you should go and look on a site called Derelict London its a really interesting web site featuring so many old industrial and commercial places left to rot in the capital ………….i know it sounds pretty gruesome but honestly its not you’ll love it

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