Remembering The Panarmonium
My London neighbourhood is pretty old, founded around 60 AD. Prasutagus, the ruler of the Iceni, ruled it as an independent ally of Rome and left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman emperor his will. But when he died, the will was ignored and the kingdom was taken. His wife Boudica was flogged, her daughters were raped and Roman financiers called in their loans.
Boudica led 100,000 men in a rebellion that caused Nero to think about leaving the troublesome country. The area of King’s Cross was once a village known as Battle Bridge which was an ancient crossing of the river Fleet – it’s still there.
The name gave rise to a tradition that this was the site of a major battle between the Romans and the Iceni tribe led by Boudica, but there’s no historical evidence despite the fact that Lewis Spence’s 1937 book Boadicea – warrior queen of the Britons went so far as to include a map showing the positions of the opposing armies.
There is a belief that she was buried between platforms 9 and 10 in the station, but this is a 20th century invention. The area became a royal spa, and then London’s dustbin – the rubble gathered here eventually founded St Petersburg.
King George IV became linked with with the area as his death approached in June 1830. A gigantic statue was planned at the centre of the crossroads. This was to uplift the area as part of a grand entertainment complex, the Panarmonium royal gardens. Henceforth the area was to be known as King’s Cross. The statue was demolished in 1845 to ease the flow of traffic.
Although the Regents Canal was nearby and there was much imposing Regency architecture throughout London, the association between King’s Cross and the king was forgotten. Now the connection will be restored when a plaque, paid for by public prescription, is created.
But should be remember the past or celebrate the future?
Having torn down half the city after the war, when unregulated property developers did more damage than the Blitz, is there any point in reminding ourselves it was connected with a king? As rapacious developers the Candy Brothers set about tearing down London’s historic Tate & Lyle building, only to remember it in the name (Sugar Quay) as they build yet more vulgar penthouses for Russian criminals, why should passionate local historians try to salvage the past?
It’s a question London must ask itself as it hurtles into the future.