London Corners – Keystone Crescent



There are hundreds of books about London, many of them repetitive regurgitations of factoids, but of course there are many gems, including ‘Tired of London, Tired of Life: One Thing A Day To Do In London’ by the excellent Tom Jones, expanded from his hardworking website. (He has also pulled off the same trick for England in ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’).

Many London  books concentrate on the grandly historical, of course, and as much of the city is replaced by the kind of bland corporate non-architecture you see everywhere else, I can’t imagine anyone producing a guide to ‘The Glass Boxes of London’. But there are corners that go unnoticed, and here I’ll try to find a few of them.

Here’s one on my own doorstep; Keystone Crescent is a 2-minute walk from King’s Cross Station and a real oddity, a crescent road so steeply curved that the houses on both sides have curved walls. Sadly the front gardens have now been removed to make way for cars, but the strangeness of the street hits you as you walk in. It feels like a miniaturised film set.

There’s a plaque on the wall attesting that it was built in 1855, and I think I’m right in saying that it’s the smallest crescent road in Europe.  It looks like the houses that were used in Mike Leigh’s film ‘High Hopes’,  and although most of the locations used in that film have now been torn down, similar buildings and streets can be found elsewhere in the area.

5 comments on “London Corners – Keystone Crescent”

  1. Vivienne says:

    How wonderful it would have been with hedged gardens. Th Victorian builders are vastly under-estimated. Could such a curve be produced today, I wonder?. My house is a bit odd as, being at the end, on a corner, it was built as a parallelogram – it looks right, but there are no 90 degree corners. And Keystone Crescent: suggestive of an arch too.

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    The house sounds fantastic, but perhaps difficult to place furniture in near walls. We’re just rectangular mld-80s..

  3. Terenzio says:

    I stumbled upon this crescent quite by accident on my last trip to London this past November while walking down the Caledonian Road towards Euston Road or Pentonville Road (never sure where one ends and the other begins). Quite a surprise giving the busy Caledonian Road It’s a shame about the front gardens. The day I was there it looked like only one car was in residence (one car too many). Having cars parked where the front garden should be really does take away the charm of what otherwise would be a very picturesque crescent. You might even say, a little oasis off a rather unpleasant and busy thoroughfare. I wonder why the city ever allowed such a thing to happen. Perhaps one day the gardens will be restored and the cars vanquished to the suburbs where they belong.

    And yes the plaque states “Keystone Crescent [originally called Caledonian Crescent up until the First World War] has the smallest radius of any crescent in Europe and is unique in having a marching outer and inner circle.” The plaque also talks about the Fleet River that “now weaves through King’s Cross’ spaghetti junction at a depth between the Victoria line and the Northern line.” There is a diagram that shows all the tunnels that run under St. Pancras and King’s Cross which is truly amazing engineering feat.

    I shall retire to the boudior with a cup of hot cocoa and finish reading Donna Leon’s latest Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery, By Its Cover. À bientôt…the one is the gorgeous purple dressing gown and lovely velvet slippers. And thank you for posting this. London has so many fascinating nooks and crannies to discover and explore.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    This is one I can see with just a short walk from the hotel. Whoopee! Thank you for the additional info, Terenzio.

  5. Terenzio says:

    Helen, if you are staying in the neiborhood you should give the Gilbert Scott Restaurant in the St Pancras Hotel a go. They do a lovely brunch on the weekend.

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