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Kings Cross: A Cross for Kings

14-August-2012
14-August-2012 0:00
in Curiosities
by Peter Berthoud

In 1830 the area of London formerly known as Battle Bridge acquired a new name, Kings Cross.

This is a rare image of the "cross" that led to that controversial renaming.

Elevation of King’s Cross 1830 – Architect Stephen Geary
Elevation of King's Cross 1830 - Architect Stephen Geary

The cross is generally referred to as a monument to George IV and indeed it was topped with a large statue of him but it was originally intended to serve as a monument to several monarchs.

Why is this important? Well the grammar police insist that if it was a monument to one King then an apostrophe should always be used, as in King's Cross. If, on the other hand, it was a memorial to more than one King, then Kings Cross or even Kings' Cross would be the appropriate style. An excellent feature on Londonist last year outlined the, still raging, controversy and attracted many passionate comments.

The whole edifice was paid for by public subscription and in the original prospectus the fund-raisers stated their objective of raising a monument to honour "His Most Gracious Majesty William the Fourth, his late Majesty George the Fourth, and the preceding kings of the Royal House of Brunswick.", lots of monarchs, so Kings it is then?

Well not quite, the waters get a little muddy.

The inscription on the monument certainly reads Kings Cross.

Inscription on Kings Cross
Inscription on Kings Cross

But the dedication is to George IV alone, so back to King's?

Well despite stating their intention to honour several kings, the fund raisers themselves confusingly use King's Cross throughout the rest of their subscription prospectus. Or did they?

I found the original subscription "circular" reproduced in full in an 1890 volume Marylebone and St Pancras: Their History, Celebrities, Buildings, and Institutions by George Clinch published by Truslove & Shirley of Oxford Street. I haven't seen the original, perhaps Mr Clinch "corrected" the original?

Whether it even looked quite as it does in this print is unsure. Clinch states that in a later print of 1836, the four figures of patron saints were not present. He doubts that they were ever erected.

In any case the monument was very unpopular and was removed without complaint between 1843 and 1845, having briefly served as pub and a police station. All that remains of it is the contested name for the station and surrounding area.

To read Clinch's full account including the subscription circular click here and scroll to page 126.

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