King empire

The very first King’s Cross station built 2 years earlier and named after a pile of poo

King’s Cross station is today one of the busiest in London.

With services to the north of England via London North Eastern Railway to destinations such as Stevenage, Peterborough, Newcastle, Edinburgh and York, and Great Northern services to Cambridge. Then there is London’s King’s Cross tube station with connections to the Metropolitan, District and Hammersmith & City lines as well as Victoria and Piccadilly.

All in all it’s pretty hard to avoid King’s Cross – but the point is, it wasn’t the first station on the site.

READ MORE: The London Underground station you probably didn’t realize has moved across the street

In fact, there was an older station built at King’s Cross, two years before the station opened as we know it today.

The station was where York Road is now, but at that time it was called Maiden Lane.

Color printing. Station platform with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert about to board the Royal Train (possibly en route to Scotland) at the temporary Maiden Lane terminus before Kings Station opens Cross, c1850. (NRM, 1977-7686) (Photo by Science & Society Picture Library / SSPL / Getty Images)

Oddly, the name probably comes from the medieval term “midden” which means something a little different from “maiden” today – and actually meant a pile of excrement.

Back in the days when humans dumped their droppings on the streets and horses and cattle roamed the city, such dung piles would have been all too common – and of course could have stained the sky.

As described on the website, Ian Mansfield says the makeshift station had two platforms accessible only from side streets, not the station building.

It was designed to be the temporary London terminus of the Great Northern Railway and was designed to serve passengers coming to London for the Great Exhibition of 1851 – a major exhibition in Hyde Park showcasing the best of the British Empire.

The station opened in August 1850, but there were immediately complaints that it was not completed.

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It was certainly a humble affair, but it was actually visited once by Queen Victoria on a trip to Scotland.

Ian says it remained open throughout the period of the Great Exhibition until October 1851.

But work was soon underway for its replacement, the King’s Cross station we know and love today, which finally opened in October 1852.

The station would have been a key point for bringing goods such as grain and coal from the north of England to London. These were stored in a warehouse next to the station (pictured above) and linked to the Regent’s Canal where they could be unloaded onto barges bound for the Thames.

Watercolor of soldiers, cars and crowds of people gathered outside King’s Cross Station, designed by Lewis Cubitt

Maiden Lane station was later converted into a potato market. This apparently turned out to be so successful that it attracted a huge amount of traffic to the area.

It continued its activities until at least 1960 and some of the structures of the original station have been preserved to house it.

Some of them have survived, including the framing of the building, although, as Ian says, there is a debate about what is original and what is not.

It is likely that the building’s original frame and roof came from the old Maiden Lane station.

Oddly enough this is also the case for a while, there was a second Maiden Lane station north of the missing one we’re talking about here and there was even a campaign to rebuild it and open it as a new station on the London Overground service.

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