King's Cross was a rural area until the development of transport systems began with the building of a road. The "New Road" was built in 1756 and was a mostly straight new route from Paddington towards the City. It is now the Marylebone, Euston, and Pentonville Roads. The area was known then as Battlebridge and we still have Battlebridge Basin, on the Regent's Canal, and until recently there was a Battlebridge Road. The origin of the name Battlebridge is not universally agreed. The bridge took the Gray's Inn Road over the river Fleet, which still runs in culvert through the area. The battle was said to be between between Queen Boadicea and the Roman general Caius Suetonius Paulinus, and to have taken place in AD61. Boadicea was Queen of the Icenii (an East Anglian Celtic tribe), and a doughty fighter against the Romans. Battlebridge is said to have been her last battle, in which she was defeated, later taking her own life. Legend has it that she is burried beneath what is now the station. Little of this is certain and much is probably myth! An alternative explanation for the name is that it is a corruption of "Bradford Bridge" which is derived from a name "Broad Ford". The name "King's Cross" was not used before the 19th century.
The King of King's Cross is George IV, who reigned from 1820 to 1830. Before his reign began he was Regent, during the mental illness of George III, his father. The origin of the name is simple, a statue of the King, at the cross roads of The New Road (Now Euston Road), Maiden Lane (now York Way), Pentonville Hill (now Road), and Gray's Inn Road. The statue was erected in 1830-36 and demolished in 1842 (statue) and 1845(building). The artist's drawing shows the demolition in progress, although not the statue itself. The building beneath was used as an exhibition hall, a police station, and at the end of its short life, a beer shop. It was apparently much derided as a poor statue , an "uncomplimentary effigy of majesty" in the words of the Illustrated London News. Nobody, it seems, was sorry to see it go. Whilst the statue did not last, the name that it engendered, did, and so we still call the area after a monument not seen since 1845.
The Regent's Canal was completed through the area in 1820 and this enabled urbanisation to accellerate. The Imperial Gas Light and Code Company built a gas works, supplied with coal by canal boat (from the docks), soon afterwards. More industry followed as the century unfurled and of course, the railways arrived. An Act of Parliament forbade the railways from coming south of the New Road so King's Cross, St. Pancras, and Euston were all built ajoining it. King's Cross opened in 1850 from a temporary station, with the present station opening in 1852.
St. Pancras was the Midland Railway's rival station, built in the 1860s. It achieved the aim of out-classing King's Cross, which is a humble building by comparison. Whereas the line to King's Cross had been built beneath the Regent's Canal, that to St. Pancras was built over it, thus ensuring that travellers on today's trains from St. Pancras have to go up stairs to the platform. The area north of the canal was developed for extensive railway goods facilities including the celebrated granary, still in situ, but no longer used to store grain.
The growth of London proceeded far beyond King's Cross which became a busy urban location in the 19th century, with extensive railway frieght facilities, a busy urban canal, and a major passenger transport interchange. As the 20th century developed the area became known as a seedy and unpleasant area. The major changes in transport saw both the canal and the railway goods yards cease to carry freight. The late 20th century was not the area's finest era.
In the early years of the 21st century hugh development took place in the area and arts and culture begun to flourish. The London Canal Museum opened in 1992 in a former ice warehouse beside Battlebridge Basin. In October 2008 a huge new concert and arts venue, King's Place, was opened on the site of warehouses and a pub, on the opposite side of the same canal basin. Creative industries found a home in an area that saw many old buildings refurbished and re-used as offices, homes, and studios.
There remains much development in progress but large parts of the area have become attractive urban settings and the creative industries now flourish. St. Pancras has been reborn as an international station, terminus of a high-speed route to Paris. The Romans now come as tourists.