King’s Cross Lighthouse

CaptureIts been degenerating since Edison Lighthouse appeared in the charts during the 70s and has lay empty for years, but recently scaffolding has appeared surrounding the building. Could this be the start of the regeneration that this forlorn building has needed for the best part of a quarter of a century?

Sandwiched between two converging roads – Pentonville Road and Gray’s Inn Road – opposite King’s Cross railway station perched on top of a narrow building, sometimes referred to as the flatiron building (it shares a similar footprint to the iconic Manhattan block), stands an architectural folly some people think of as a windmill or lighthouse. It has looked much as it does today since 1884 but its date of building and original purpose are unknown.

[N]ow apparently owned by the splendidly named – The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (or just P&O) it has been left to rot in this area of huge regeneration.

There are many explanations for this strange Grade II listed building, which was erected in 1875, but no one seems to be absolutely sure. It has been semi-derelict for many years and always seems to be on the point of being regenerated, or falling down, but never quite getting there.

Used as the location for Harry Palmer’s office in the 1967 film ‘Billion Dollar Brain’, some say it was a clock tower, Victorian helter skelter, or even a camera obscura.

Another explanation, although it has to be said that no other examples have been found, is that when oysters were the cheap and popular fast food of the day, Netten’s Oyster House was marked with a lighthouse – a kind of the McDonalds ‘golden arches’ of their day.

An architectural practice called Richard Griffiths has been charged with redeveloping the area, so it’s already spawned a suitably gentrification-friendly, nom-de-plume, ‘The Regent’s Quarter.’

Let us hope this eccentric and loved building gets the refurbishment that it deserves.

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