Euston Square – where?

IMG 1956 - Euston Square - where?

London’s Euston Square is a well-known tube station, but where is the REAL Euston square?

Like many others, I always assumed this station denoted a grand square someplace. Let’s face it Leicester Square, Russell Square, Sloane Square, and the old Trafalgar Square tube stations were adjacent to real majestic London squares. So why not Euston Square?

This London square has been built upon & the roads around it renamed, therefore ‘square’ no longer really counts. What remains is now just a patch of undignified grass, the rest being offices, bus stands and a railway piazza that is quite dull.

Camden Council's Euston Square Gardens sign
Camden Council’s Euston Square Gardens sign

This motley patch of grass is the undignified Euston Square Gardens, barely noticed by the thousands of commuters who pass across it heading for the train home. Not quite the same is it?

Clearly, “Euston Square, such as it now exists, is a mess.”  (David Heath, Chairman, SPAB)

How did Euston Square get so right off the map? For that we need to delve into a bit of history….

Euston Square’s history

Euston Square had not yet been established (1756-7) by the time the New Road from Paddington to Islington was built. This New Road simply crossed what were then fields in a patch of open countryside sited between Battle Bridge (King’s Cross) and the Duke of Bedford’s Road (now Hampstead Road/Warren Street.)

In the later 18th Century development from the south encroached upon the boundary of the New Road and a nursery garden was established at this point. That was known as Montgomery’s Nursery Gardens. By 1812-13 it had closed and Euston Square began life.

The map below is from 1802 and shows what was Montgomery’s Nursery Gardens, some say it was Bedford’s (with the eventual extent of Euston Square marked in red.) King’s Cross is marked for easy reference, whilst to the north is Somers Town and many of London’s roads of today in this immediate area can readily be recognised.

1802 map showing Montgomery's Nursery Gardens
1802 map showing Montgomery’s Nursery Gardens

One small puzzle about Euston Square is Trevithick’s railway demonstration in 1808. It is cited as having been held at Euston Square. A little mystery indeed! However a report tells us the event was held at or near a spot “now forming the southern half of Euston Square.”

If we look at Stanford’s map of London & suburbs 1862 this is the original Euston Square – with the old Euston station at the top and Euston Square tube  (marked Met.Ry Station) in the bottom left hand corner and known at the time as Gower Street:

The Square's fullest extent - Greenwood 1830
The Square’s fullest extent – Greenwood 1830

This view from Herbert Fry’s 20 ‘Bird’s-eye views of the principal streets’ from 1880 shows an all complete Euston Square. The station with its famous arch is denoted at right as well as St Pancras New Church (which still exists). The remaining pair of gate houses (built 1870) to Euston station are also depicted.

Herbert Fry - Bird’s-eye views of the principal streets
Herbert Fry – Bird’s-eye views of the principal streets

By this time Euston Square’s north side was becoming noted for its grand buildings, many of which were in a Grecian style of architecture. These included the railway station, the famous Euston arch and St Pancras New Church. Indeed 30 Euston Square (constructed 1906-08) was built  to complement the square’s strong Grecian influence.

The later, more modern and sumptuous square, but now limited to the north of Euston Road, is shewn below. Its landscaped gardens and fountains are apparent and a subway links the two northern halves. The former southern half has become Endsleigh Gardens:

OS London, Five feet to the Mile, 1893-1896 series of maps
OS London, Five feet to the Mile, 1893-1896 series of maps

In 1909 a decision was made to rename Gower Street tube station as Euston Square. From a perspective today this has been an oversight for Euston Square is practically dead.

Aerial view of Euston station and Euston Square (ringed red) 1932. The largest building is Friends Meeting House:

Euston station and square 1932. Source: Britain From Above
Euston station and square 1932. Source: Britain From Above

By 1938 Euston Square had half disappeared, being taken over by a day nursery and Endsleigh Gardens had been built over:

OS Six-inch England and Wales 1842-1952 London Sheet K
OS Six-inch England and Wales 1842-1952 London Sheet K

The biggest development upon the former Euston Square was Friends Meeting house in 1925-27. The building that occupies the eastern section of Euston Square is shown on later maps as the Hopscotch Day Nursery:

National Grid 1954 map showing Hopscotch nursery
National Grid 1954 map showing Hopscotch nursery

Euston Square in 1957. An austere outlook indeed:

OS 1:25000 map 1957 showing an austere Euston Square
OS 1:25000 map 1957 showing an austere Euston Square

This OS 1:25000 map depicts a sort of sparse, indeed brutalist, square. Perhaps anticipation of the brutal re-configuration that would come in the short space of a few years?

The south side, the erstwhile Endsleigh Gardens, – including the splendid Friends Meeting house – consists of 20th/21st century development, and at the time of writing, is undergoing further re-development. The north side was swept away in a brutal manner despite a huge campaign led by Sir John Betjeman to save the area’s many historic structures, including the Euston Arch.

The site now consists of three tower blocks, a bus station, and cafes, with some grass thrown in for good measure. The former Euston Square is quite sparse and not really even what one would expect as a place for relaxation.

A public space no-one cares about - everyone is in a hurry to catch a train or the tube
A public space no-one cares about – everyone is in a hurry to catch a train or the tube

On a modern map, this is what Euston Square (or what bits of it are left) looks like:

Source: Google maps
Source: Google maps

Euston Square in Photographs

It seems Euston Square must have been one of London’s least photographed squares. The grand views down Euston Grove towards the Euston Hotel (and ultimately the Euston Arch beyond) certainly distracted onlookers from seeing this significant London square in its true colours.

Few pictures of Euston Square exist however this one shows the War Memorial’s unveiling in October 1921. Parts of the square is visible, as well as the spire of St Pancras church:

War Memorial unveiling October 1921. Source: Owen Cholerton
War Memorial unveiling October 1921. Source: Owen Cholerton

The war memorial still exists and forms a mini roundabout for London buses!

Another image from 1921 showing the decorative lamp posts surrounding the square itself. This depicts the north west side of Euston Square with its splendid town-houses and their Juliet balconies, as well as showing the railings around the square itself. This lampost is still in existence and can be seen adjacent to the war memorial:

Decorative lamp posts. Source: English Heritage
Decorative lamp posts. Source: English Heritage

This picture looking east of two RT buses on route 77 in Euston Square is perhaps the last glimpse one has of the square itself. By that time, being the early 1960s, the day nursery had been demolished and the pending re-development about to wipe everything off the map.

60s view of RTs on a Route 77 stop-over at Euston Square. Source: London Reconnections
60s view of RTs on a Route 77 stop-over at Euston Square. Source: London Reconnections

At least three of the trees seen in the above view still exist today. The buildings at the rear, including the 1902 fire station, still stand today as well as the Euston Road.

Picture of the square from same spot 2015:

Euston station bus stand November 2015
Euston station bus stand November 2015

This view showing a No.18 features the same white arch doorway and the Euston Road.

Part Two of the Euston Square series.

2 thoughts on “Euston Square – where?

  1. Brilliant! I was in the area with Bradshaw’s HandBook and remember reading the history of the square although I did not linger over it. Thank you for visiting – London is amazing, is it not?!

    1. Thanks for the comments! Am doing another post or two on Euston Square as I find barely anyone has blogged or wrote up on it – I suppose because it is such a dire place these days.

      Your blog, Bradshaw’s, is great too! Read the recent post re Peel’s former home in Whitehall Gardens – I hadnt known that!

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