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The Miasma At Euston

February 8, 2018
by the gentle author

Hoardings going up in Euston St prior to demolition

Something strange is happening at Euston. Some kind of miasma or invisible mist has infiltrated the streets to the west of the station and the atmosphere is toxic. The first sign that something is awry strikes you in Euston Rd. All of the trees have knitted scarfs wrapped around them. On closer inspection, each one has a tag that reads, ‘Arboricide in the Autumn.’

When you reach Euston, you find the park in front of the station surrounded by temporary steel fences and half the trees have gone, leaving stumps and sawdust. This is where a priest chained herself to a tree last week in a vain attempt to save one. A handful of good-natured protestors are outnumbered by security guards in orange fluorescent suits and hard hats, pacing around nervously. Rail travellers anxiously hurry through to the station and, from his plinth, the statue of Robert Stephenson observes the grim spectacle with an implacable frown. You realise that the corporate office blocks are empty and orange fluorescent folk occupy the front desks where receptionists once sat. Something big is underway.

You enter the narrow streets to the west. Houses and offices are closed, and hoardings are enfolding complete terraces. The pub shut last week and is boarded up. You turn a corner and discover an entire street blocked by a high wooden fence that you cannot see over. The men in fluorescent suits have overrun the place and you notice they are watching you. Just pulling out your camera in the street is enough to attract their attention, so you take your pictures quickly and keep walking.

Time has stopped in these streets as the life ebbed away. The people have gone and the buildings are vacant. Old and new alike, everything is coming down. Soon the whole neighbourhood will be razed. You are walking in the past already, because the place has gone and the human activities which made it have already become a memory. The quietude that prevailed in these attractive streets as long as you have known them has been replaced by emptiness.

History is over. Placards remind you of the evolution of the streets and of St James’s Gardens, the great cemetery that lies beneath it all. Archaeologists will shortly scrape over this territory, removing the dead and erasing all traces of the past, before the space is hollowed out to accommodate the future.

You walk towards the Hampstead Rd and enter Tolmers Sq, the site of a conflict a generation ago when squatters occupied the buildings to prevent the land being handed over to developers. This too will be swept away. You walk north up the main road and, on each side, buildings are empty and closed down. Streets leading back towards the station are blocked by hoardings and patrolled by fluorescent security guards. Somewhere in the forbidden zone was once a park you hoped to visit. You are too late. It has gone now. You walk a mile before you can turn east again.

A huge triangular site stretching from Euston Station to the Hampstead Rd, and extending northward to Mornington Crescent, has been closed down and everything that is there will be destroyed, prior to redevelopment. You walk south again down Eversholt St, noticing the appealing old-fashioned shops and small terraces of Somers Town, which now seem vulnerable too, as if this neighbourhood might also get wiped out in coming years.

It is currently estimated that the government’s controversial High Speed Two rail network – linking Euston Station and the North of England – will cost sixty-three billion pounds. Yet real questions remain over the feasibility of the undertaking and it is by no means certain if the project will ever be realised. In the case of this eventuality, it will be too late for the streets around Euston Station but – no doubt – another developer would be ready to step in and monetise the commercial potential of this vast site in Central London.

Troubled by all these thoughts, you arrive back at Euston Station. The protestors have gone now but the miasma remains. Snow falls.

‘Save trees and green spaces from HS2’

Euston Sq Gardens

‘Stop wasting £100 billion pounds of our money’

Euston Sq Gardens

Robert Stephenson

‘Arboricide in the Autumn. HS2 will cut down almost all the trees around Euston Station. Fifty-three of the trees in Euston Sq Gardens’

Melton St

Former Euston tube station

Melton St

Euston St

Euston St

The Bree Louise shut last week

North Gower St

Starcross St

Tolmers Sq

Drummond St

Hampstead Rd

Hampstead Rd

Hampstead Rd

Mornington Crescent

St Mary’s, Somers Town

Eversholt St

Eversholt St

The window of Origin Housing Association has been broken

Eversholt St

‘The end of an old London park. HS2 came in the night and chopped down the trees without proper consultation.’

You may also like to read about

The Battle of Tolmers Sq

34 Responses leave one →
  1. February 8, 2018

    This is terrible. I loved the little park outside Euston station. The crazy thing is we have fast trains already. Two hours ten mins: Manchester to London, two hours: London to Wigan, two and half to Preston. What they hoping to chop off the journey? 15 mins? And at what cost to the environment both natural and man made? It isn’t sensible.

  2. February 8, 2018

    It’s about time someone did something about those nasty, clean air producing organisms and allowed Euston Road to get on with its noble mission of becoming London’s ugliest, least human-friendly, most polluted thoroughfare. Half an hour faster to Birmingham and only £100 billion – huzzah!

  3. February 8, 2018

    Thanks for expressing so eloquently the planning disaster that London now is.

  4. Elizabeth Neill permalink
    February 8, 2018

    What will happen to the former alcoholism hospital on

    Hampstead Road? I fear I know; but I’ve always thought it was a handsome building and could be converted to condos.

  5. Ron Bunting permalink
    February 8, 2018

    One only needs to look to China where the old is constantly being flattened to be replaced with new buildings. A constant redevelopment is going on. But sadly, it’s like the automobile ,A new shiny model is introduced every couple of years and the older model,regardless of initial cost is destroyed. This will be the fate of london as developers have to keep developing so they can borrow money to buy buildings, tear them down, and build new buildings. And, just like cars the Standard of quality is less and less a priority with each succeeding car or edifice. In China this jerry building is resulting in all sorts of problems,especially earthquakes or subsidence as the flaws in concrete construction using very poor grades of reinforcing make themselves known in collapses. This is how London will be rebuilt.Although it has been going on since Roman times, only now is it possible to make money by borrowing billions and creaming off the profit. After making sure regulations etc are altered to allow certain skulduggery to take place.

  6. Georgina Briody permalink
    February 8, 2018

    For the sake of cutting off a few minutes journey time to the North, this area of beautiful, historic culture is going to be destroyed for ever, like so many parts of London. I worked in this area many years ago and enjoyed walking the streets admiring and appreciating the elegant buildings. As I get older, I find it impossible to fathom out the reasoning of today’s politicians to let a scheme like this go ahead, they seem completely unconcerned and oblivious to the loss which will probably be replaced by the material of the moment, glass, and which is so evident around Liverpool Street Station and City of London.

    What does the future hold for our great city and its people – I am glad I am the age I am, I feel I have seen the best years.

  7. Shawdian permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Beautifully written. Brings a heavyniess to the heart. Rip it to shreds and tear the heart out of London, it’s humans, its buildings that made the City proud and the nature that grew and in its way signified the renewal of London life with the shedding of the once fresh green leaves now gone then sprouting a new circle of life now dead and gone through the slaughter of the commercial conglomerates. Slay and forget, but we never will.

  8. Mike permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Tragic, tragic, tragic!! It make you want to cry.
    Thank you so much for your very moving and evocative post

  9. February 8, 2018

    May I be allowed a further rant-lette? Isn’t HS2 so typical of the ‘sexy’ high-cost project so beloved of the British political class? Like Trident renewal, the QE-class aircraft carriers, Hinkley Point etc, it’s going to provide sod-all real improvement to the quality of life and services of the British people – in fact, they remove any possibility of future Govts being able to afford vitally needed, across-the-board upgrades (very unsexy) elsewhere. So, every other part of our transport infrastructure will continue to rot, the Navy won’t get enough frigates, the Army will shrink to the size of Luxembourg’s and producers of clean, renewable sources of energy will be told ah, but they have to compete in the marketplace (unlike nuclear), or else.

    And the cherry on it all – trees in one of most polluted parts of one of Europe’s most polluted cities are being felled. Bloody marvellous.

  10. Celt permalink
    February 8, 2018

    This is heartbreaking.

  11. February 8, 2018

    Thank you for this sad report, written with your usual insight and deep feeling. I would like to make one critical comment however. You frequently have recourse to the use of the word ‘park’, which I see happening more and more these days. The land as shown on maps and as is written in the local, specifically English, history, is ‘square’. The ubiqutious use of ‘park’ is very American, is lazy and inexact, and is growing. The specifics of our history are in the richness of our language, and the refusal to use those words (square, garden, heath, green, crescent) which relate to and describe accurately the various parcels of land is as much a denegration of our past as is the physical destruction of the area by corporate interests and an ignorant government.

  12. Sharon permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Wow, where have I been? I didn’t know this was happening?! My goodness, this is such a madness to be, yet again, tearing down more buildings that have settled into the cityscape; where people have lived, gone about their business and worked in. And outside Euston Station the demise of that lovely little park too! All for HS2, a dubious and very costly vanity project that’ll shave off a few minutes on the train travel journey for a few business-types while the majority of us will continue to struggle on overcrowded and costly trains. Beggars belief this! What will my descendants have to say when its they take over from my generation?! Goodness me!!

  13. February 8, 2018

    There is nothing, NOTHING, which can justify the construction of the high-speed rail lines. Too much is being lost, and too little will be gained. The social, historical, ecological and financial costs are all too high.

  14. February 8, 2018

    Many people hate the present Euston Station, but fail to see how architects in the 60’s and 70’s often set their buildings in beautiful landscaped gardens, with trees, flower beds and often areas for children to play or families to picnic. Now, every inch of land is built on with no regard for setting or environment. Cheap to maintain plaza’s without a blade of grass in sight are the best you can ask for, with one or two trees strangled by a ring of granite. The overall vision is missing now, which is an enormous shame.

  15. February 8, 2018

    Such a sad and moving piece. Of course London and other big cities constantly reinvent themselves, but I’ve never felt so heartsick about what is happening now, as libraries disappear and ancient trees are cut down, local people displaced and our history wiped out. I feel so very sad for the next generation, as London rapidly becomes a ghost town of empty properties that only the the very rich can claim as their ‘investments’. The cutting down of the Euston trees is a symbol of current profit-driven stupidity and barbarism. But we mustn’t give up voicing our protest!

  16. Pennie Limming permalink
    February 8, 2018

    If you look at Google map based on Euston Road and have zoomed in far enough that restaurants, coffee shops, places of interest are marked – almost in the middle of the “triangle”, I noticed HIDDEN LONDON (TFL EUSTON TOUR). Perhaps that’s where everything has gone/will go! I know it’s not funny. I was born in Gower Street (University College Hospital) and have long felt this area represents where my heart belongs, where I began. What will I feel next time I visit? That they’ve ripped my heart out?

  17. StephenJ permalink
    February 8, 2018

    All politicians are bad, the EU is badder, they all thrive on control.

    Communitarianism (aka red, green and blue socialism) is no counter to EU globalism (what Mussolini called corporatism), rather it is an aid.

    The solution is genuine conservatism. The gist of which derives from the post revolutionary French court… Those on the right (conservatives) thought that only the poor (ordinary folk) could help themselves, those on the left (socialists) thought that the poor needed their “help”.

    There is nothing more patronising than a bunch of rich corporatists who think that stealing from the poor is a good way to help. Such folk as Miller, Gates, Musk, Branson and Soros, with the media, Khan, Corbyn, May and their ilk as their lackeys are handed a modicum of control, as the former thieve their way to ever greater wealth. Such people think in empires or dynasties, the latter don’t think at all.

    Most ordinary people are conservatives who measure time through memory (a lifetime), they are opposed to unnecessary change, whilst the political parties are constantly trying to thwart our natural proclivities, they only wish to exert control over us for its sake.

    Those property companies are a mere symptom of the above mentioned controlling impulse.

  18. M Gibson permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Vanity of Vanities: all is Vanity. Blame the perpetrators – Adonis, Cameron and Osborne. Mark that you remember all of them well, stiff-necked, misguided and obtuse every one of them. Even now there is still time for their fundamentally flawed Vanity project to be frustrated.

  19. Ann Meacher permalink
    February 8, 2018

    A government supposedly short of money for those in need yet they are happy to squander money for those who already have financial resources. Will nobody rein in this destruction and profligacy?
    Ann Meacher

  20. Ms Mischief permalink
    February 8, 2018

    The park in front of Euston Station is the original Euston Square, and they are KILLING IT.
    It will be uglified like everything else they lay hands on.
    That lovely little area of little houses is Georgian, and Dickens knew it well.
    The churchyard park is FULL of dead.
    Why on earth could they not lay the line UNDER the existing railway? This destruction of a neighbourhood is really shameful.
    I am so angry with the politicians for making this happen.
    And yes, I am afraid that archaeologists are AGENTS of the developers everywhere in London now – they call it rescue archaeology, but in fact it is a process of closing green spaces to the public for ever, killing the sacred greens of London, denying the dead their proper place in the world, and making way for vacuous big money. Archaeology desacralises consecrated ground. Archaeologists like this have no interest in history – they are working for pay – they have to sign secrecy agreements and do as they as are told. Respectful of the past it AIN’T. They don’t stand up for the past at all. They don’t defend the dead, they rake them over, and shell them OUT.
    Has anyone seen the plans??

  21. Bethea permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Don’t beat about the bush – the Great Stink will do! Shameful business.

  22. Adele permalink
    February 8, 2018

    I am returning to London after a four year absence. In some ways I dread the fact that it won’t be the beloved London I knew as a child. Progress? I think not.

  23. February 8, 2018

    What a visceral shock I felt as I read along and now I just feel tearful. So much has been written about the wrongheadedness of the HS2 horror and desecrations to come along its intended route north, but this…. Your tour and words show us just how wildly bonkers a scheme this is. Crazed.

  24. Hilary permalink
    February 8, 2018

    This is just so depressing and HS2 is so unnecessary.

    I don’t think many people in the north are excited by a reduction of 20 minutes travelling time to London,what we would like are better trains linking the northern cities.

  25. February 8, 2018

    Where is John Betjeman when we need him and will Diwana remain?

  26. Saba permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Does the press in London report this tragedy? Are you the lone voice?

  27. Peter Holford permalink
    February 8, 2018

    RIP the Bree Louise – a perfect community pub. And, on a personal note, farewell Drummond Street where many of my ancestors once lived. A network and a social fabric that grew over centuries, erased in a few short months. Perhaps if there was a really positive outcome it would be less painful. But there is real doubt about whether HS2 will be built in the foreseeable future. The collapse of Carillion and the burgeoning costs make one wonder if this is anything more than a white elephant even if it is built.

    I’m not sure a high speed line is required – more capacity yes, but more speed? Manchester to London is just over two hours including two stops en route. Any faster and all that will happen is that the Northern cities will become commuter suburbs for London.

    Stupidity – one area Britain seems to excel in.

  28. Jack R permalink
    February 9, 2018

    With apologies to WS –

    Alas poor Yorick, methinks there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air. All that glitters is not gold and the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. I will have my pound of flesh, for that way Madness lies.

  29. Jane W permalink
    February 9, 2018

    Didn’t know this was happening, sad to see these streets go. I used to live just off Drummond St on the other side of Hampstead Road and sometimes drink in the Bree Louise, a good local London pub. So much of old London is disappearing, I remember when there was Laurence Corner on Drummond St and Hampstead Road for example, selling army surplus and assorted oddments, back in the time when London had more family run and individual shops that weren’t owned by a corporate chain or private equity. Good article, please keep them coming.

  30. Richard permalink
    February 9, 2018

    Drummond Street gone? No more Ambala Sweets?

  31. John Campbell permalink
    February 10, 2018

    Come venture west to the villages of Middlesex and South Bucks and witness the destruction taking place here. Ancient woodland being destroyed without planning permission , concrete bases springing up and forming mini towns of men and machinery. Heavy goods vehicles carrying aggregates thundering carelessly up and down our roads, destruction of wildlife and rural activity centres, not to mention the destruction of any homes and business’ that lay in its path. Betjeman would be horrified if he visited some of his beloved Home Counties landmarks now and seen the horror of what an army of hi-viz clad vandals are getting up to. It is hard to believe that any train line could be worth all of this destruction and upset.

  32. Paula Marra permalink
    February 13, 2018

    This is so sad it brought tears to my eyes. I’m so sorry. I just don’t understand people. Idiocy reigns on both sides of the pond, I guess.

  33. Marcia Howard permalink
    February 13, 2018

    What a sad sad world we live in

  34. Paulina Duffield permalink
    April 11, 2018

    Southern Rail cannot even get me 50 mins to London from the shires without the line closed after buying a theatre ticket or being turfed off at Gatwick so l miss my event.

    How about running efficient rail services before building even MORE which no one is capable of running.
    This news of barbaric demolition of a community gave me a heavy heart – l hope my dear neighbour proudly born in Somers Town never finds out.

    I had been looking forward to my retirement – to having time to explore the history of my London childhood and my London working life, driving through these fascinating streets on a daily basis where l never ceased to be in awe of the great sense of the past at the same time as being succesful in my sales work.
    Training any new staff out with me in the car for the day – they delighted in a mini guided tour of our capital (while we were still able to drive anywhere) I have never failed to find the city of my birth exhilerating. But this news makes us feel powerless as though a sense of pride and community is wrong.
    Wonderfully written and replied to by all – thank you. Pondering my next move – perhaps forwarding to the PM – if she cares

    It IS always worth expressing our protest – it is the only way to shift bull headed opinion and future high handed actions. Leaving protesting to others or clicking into the next issue online allows the destruction of our values to continue.
    For example the PETITIONS l have signed on CHANGE.ORG have all turned a bad situation around.
    A homeless SAS veteran was housed in a week. Our foresaken young canine war veterans were saved from being put to sleep just for finishing their term of service.
    All is not lost – we could save the next stage from destruction ?

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