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Family days exploring London for free!

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The Step Outside Blog

As anyone who looks at our books will be aware, we love London and are passionate about helping other people to enjoy our city, through cost-free family days out.


A good few people have suggested that we write a blog about London things that have caught our attention, captured our hearts or made us think - or all of the above - so here it is.

We hope you enjoy it!

What's in a Name?

By Francesca Fenn, Nov 19 2018 11:17AM

By Margie Skinner

I had an explore around the new Coal Drops Yard development by King Cross Station, just round from Granary Square. It is rather exciting seeing the huge Victorian brick viaducts brought to new use. Obviously the name speaks for itself, but what exactly happened here in the past?

With the emergence of rail transport in the early 1800s London and its commercial life changed forever. The journey to London with goods from the north took hours, whereas by the waterways it had taken weeks. Whatever London needed, be it food, furniture or fuel arrived at Kings Cross Station. And most important of these arrivals was coal, the essential power source for Victorian London; and Coal Drops Yard was where it was all stored. Long drops were built in three storeys; trains entered on the upper level and the coal dropped from a hole in the middle level for sorting and grading, after which it was shovelled into sacks at ground level, for onward transportation.

After decades where this redundant area has been used in film sets and as rave venues, the current development brings innovative shops and restaurants to this canalside setting. There is clearly a lot of thought going into the planted areas which for me brought to mind New York’s High Line. It was fascinating too to see the Grade II listed cast iron gasholder guide frames now converted to apartments and penthouses. Don’t mind if I do!

I visited on a cold but sunny November day and the light played atmospherically across the unusual historic buildings. Definitely an area worth exploring.

Nearest Station: Kings Cross St Pancras.

Thomas Heatherwick's beautiful 'kissing' roof over the Yard
Thomas Heatherwick's beautiful 'kissing' roof over the Yard
Sprauncy apartments in the old gasometer.
Sprauncy apartments in the old gasometer.
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