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 entire 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 The quietude that prevailed in these attractive streets as long as you have known them has been replaced by emptiness.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
‘Arboricide in the Autumn. HS2 will cut down almost all the trees around Euston Station. Fifty-three of the trees in Euston Sq Gardens’
Former Euston tube station
The Bree Louise shut last week
North Gower St
St Mary’s, Somers Town
The window of Origin Housing Association has been broken
‘The end of an old London park. HS2 came in the night and chopped down the trees without proper consultation.’
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The Battle of Tolmers Sq
This post first appeared on Spitalfields Life | In The Midst Of Life I Woke To, please read the originial post: here