Author: Julie, 21/07/2016
Historically, the name Somers Town was used for the larger triangular area between the Pancras, Hampstead, and Euston Roads, but it is now taken to mean the rough rectangle bounded by Pancras Road, Euston Road, Eversholt Street, Crowndale Road, and the railway approaches to St Pancras Station; that is to say, the area about 200 metres east and west of Chalton Street.
St Pancras Old Church is believed by many to be one of the oldest Christian sites in England. The churchyard remains consecrated but is managed as a park. It holds many literary associations, from Charles Dickens to Thomas Hardy, as well as memorials to dignitaries, including the remarkable tomb of architect Sir John Soane.
Somers Town was named for Charles Cocks, 1st Baron Somers (1725–1806). The area was originally granted by William III to John Somers (1651–1716), Lord Chancellor and Baron Somers of Evesham.
In 1784, the first housing was built at the Polygon amid fields, brick works and market gardens on the northern fringes of London. The site of the Polygon is now occupied by a block of council flats called Oakshott Court, which features a commemorative plaque for Wollstonecraft. The Polygon deteriorated socially as the surrounding land was subsequently sold off in smaller lots for cheaper housing, especially after the start of construction in the 1830s of the railway lines into Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross.
Improvement of the slum housing conditions, amongst the worst in the capital, was first undertaken by St Pancras Council in 1906 at Goldington Buildings, at the junction of Pancras Road and Royal College Street. Further social housing was needed, which began construction of the Ossulston Estate in 1927. There remains a small number of older Grade II listed properties, mostly Georgian terraced houses. In the 1980s, some council tenants took advantage of the ‘right to buy’ scheme and bought their homes at a substantial discount. Later they moved away from the area. The consequence was an influx of young semi-professional people, resulting in a changing population.
Major construction work along the eastern side of Somers Town was completed in 2008, to allow for the Eurostar trains to arrive at the refurbished St Pancras Station. This involved the removal of part of the St Pancras Old Churchyard, the human remains being re-interred elsewhere.
Our guide to Tufnell Park