Euston Square – where?

Euston Square – where?

Euston Square station in London is a well-known stop on the tube system, but where is the REAL Euston Square? Like many others no doubt assumed, the station appeared to denote the existence of a grand square. Let’s face it Leicester Square, Russell Square, Sloane Square, and the old Trafalgar Square tube stations were adjacent to real London squares. 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.

The motley patch of grass that forms the undignified Euston Square Gardens is barely noticed by the thousands of commuters who pass across it heading for the train home. Not quite the same is it? Especially now that it has been dug over several times and tunnels even dug underneath in protest at HS2, and both sides of the former square are currently devoted to servicing London’s taxis.

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.

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.

This view from Herbert Fry’s 20 ‘Bird’s-eye views of the principal streets’ from 1880 (depicted below) 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.

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 shown 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.

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. 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.

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.

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? OS 1:25000 map 1957.

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.

On a modern map, this is what Euston Square (or what bits of it are left) looks like. 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. The war memorial still exists and forms a mini roundabout for London buses! Source: Owen Cholerton.

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 lamppost is still in existence and can be seen adjacent to the war memorial:

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.

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 showing the Euston station bus stand November 2015. This view showing a No.18 features the same white arch doorway and the Euston Road.

This post was originally published in 2015 for an earlier blog I did. It was done before any work had begun on HS2! Post updated May 2024.