London 1979


Hotel, St Chad's St, Kings Cross, Camden, 1979
19d-15: house, hotel, cars

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Little visibly has changed from when I took the picture, though parking is now more restricted and there are cycle lanes along St Chad's St. The hotels have gone up a little in the world (and rather more in price) and look rather better cared for. The hotel sign is still there, but repainted with different text.
At the time this was London's most celebrated red-light district, and a short walk away is Holy Cross, Cromer St, occupied by the English Collective of Prostitutes for 12 days in 1982 in a protest against intimidation and false arrests of prostitutes on the streets of the area by police under the 1959 Street Offences Act. Police were reported to be demanding free sex, demanding money, assaulting or beating up women and colluding with pimps to extract more money from the women.
The area - the Battle Bridge estate - went down in the world quickly after it was developed in the 1820s and 30s, with drunkenness and vagrancy common by the 1840s. When Kings Cross, Euston and St Pancras Station were built they brought in more people and more vice, both customers and prostitutes, some of whom were alleged in later years to commute to the area on 'Have It Away Day' tickets.
It was the arrival of drugs that really brought the area down, adding syringes to the local street detritus and fuelling both prostitution and petty crime by those desperate to feed their habits. Fast food too began to litter the streets, and in the 70s the area was probably at its lowest.
There were also huge development plans for the areas around Kings Cross, and later I became involved for several years with the King's Cross Railway Lands Group, an independent community organisation that campaigned for 25 years until 2013 to "make sure that the people who live, work or study in the King’s Cross area are involved and benefit from its re-development."