Kings Cross voices back on the Camden website

Kings Cross has arguably some of the richest social history in the country. But it isn’t something that you often find people talking about and I suspect will recede as the area becomes more sanitised.  The Kings Cross voices oral history project that ran a few years ago literally recorded some remarkable voices.

‘The King’s Cross Voices Oral History Project is managed by the London Borough of Camden. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund between 2004 – 2008, and worked with community members and local partners to record people’s memories and unique life experiences of the King’s Cross area.’

I had thought that Voices had vanished online (the project had a bit of  sticky end i think – no doubt someone will fill me in in the comments) but a random Google turned up some of the audio archive on the Camden Council website now playing properly, if a bit clunkily.  The sound files there of the Argyle Square Sound Trail are quite superb interviews with local people talking about the last 60 years of local history well worth a listen.  It’s absolute gold – beats just about anything on iPlayer.

If anyone has more material from this project in a cupboard please send it to me and I’ll put it online.  There’s more local history stuff on our site and it’s well worth checking out this Kenneth Williams autobiographical film about his childhood in Kings Cross, where he talks about the same area (Cromer Street).

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
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6 Responses to Kings Cross voices back on the Camden website

  1. I was amazed listening to Phil Daniels talking about growing up in Kings Cross as I remember myself most of what he talked about.Phil is 3 years older than me,but growing up as I did in Midhope buildings and going to the wonderful Argyle School the memories come flooding back.He mentioned Harry Sheehan the greengrocer who my late brother Paddy used to work for and I used to help as well as a tiny kid chopping the leaves off cauliflowers and shelling peas. Harry was a former British Army lightweight boxing champion.He was a realy kind man,but used to scare the wits out of me as every time my mum sent me over to buy some veg or some Sarsons vinegar there he would take great delight in lifting me upo by the ears which if you ever had that happen to you as a small boy know realy hurts ha ha. I went to Argyle school with his nephews Mark and Andrew Sheehan who i liked so much I named my my younger brother Mark Andrew after. Actualy Mark nearly got called Rajal Salaria after a brilliant Indian kid in my class who’s father owned a hotel near Lambs Conduit street. Rajal was a kid I will remember forever he was probably the most intelligent person I have ever met and could finish a board of sums quicker than I could finish 2 of the blighters. Rajal was also a very Camp kid.He would fight kids inm the playground ,like a girl slapping and scratching and clawing like a wild cat at their faces.He whilst not being particularly strong was well able to defenfd himself against bullies.I guess dear old Rajal was born gay,but we didn’t know anything about all that stuff in those tender years he was just a really great friend. Other kids I remember are Alfie Bennet a tall chubby kid who was a bit like a very young Arthur Mullard.He was obsessed with things to do with WW2 and had a Corgi dog called Churchill. Dennis Perdecue was another mate from those days who had a sister or cousin denise who i was secretly infactuated with. My late much missed brother Paddy used to run around with a local rogue called Kenny Yoxol and between them they always seemed to get themselves into trouble with the police. A mate of mine who lived in Bramber was Terry Jones who had and older brother Freddy (if I have remembered their names the right way around. My first six years were spent living in a flat on the 4th top floor of Midhope buildings next door to Albert and Elsie Dibble who had twin boys,Albert was a post man. in those days we didnt have a bathroom or a proper kitchen or hot water or inside toilet.The toilet was outside on the balcony and my dad used to boil water once a week and fill up our tin bath for our weekly baths of which all of us shared the water.Then in 1966 my younger brother Mark was born and we moved down to the modernised ground floor flat which was original number 51,but later was renumbered number 58. Before moving downstairs I recall their being built a communal bath house at the end of the yard in what had been the porters lodge,but once we lived downstairs if memory serves me right we had our own bathroom and hot water. Shopkeepers I remember are Browns the Newsagent in Cromer Street who me and my late much missed brother Paul both worked for doing paper rounds.Jones the Hardware store,Steven Lee what we thpought of as a supmarket in those days,but by today’s standard would be a convenience store.Jackson the grocer in Cromer Street who emigrated to Australia and his shop was bought by Asians who renamed the shop Kemp enterprises. Whjites the Butchers,There used to be Albert an old Barber who worked in a basement shop near to what used to be The Wellington pub,Bella’s groceries was another shop just on the corner of Tonbridge Street.She eventualy joined forces withn Kemp enterprises.Local people I recall by name are Jack McCracken and his son or Nephew Johnny French, Barnes the Chimney Sweep who was a real Victorian style chimney Sweep always covered in soot, when he retired he took to seeling new papers outside the Harrison Arms,Alan Slingsby who’s dad was a manager in a supermarket and ived in the rather posh Queen Alexandria mansions.I never met his dad,but by all accounts he wasnt a nice man. Alan who was my age and friend had a granny called Grace who lived in Midhope buildings opposite us.She used to visit my mum and dad and became rather dependant on them in her older age.Arnold Phelops was the dentist in Cromer Street,Keats Typewriters was the other side of the wall from where we lived.Dr Raynor a Scottish doctor was our GP during my childhood.

    Techers from Argyle school I remember are Miss Freelander whio if memory serves me right looked a bit like Dawn French she ran a special reading class and was a realy kind patient lady who taught me a late starter because of my poor eyesight and timmidness how to read.The Head mistress was the very kind Scottish lady Marjorie Buchan,Mr Holding was a very tall old fashioned,but very kind teacher,their was two Mr Young’s,One I didnt know very well who looked rather like Frankie Howerd,and the brilliant Mr Kenneth Young a Roger Whittaker lookalike who was one of the most inspirational teachers I ever met.He was a brilliantb guitarist/singer and allround entertainer and taught my brotherv Mark to play Classical guitar upto scholarship standard.Miss singer was another kind bespectacled lady teacher,and Miss Wilson who was of Jewish extraction and the original music teacher until Mr Young stole her limelight.They were so close I reckon they was probably having a clandestine relationship

    That’s a few memories from me for now incase any body who remembers me reads this.We moved to Kentish Town in the blazing hot summer of 1976

    Kind Regards

    Jim Clark

    poetryreincarnations at youtube and vimeo

    acoustcarchive at youtube

    Great poets at audioboo

    • Kim winterton says:

      Hello jim I lived in midhope around the same time as you. Guess you would remember my brother allan reading more than me. What a blast from the past kenny yoxall and little sister Beverly. The macrakens, frenches and do you remember the baseys? Charlie Jackson and wife urma. I never knew he went to Australia. We used to live opposite Elsie dibbles mum and dad first then they passed. Elsie had an older boy Colin before having the twins and her brother George married and also lived in the flats. We moved in 1970 to a tower block in Swiss cottage for a short while then to a place opposite the round house around 1973-74. Fantastic place to be at that time. I think i know who u r (as a little un that is) keep happy healthy and wealthy. Kim reading.

  2. Jim Clark says:

    Dear Kim I don’t recall you recall you by name,but for all my memories I have forgotten so many names we moved to Kentish Town in 1976.

    I have left lots of stuff about my Kings Cross memories on The Sir William Collins old boys and girls Facebook page. I recently asked for any Kings Cross kids to make contact and a couple of ladies from the area slightly older than me left comments and their memories.Apparently Harry Sheehan the Greengrocer is still alive and driving a Taxi (he must be very old) Sylvia Pearce and Dee James who I don’t remember were the names that responded

    Here’s the link for that facebook page

    You can see a short bit of film of the Yard at Midhope in 1974 and other local scenes from my cine film made in 1974 at youtube

    Here’s a paste of a few of my comments
    June 14, 2011 · Edited
    What about kids who grew up in the sixties around Midhope Street and Cromer Street I grew up in Midhope Buildings and remember the bonfires we built in the old bombed church and on the plum pud steps Browns the newsagent Jackson the grocer,jones the hardware shop.I have so many memories to share with those who remember like me being a ragged child of St Pancras of knocking dollies out of bed (knocking on dorrs and hiding)pinching flowerpots and selling them back around the posh Queen Alexandra Mansions flats.Delivering papers during the time when David Essex and Alvin Stardust were front page news,The Tonbridge club Tom Hibbert used to run it my memories are full of happy moments tinged with horror ha ha
    My Favourite ever shop was Gamages in Holborn it was a veritable dreamland come Disneyworld for us kids with its massive elaborate toy displays trainsets and Meccano sets to die for and a pet departrment like a dream come true. Me and my brothers would spend our school holidays wandering around that lovely shop
    September 26 at 7:53pm · Like
    For Swimming we went to The Oasis Swimming Baths near Shaftesbiury Avenue and oppisite the theatre that had shows on like “Oh Calcutta” the first nude theatre show in London, and “Hair”
    September 26 at 7:56pm · Like · 1
    Beatties the model toyshop in High Holborn was another shop I loved with its mindblowing train sets and model planes, a shop in Holborn that was a forerunner to Maplins or Tandy was “The Scientific & Technical” shop that sold all manner of must have electrical gizmos.Lincolns Inn Fields played a big part in my growing up my dad used to take us for walks there
    September 26 at 8:01pm · Like

    • Harry King says:

      Hi Jim, its great to see these comments, this is Harry! My name is Harry King, not Sheehan, (Harry Sheehan is my brother-in-law). I owned the greengrocers with my wife, Pat. I am 73, well, and working as a taxi driver. Im not that old! Sorry to hear about Paddy, how old was he when he passed away? Hope you are well, it would be great to get a reply!

      • Jim Clark says:

        Dear Harry,

        Its great to hear from you I couldn’t believe it when that lady on facebook said you was still around and working as a taxi driver I am delighted that you are,and nowhere near as old as I imagined you might have been.

        Poor Paddy died in 2005 he was 53 he had gone to live in Ireland in 2000,and whilst there became ill with a debilitating back conditiion Spondylosis/spondylitis ?,and was in severe pain and put on heavy Morphine dosages in 2003 when I visited him with brother Mark who was visiting from Australia he told us he had had enough and didn’t think he would make it past Christmas,then in February 2005 I received a call telling me he had been found dead out in the garden of his house apparently dead from a heart attack my other half brother Paul died in 1988 he was in his early 30’s.

        I don’t know if my email will be accepted on this message board,but if you look at one any of my videos at my poetryreincarnations channel on the “About” page or you will see my hyperbolelad email address in the repeated copyrighted watermarking through the videos as they play I would love to make proper contact so we can share a few memories.

        Kind Regards


  3. harry king says:

    Dear Jim,

    Thank you for your reply. It would be lovely to hear more stories from the ‘good old days’. Pat & I moved to Essex about 12 years ago now, but still go to the Brunswick Centre on a Saturday morning for Breakfast in Carluccios. Pat still has her hair done in Marc one Hairdressers (do you remember him?). Not sure if you remember Andrew Sheehans older brother John he was good friends with Phil Daniels, well it was John who told us about this site and he’s daughter has seen the Facebook site too. John meets us in Carluccios on some Saturdays if he’s around that area (he’s a London Cabbie too). So if you are ever passing by on a Saturday from about 10.30 we could have a chat. We still see a few of our old Customers in the Brunswick so we usually have a catch up with them as well.

    Take care

    Harry King

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