Each month we find out a little more about the area through the people who live, work and play here. This month we caught up with Peter McDonough Historian in Residence, Ted Baker and Urban Partners Next Generation Coordinator.
When did you start working in the area?
After 40 years as a teacher, I started working for Ted Baker, as Ted’s Historian, in September 2014
How has it changed since then?
The major regeneration was very much in full swing by the time I came to St Pancras Way. The Granary Square development was a masterstroke, particularly the inclusion of a world-class academic institution, in the shape of Central St Martins. In fact, everyday seems to bring further changes at the moment. It has been particularly exciting to observe the Coal Drops Yard development taking shape and seeing the Gasholders back on the skyline has been extraordinary. I walk over the Camley Street Bridge every morning and it is a remarkably restful way to begin the day.
What is your favourite place in the area?
Old St Pancras Churchyard is one of my favourite places in London. It’s such a small area, but one that is crammed with wonderful stories. It was from here that Percy Byshe and Mary Shelley (creator of Frankenstein) eloped. It was here that Thomas Hardy, in the decade before he became a famous novelist, worked on the removal of graves from the cemetery (the Hardy Tree is a thing of grotesque beauty) and it is here that was chosen as the location of the Beatles Mad Day Out photos of 1968. This little park is full of inspiring tales from history.
What do you love about our neighbourhood?
Our area celebrates creativity, in part through the great brands that make up Urban Partners. We are of course also home to The Francis Crick Institute, named for one of Britain’s great creative thinkers, and the British Library, one of the world’s great archives and printed collections. I also love the history of diversity in the St Pancras area. Such diversity is one of the great strengths of London. Inspiration is all around you.
What is your favourite story about the area?
I particularly like the story of architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott finding the inspiration for his iconic K3 telephone box in the Churchyard. Just look at the Sir John Soane family tomb there and you will understand where Scott’s eureka moment came from.
What is the best community initiative you have seen in the local area?
As a teacher, I believe that the Homework Club and Masterclass Initiatives have been great. The more we develop opportunities for our young people, the richer our community will be.
What challenges will the area face in the future?
The key challenge for our community is maintaining its links with its past. As I mentioned before, diversity, creativity and original thinking all feature prominently in our area’s story. Maintaining this, particularly through the creation of new affordable housing and community services, will be essential to keeping the lifeblood pumping.
Where do you see our neighbourhood in the next ten years and what kind of image it will have?
In 10 years, I would hope that our neighbourhood will be seen as one of the world’s great creative hubs. If initiatives to improve the environment are further developed, it would be great for it to also to have a reputation as a perfect place to work, play and live in.
If your neighbourhood had a theme song, what would it be and why?
The End by the Beatles. This was recorded the year after the Fab Four had their Mad Day Out in St Pancras. The final couplet by Paul McCartney says this:And in the end/ The love you take/ Is equal to the love you make. A great thought for any community.