Cranes, trains and bananas: Excavating Somers Town Goods Yard
When I heard that there was a dig going on at the site of the future Francis Crick Institute, it piqued my interest. I decided to take my camera down there to see what they’d found, which turned out to be an interesting snapshot of our industrial history.
The space, between Brill Place and the British Library in King’s Cross, London, is the site of a former goods yard, a major hub for the distribution of all kinds of fresh goods that arrived by train from the countryside and ports. It was being excavated by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) so that there would be a record of the extant remains before they were removed to build the Institute. They removed old car park tarmac and other overlaying materials using mechanical diggers as well as taking a pick to some of it by hand. It sounded like hard work!
As my guide from MOLA, Louise Davies, explains in the film above, they found remains of tracks in one area, and bits of the hydraulic system in another. The latter was used to power various mechanisms around the yard, cranes and lifts and so on; an impressive piece of engineering. It’s hard to grasp its scale and function from the structures that they uncovered, partly because some of it had been obliterated by more modern concrete works. But still, as I stood and looked around at the size of the site, the areas uncovered by the archaeologists and the original gates which are still standing, I could just about imagine a busy, noisy goods yard, keeping London stocked with bananas, milk, potatoes and more.
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