The Kingsway Conservation Area simply comprises the Kingsway and the buildings fronting on to it. The Kingsway was built at the turn of the century in order to clear the 16th century slums which previously dominated the area, the only remaining example of that architecture being ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ at the south-west corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, now Grade II* listed. It is a grand Edwardian ‘boulevard’ with wide roads and grandiose buildings, home to shops at ground floor and various institutions above. It is home to the only tramway underpass in all of London, now disused.
Threat Level: Low
The Kingsway Conservation Area is under little threat. It has a well defined character and is home to many listed buildings. There are no ongoing harmful developments or threats thereof. Minor threats include unsympathetic and unauthorised alteration to shopfronts as they rapidly change hands coupled with a lack of community to monitor the situation, and the lack of a future appropriate use for the tramway tunnel.
History of Designation
The Kingsway Conservation Area was designated on 1st June 1981, and has received no further expansions. The designation covers all the of Kingsway and its associated buildings within the London Borough of Camden, along with the southern half of Southampton Row.
The area which is now the Kingsway initially comprised residential Stuart and earlier buildings arranged along east-west medieval streets connecting the City and Westminster. Much of this had become run-down, and further traffic problems led the LCC in 1898 to approve the Kingsway scheme, to build a north-south access route and clear much of the slum in the area, driving through a wide road in the boulevard style, with large scale commercial Edwardian buildings to match. The Grade II* listed Old Curiosity Shop is the only remnant of the type of building beforehand common in the area.
The area is dominated by large scale Edwardian commercial buildings, mostly designed in the Neo-Baroque style, built mainly of Portland Stone. The wide street with tall buildings and interesting rooflines speaks of a European grandeur rarely seen in London.