King's Cross Coal Drops Yard

The Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross consists of the Eastern Coal Drops (ECD), Western Coal Drops (WCD) and the Western Wharf Road Arches which frame the central yard area together with Lower Stable Street. 

The grade-II listed Eastern Coal Drops dates from 1851. Wagons entered the ECD on tracks at the upper level and dropped coal into a hopper level and then down through chutes into either sacks or wagons below at yard level. To the west of the Coal Drops Yard site there was a canal basin. From there coal was transported in barges along the canal to the docks in the east. Another set of coal drops were constructed to the west (WCD) by 1860, though advancements in coal drops technology left each building outdated within about 40 years.  The coal drops were converted and used as warehouses for over a century. Thereafter the coal drops were left vacant and fell into a state of disrepair as a result.

MFA were appointed through competitive interview in 2014 as the Conservation Delivery Architects for the proposed new retail areas within the Coal Drops Yard site. Working closely with a design team led by Heatherwick Studio and BAM Design, MFA performed extensive condition surveying and repair scheduling to support the project’s conservation philosophy of minimal cleaning and repairs to balance the long-term health of the historic building with maintaining a substantial ‘patina of age’ (weathering, graffiti, signage, archaeology, historic paint finishes, etc.) This provides the strongest possible contrast against the substantial contemporary interventions. 

The repair requirements of the project were substantial following decades of disuse and fire damage to a substantial section of East Coal Drop. MFA were responsible for documenting all repair packages for external and internal masonry (a £6m package), as well as repairs packages for existing roof structures, cast iron structure, windows, doors, staircases and fireplaces, as well as the salvage and protection requirements. MFA were responsible for sample approval processes and for the release of all listed building consent conditions, as well as for delivering important Toolbox talks to the many contractors working on the site, ensuring that they had an awareness of the important industrial archaeology and the low intervention / maximum retention approach to conservation. The challenges of Design and Build contract for a historic buildings are substantial, but early engagement with the contractor and sub-contractors to develop robust and deliverable yet low intervention conservation packages served to minimise risks to all parties, and deliver a building of high quality and heritage integrity.

Project Profile available for print and download here