Series on how London has changed since Charles Booth's 1886 survey. Caledonian Road, which starts next to King's Cross station, has always been working class.
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London in 1886...
..then, the largest city in human history,
and the centre of the known world.
With its self-importance, its dirt, its wealth,
and awful poverty, it seems a mystery to us now.
It was a different world. An entirely different world.
But there is a guide to this human jungle -
Charles Booth, Victorian London's social explorer.
Booth produced a series of pioneering maps
that colour-coded the streets of his London,
according to the ever-shifting class of its residents.
Booth's maps are like scans, X-rays that reveal to us
the secret past beneath the skin of the present.
If people knew how many cattle was killed there,
I don't think they'd live there.
He wanted his maps to chart stories of momentous social change...
I was on the bottom, and those houses were the lowest of the low.
..the ebb and flow between enormous wealth and terrible poverty,
how easily desirable or well-to-do neighbourhoods
could descend into the haunts of the vicious
and semi-criminal, and back again.
Now the maps can help us reveal the changes
that have shaped all our lives,
and made the story of the streets the story of us all.
Oh, my goodness!
The old toilet's gone!
Now, we're going back to one of the 10,000 streets he mapped.
This is the story of how its prime location
made the Caledonian Road ripe for exploitation.
I will give you a little advice, as long as the cow has milk, milk it.
But the people of the road have found their own way
to survive in the big city...
Do you want business, love?
..always against the odds.
Fireworks, made in England.
-Fuck the pig.
-What are you doing? What are you doing to my film?
On the edge of central London,
running through the Borough of Islington,
is a mile-and-half-long road.
It begins at King's Cross and connects the city with the north.
This is the story of how that prime location
left the Caledonian Road vulnerable to powerful outside forces.
And how it's working class community learned how to fight back.
Outsiders know the Caledonian Road only as a place you pass through -
urban, grimy, seemingly unloved.
Locals know it as the Cally, a place of rented flats,
letting agents, caffs, vegetable stands, and the odd pub.
# I gave a letter to the postman
# He put it his sack
# Bright and early next morning
# He brought my letter back
# She wrote upon it
# Return to sender
# Address unknown... #
Last year, Eileen Christie took over the tenancy
of the Prince of Wales.
She's lived on the road all her life.
People go, "Oh, my God! Caledonian Road. That's a shit-hole!"
Everyone says it. Don't matter where they're from.
Anyone who knows Cally, it's got such a bad reputation.
Cos we're bit rough around the edges and we're loud.
And we wave at each other like, you know, "Hi!"
People look at that and they just think that's pretty undesirable.
We don't see nothing wrong with it, but the reputation is that of,
"What a shit-hole!"
Eileen's pub is owned by Andrew Panayi,
a Cypriot immigrant.
From his headquarters at the back of a former second-hand furniture shop,
Andrew runs his property empire.
-How's it going?
-Did you wash your hands?
We get tenants who call in sometimes and he calls them all in.
Come and have a drink.
Anyone who comes in the office.
Don't matter who comes - solicitors, bankers...
Sit down, have a drink... everybody.
-How many properties on the Cally do you own and where are they?
We don't even know how many are.
This is a serious part of Cally.
What do you mean - "serious"?
It's good for salvation.
And that's mine.
That's mine. ..That's mine.
-You've more down here?
-Oh, my God, yes!
We haven't even started.
You know, this one here,
I bought it in 1990.
It was just a collapsed building,
and then I rebuilt it a few years later,
and in the place of the garden, as you can see,
we've built those two floors.
This is one of the ones
the council's giving you a hard time about?
I did get planning permission
five years later.
get the permission later.
-It always works.
-What did you say?
Build first, ask for permission later.
Caledonian Road is a place where you feel free.
I wouldn't be able to do in the West End what I did here.
Here you could change the face of the street
without anybody noticing it.
By the late 1890s,
the Victorian social explorer, Charles Booth,
had arrived in Islington
as part of his epic quest to examine social conditions in the capital.
Then, as now, the Caledonian Road was a major route
into central London.
But when Booth arrived on the road for the first time,
he was not impressed by what he found.
"A depressing district," he called it.
There were shopkeepers without any sense of enterprise...
..and labourers without regular employment,
who survived living by their wits.
The Caledonian Road was a place of poverty, where, for Booth,
the strife and pain and sorrow of life with no hope,
must, at times, be unbearable.
This was not how it was supposed to be.
Edmund Thornhill is a property developer.
his great-grandfather, George, acquired 90 acres of land
on the edge of London, apparently because it was good hunting ground.
I did hear apocryphally, it was my mother who kindly told me,
that apparently George said the snipe shooting in Islington
was rather better than it was in Chelsea.
Sadly, he's not around to defend himself, er...
whether that remark is true.
In those days, it was fields, it was farms, it was tenanted out,
but he really wanted, for want of a better expression,
for his asset at Islington to be sweated.
He realised he'd acquired a significant opportunity,
and wanted to make sure it was going to be worked.
The Caledonian Road was the result of a speculative moneymaking plan,
dreamt up at the country manor of George Thornhill.
In 1826, London's Victorian property boom was in full swing,
and Thornhill wanted his piece of the action.
He planned to build a brand-new road running along the edge
of his land, a road that would make it possible,
once some poor tenants were moved on,
to turn his hunting ground into a massive development
of hundreds of private houses - the Thornhill Estate.
This is a wonderful photograph in time,
because this is 1848
and 30 years before this, none of the Thornhill Estate was built.
They clearly spent a lot of time in meeting rooms,
really considering what this estate was going to look like.
You know, looking at Thornhill Square,
it's been beautifully planned through.
He was making sure that
if he was going to put his name to something, it was going to be good.
Of course, they're taking a punt,
because they're expecting people to come and live there
and it was long before the idea of doing a pre-let or selling-off plan,
so it must have been a very, very, very exciting time.
There they were, yes, they had their ancestral home in the country,
but actually, they were part of what was some form of urban revolution,
and that must have made their dinner parties more interesting.
George Thornhill's gamble paid off.
A senior official at the Inland Revenue moved into number one,
a successful merchant into number 13,
a solicitor into number 26 -
each had two live-in servants.
170 years later, Thornhill Square still reflects its builder's vision
of first-class housing for London's professional classes.
Here, just behind the Caledonian Road,
houses cost upwards of £2 million.
This is how the whole area may have looked,
if George Thornhill had owned all the land off the road,
but he didn't.
While the Thornhill Estate followed meticulous masterplan,
along the rest of this brand-new road,
there were different landowners with their own visions for the area.
Just a few hundred yards from the upscale Thornhill Estate,
the government found the perfect place to build a brand-new prison.
Pentonville opened in 1842.
It held 500 convicts awaiting deportation to the colonies.
Behind its walls,
they were stripped of their identity
and forbidden to talk to one another.
When Charles Booth strolled past Pentonville 50 years later,
he noted with semi-scientific disdain,
that the prisoners
were flat-headed, bull-necked and undersized.
Today, the prison still looms over the Caledonian Road.
Everything about the prison has stayed exactly the same.
I just remember being a small child, walking along Caledonian Road
and walking up the wall
and the wall used to go higher and higher and higher
and you'd sort of walk up the prison wall
and I often look at it even now and I often think
"When I've got trainers on, I'm going to walk up the wall."
You go past it and go,
"Pentonville Hotel," you know.
I didn't really connect it. When you're walking past, you don't look up and go,
"Oh, God, this prison." Doesn't look like a prison.
You don't see prisoners out digging the roads.
It doesn't mean anything at all...
CAR HORN BEEPS ..unless someone has actually escaped,
and then you've got a few helicopters.
That's it. Apart from that, no-one takes no notice of the prison.
It's just part of, it's just part of...
Fuck the pig!
What are you doing? What are you doing to my film?
It wasn't just the government that saw the potential of the road.
The Great Northern Railway had intentions on an area near the bottom.
It saw this is the perfect location for a new station, King's Cross,
and as the rail company, had the power to get what it wanted.
Anyone in the way was evicted, even graveyards were dug up.
For two years, the road descended into chaos
as labourers toiled day and night
to build London's newest railway terminus.
Up and down the road, cheap housing was thrown up for the men now needed by the railway.
They included Roy Hagland's grandfather,
who lived just off the Caledonian Road in a three-bedroom cottage
with his wife and 22 children.
William Hagland started off on the railways as a van boy
and ended up a famous train driver
captured for posterity on his own cigarette card.
All the kids in them days, they wanted to be engine drivers.
Used to walk down Caledonian Road and the people, they sort of bowed to him.
He was a god! Honestly, he was.
He was an old sod to us, funny enough.
He loved kids, but he didn't like his own kids.
-He had 22 of them!
-Yeah, 22, yes.
-Getting old now. Soon be 76.
-76, yeah. You're still a young man.
-After your haircut, you will look 20 years younger.
-I wish I was! Yeah.
The arrival of the station at the bottom of the road transformed the area.
The rapidly expanding capital had a huge appetite
and King's Cross became the destination for animals arriving from the north.
To reduce the number of cattle herded through the centre of town,
the authorities decided to make the Caledonian Road their final destination.
The biggest cattle market in the country was now located
on the 30 acres around the clock tower.
On market days, anyone who lived near the Caledonian Road
now had to contend with the smell, not only of the cattle,
but of 42,000 sheep and 15,000 pigs being herded through their streets.
That is where they used to run them out.
From York Way, into Market Road, down to the White Horse pub,
turn 'em left, in there.
If it was a cold day, women used to bring their children up
because if they were sweating cattle, it was good for whooping cough.
The sweat of the cattle, it was an old wives' tale,
but they used to believe it.
Yeah, a lot of women used to stand here and the cattle used to run past.
You always knew when the calves were coming.
-When the calves come, that is when the dirty old men used to go there.
-To do what?
You know when a calf sucks the tit of a cow?
Leave that to your imagination. And I'm not joking, that is the truth.
The market went, but the giant slaughterhouses were still operating into the 1950s.
Up to 280,000 animals were killed every year.
It was in one of those slaughterhouses
that Roy got his first job.
That used to be the White Horse pub. I was drinking in there every day,
five o'clock in the morning - we used to go to start work at seven,
and we was always drunk, we was never sober.
One wall there, as high as the fence there now...
It never had nothing like this. It was just one complete slaughterhouse.
-How old were you when you first came here?
I mean, it was a smashing job, but it was my very first stressful job, really.
Do you know, I still dream about it? Honestly, even now.
I saw one chap, he was cutting one day,
and he said to me, "Look how sharp this knife is."
And he just...
his own throat.
Because they had veterinary surgeons in there
and the veterinary surgeons come, bound his neck up
and when the ambulance come, they just took it all off again - died.
Now it looks like quite posh housing.
If people knew how many cattle was killed there,
I don't think they'd live there!
I don't think they would!
The Caledonian Road had become the place to put the institutions
needed by the city, but not wanted in it.
It was helping to turn the neighbourhood, despite its central location,
into an undesirable address.
But it was the presence of King's Cross that made the road notorious.
As soon as it opened, prostitutes had begun to take advantage
of the train station to conveniently commute into work.
Unless you were interested in what they had to offer,
the bottom of the road became a no-go area.
But in the middle of this famous red light district,
there was a small working-class community trying to live a normal life.
Norma Steele was born here in 1938.
This little stretch of the Cally,
there wasn't anything, really, you couldn't get.
Now it seems to be cafes, estate agents, and a Tesco Express.
Unbelievable. This used to be our lovely bakers.
And I can remember when I was very, very young, six or seven,
coming around and getting hot bread at Bessie bakers...
..and if I was lucky, a doughnut, as you can see.
Ooh. This used to be a pub.
-What's it now?
-A mosque, would you believe?
The Star And Garter, this used to be called.
And my mother used to play the piano in here.
My mum played the piano in that one as well.
She played the piano in nearly all the pubs here.
Well, it certainly didn't look like this!
I mean, my mum would not have believed this pub if she...
my dad certainly wouldn't.
They had never seen anything like this.
For the Cally, it is unbelievable.
Saturdays used to be lovely.
We used to love Saturday night as kids,
because the word would go up, "There's a fight at the Queen's"!
And we would all fly around to see the fight.
Nearly every Saturday, somebody would come out of a pub having a fight in this area.
-That would be it.
-Was it a very rough area?
It was, it was a rough area. It was a working-class area, it was a rough area.
Just behind the busy parade of pubs and shops
was a collection of small factories, lead workshops and brush-makers
that employed much of the neighbourhood.
Built in the time of Dickens,
they had barely changed in over half a century.
Crammed into a smelly, clattering world of urban industry,
these were the streets where the families worked and lived.
A mile from the nearest park, this is where Norma was filmed with her friends
in the family's home movies.
This is where we would all come and sit, on the steps.
And just tell each other dirty jokes,
or whatever we thought was a dirty joke,
or talk about Mrs So-and-so telling us off.
It was a lovely, lovely atmosphere when I was young, in this street.
It really was.
This is my house. This looks very smart.
It was a completely busy street. Every house had children in,
plus they were multi-lets. I mean, my gran always had lodgers,
so although we lived downstairs,
she would have a couple of rooms with lodgers in on the top floor, to help with the rent,
and these trees - we actually paid for them to be planted.
We wanted trees in the road, so we did a deal with the council.
So they planted these lovely tiny trees. My mum cried.
This used to be my mum's bedroom and when she saw the trees planted, she cried.
-She was so thrilled,
to see trees in King's Cross.
With small, quiet efforts, the community was beginning to learn
that they could take control of their lives,
but their road was changing.
A steady supply of houses for rent attracted waves of newcomers to the area.
They brought their history with them.
In 1955, 257 Caledonian Road made the news.
'Crowds gathered outside the derelict shop in the Caledonian Road
'where the police have discovered the guns and ammunition stolen
'from Arborfield camp.
'The IRA's complete haul
'had been recovered.'
In the 1950s, with their leaders being locked up in Pentonville,
the road had become the focus of tension between Irish republicans and the authorities.
It now had a reputation as a district for society's outsiders -
criminals, prostitutes, radicals and immigrants.
But for an innocent young Irish girl arriving in London in search of work, it was a welcoming place.
Eileen's mum Bridie still lives just off the Caledonian Road today.
-When did you first come here?
-Mum, I was born in 1959!
Were you born up there? '58. About a year before you were born. Yeah, '58.
I remember somebody, the year I came here, somebody got hung.
The last person to be hung at Pentonville, over the road.
'It was nearly nine o'clock in the morning outside Pentonville prison.
'A large crowd, probably the biggest ever seen there on the morning
'of an execution, protested against the hanging of Ronald Marwood.'
He killed a policeman at the Nag's Head.
I remember there were a big demonstration there and everything,
but they hung him anyway.
-Where is the first place you lived in the Cally?
Basically, my dad was a landlord
and my dad had a few properties at that time.
And my mum and her friends rented one. That is how she met my dad.
-He was her landlord?
Backing onto the walls of Pentonville prison
was the small working-class enclave where Eileen's mum rented a room from her dad.
When Charles Booth visited the area, number six Lesly Street was shared
by the families of a slaughterman,
a police sergeant and a brewery cellarman.
The street is no longer there.
This was Lesly Street.
And there were shops, and there was stables along here with shops.
It's mad. We lived at number six. Probably about here.
I was actually born here, somewhere along here.
Down there in the basement somewhere.
Born at home, 52 years ago.
Back then, a small road backing onto a prison
just off the Caledonian Road was one of the only places that Eileen's father, a Jamaican immigrant,
could afford to become a property owner.
He came in 1947 with £10.
Old black-and-white picture.
He started working in Caledonian market.
He saved his money and he bought his first house.
And in them days, it was easy to rent
because nobody wanted blacks, Irish, dogs, cats, dogs...
You know, it was easy.
This is you and Dad. All this has gone.
All these houses have been demolished.
He seduced her and she ended up having us four with him.
And that is the end of that story!
Our childhoods were fabulous. All the kids played together.
Children are children and it wasn't until the '70s,
once I was a teenager,
that I realised there was a major problem with racism and colour.
Before then, no. Childhood was great.
Wave after wave of outside influences had left their mark on the road.
But by the 1950s, its residents had learned how to adapt
to what they could not control.
For the people of the Cally, it felt like their road was in its heyday.
The people there were so different then.
You could leave your front door open and no-one would rob you,
if you know what I mean.
But now, you just go out after dark, you are scared of getting mugged!
You knew who the villains were. Well, I think we was all villains then.
Well, not... Sort of petty.
Fireworks, made in England.
One only. Shilling, tenpence, ninepence...
The road had always had a reputation as a place for a bit of dodgy dealing.
Between the 1920s and the 1960s,
the Cally was renowned for housing
the biggest second-hand goods market
in the capital.
Do you care for those, madam? The pair of them. Weighs 96 ounces.
But if you were in the know, it was probably the best place
in all of Britain to fence stolen property.
Not one-and-six each, the same as they charge in the shops, nor a shilling...
Living on the road taught its residents to appreciate a clever scam.
Our trick was you wore the first pair of trousers,
that's where you put your loot.
Then you put your second pair of trousers on so the police couldn't see your loot.
Honestly, it was that bad.
Honestly, it was really bad for thieving.
What for some would be a cause for shame
was for others just a way to help your neighbours get on in life.
Back then, you really could. You worked in Tesco...
You worked in Tesco's. Or you worked in the chemist or you worked wherever,
and, I don't know, someone would come in and go,
"Oh, put that bit of chicken through."
So you put it through. You wouldn't charge them. It didn't mean anything.
And some of the mums would have a trolley and you'd put it through.
You'd go, "Stick it through."
It's just how it was.
But everybody did it for everyone. It was like... It was how it was.
Not no more. Too many cameras about, I suppose.
The Caledonian market was closed down for good in 1963.
It was the end of an era.
That's what you got to look for now. Look.
Disgusting, isn't it?
The council decided the whole area needed modernising.
Ever since the 1930s, they had been aware of the problem of overcrowding around the road.
40 years later, the problem was acute.
In 1970, the Caledonian Road police station was besieged by more than 100 black youths.
'Police concern in this part of London at the moment
'is whether life for them will stay quiet in future
'with tension sometimes running very high indeed'
among the local immigrant population over poor houses and crowded conditions.
It is thought that it is these environmental and social difficulties
that are most likely
behind a recent pattern of problems
with the immigrant community...
Islington Council's solution to the problem
was to demolish street after street of Victorian terraces
and replace them with state-of-the-art council estates.
Once again, the people of the Caledonian Road were given no choice but to adapt to a new way of living.
-Your dad was a landlord.
-He had three or four houses?
-He could have been quite a wealthy man.
-So what happened to him instead?
-Um, he died! No, no, not really.
What happened was compulsory purchase. The houses were sold.
They would give you a little.
Back in them days, the houses were 2,000, 3,000.
And he had one more house... He bought a house...
Was he ruined by this, I mean, financially?
It... He hated Labour.
He hated the Labour Government.
He absolutely hated the Labour Government.
Because they took his houses. "They took my bloody houses of me."
My dad wasn't one to ponder. It was like, "What can I do?"
But if they still owned these houses today,
the Victorian houses that was here, then them houses today would be the same
as the ones in the Fawn Hill area, because they were the same area, the same type of houses,
they would probably be worth £2 million, each house today, so...
The Bemerton Estate opened in 1970.
The people of the Cally area couldn't wait to move in.
It had all the modern amenities -
indoor plumbing, communal play areas, and off-street parking.
We moved from that, in a street like that,
and this is my mum there, in a block of flats.
-That's not me, is it?
-Yeah, it is you.
-We had a good laugh.
-Listen, there was nothing wrong with living here.
We had good neighbours, everyone used to walk in and out of each other's houses.
-"All right, Bridie, it's only me."
-"Put the kettle on!"
It was very much like that.
At the time, I'm a teenager and the houses are torn down.
The houses were cold and damp. They had no heating.
The council had great ideas of building these flats
and giving everyone bathrooms and toilets and bedrooms for their children.
It wasn't horrible. It wasn't awful.
It was nice. Other people would look and go, "Bloody hell, it is mental!
"I want a big house and that." But it was my dream.
When I left school, I just wanted to get married
and get a council flat and have a baby.
That was my dream.
I promise you, this was my dream...
when I started out.
The house over in the corner, that was my flat that I got first of all.
I was so proud of it. It was a two-bedroom.
It had a little garden, like these here, a little garden, and to bring my children up there,
I thought was wonderful at the time.
I thought, you know, I thought I had won the lottery!
The dream of modern living didn't stand up to reality.
The recession of the 1980s hit the road hard.
Boarded-up shop fronts and second-hand stores replaced the big chain shops on the road.
Even the last bank closed.
And at the bottom of the road,
the prostitutes became bolder than ever.
Looking for business? Do you want business, love?
-All right, love.
-How much do you charge?
'I remember walking home. I was, like, 17,'
and cars used to pull up at the side of you.
It was pretty rough down there.
-Would you like business?
-Yeah, how much?
-One old woman once, she was 80, 80!
-It was pretty rough.
And she was waiting at the bus stop.
-Someone pulled up.
-She lived over here.
-"How much, darling?"
-"How much, darling?"
-She was 80 years old, honest to God, 80.
-Do you know what she did?
-She got in!
-No, she never.
-She said, "You're joking, aren't you?"
-She did, didn't she?
-"I'm 80 years old," she said.
-Yeah, she did, didn't she?
-She was getting the bus.
-She went, "Oh, fourpence ha'penny, love"!
Vice might have been on the rise around the Caledonian Road
but the community still battled to carry on a normal life.
Norma Steele was now married
and renting a house just one road away from where she was born.
We moved in here in November 1979 with a rent of £17.41.
Found the papers the other day.
Norma's mother's generation had planted trees.
Now the next generation began to make their own mark.
The transformation of the derelict land behind their houses.
This was a National car park. The gates were there.
-They were right next to my house.
But then we put pressure on the council
to take the car park over and make it into a communal garden.
I mean, to live in King's Cross
-and to have this at the back of you is absolutely brilliant.
-Right next to the Cally.
Norma and her neighbours built an oasis
in the middle of a red light district.
I used to patrol it.
And if anyone dropped litter I'd say, "There."
I mean, this is a new...
I'm amazed they got planning permission for that, to be honest.
Then, in March 1991,
the existence of the area was suddenly under threat.
NEWSREADER: 'At the turn of the century,
'an entirely new high-speed railway,
'the Union Railway, will be brought into service.
'This new line will link the Channel Tunnel with central London.'
REPORTER: 'The new station will be built just a few feet
'below the existing rail tracks.
'It will mean the demolition of 17 acres of land including 84 homes
'with a loss of just under 2,000 jobs from local businesses.'
British Rail had plans to bring the Channel Tunnel to King's Cross.
It involved grabbing land around the road
and forcing out the people who lived there,
just as when the station was first built.
One of the streets under threat was a small crescent
just off the bottom of the Caledonian Road.
It was home to civil servant Randal Keynes.
The plan was to knock down the whole of this part of the crescent
because that was immediately over this huge, underground station
that they were planning to build.
They would have, um...been able to keep this side,
it would have been on the edge of the hole
up to 40 or 50 feet deep, just there.
The whole work will centre around the site
so that will be the main worksite for at least six, seven, eight
and, in reality, probably 10 years.
Now, in that time, these people are expected to live
on top of what is known as the biggest building site in Europe.
I was... Well, how can I describe it?
I was just completely...devastated.
You just felt that all the years that you spent getting the area nice
and then suddenly it was going.
I mean, it was just such a devastating blow.
The community hadn't been given a thought.
Once again, "King's Cross, there's no community.
"There's only drug addicts and prostitutes,"
which, to me, was so untrue.
My first reaction was anger,
not simply at their claim for our land,
that they wanted to do take it to knock it down,
but because they had simply missed the point that we were there.
They just had this idea that
they didn't need to consider anyone living or working
on premises in their way because they were the rail company
and rail companies were allowed to rule.
The Caledonian Road found itself mixed up
in a massive moneymaking scheme.
In the property boom of the late 1980s,
British Rail had joined together with private developers to build
the Broadgate office complex over Liverpool Street Station
and now the rail company wanted to repeat that success
on an even bigger scale by completely transforming
30 acres of prime London real estate around the Caledonian Road.
They didn't really think about how much
our properties were worth to us.
They were only aware that the property as a whole,
if they could acquire it, would be worth so much more to them.
I remember at one meeting when British Rail were trying to sell us
how good it would be, their legal man was sitting at the table
with this big grin on his face all the way through and I freaked out.
I just stood up and ranted, "How can you grin?
"This is our lives you're talking about.
"Don't sit there grinning, you're laughing at us."
Some residents were determined to stay put, come what may,
but others, uncertain about the area's future, began to sell up.
The southern end of the road, always poor, hit rock bottom.
Council IT worker Harry Donnison documented
the descent of his road into blight
-These are pictures out my window.
-This window here.
There you can see that's a working girl
and this bloke was a sort of drug dealer-cum-customer.
I saw them and I thought,
"Yeah, I need that picture
"for part of the collection,"
and I pointed out the window
and caught them just in time.
But I could have taken the same picture the next day.
It wasn't as if it was a difficult shot to get, really.
It has to be said that British Rail were talking about
the neighbourhood as run-down and needing to be redeveloped.
It was obviously in their interests to allow
this whole atmosphere to get stronger and stronger.
They had no interest
in saving the neighbourhood from prostitution or drug dealing,
or winos collapsed on the pavement.
This is my front door, this would be not so unusual.
You open your front door and there'll be someone there just sprawled across the threshold
protesting as you try and step over them politely.
There's some more tramps.
Obviously street drinkers, they would have a very difficult time
and they would... they would die at times.
They wouldn't last that long.
This is quite a common sight.
You've got a syringe and a spoon there.
That was part of the heroin trade that was everywhere.
But with the prostitution and the street dealers, there would be violence.
Punters would come back to complain if they'd been sold something that wasn't any good
and that's when a lot of the violence would kick off.
Here you get examples of people who had been murdered
in the streets round about King's Cross and the Caledonian Road.
These are all police signs,
appeals for witnesses for various murders that took place in the area.
Guardian Angels was a temporary fashion in the '80s
and they did start coming around King's Cross
patrolling the streets, but they never really took off.
I think they were out of their depth, quite frankly.
There was very little standing in the way of British Rail's plan
to transform the area,
except the determination of a small community
not to abandon its home on the Caledonian Road.
We petitioned and we petitioned and we petitioned,
and we put in hundreds of petitions.
Did you think you had any chance of pushing British Rail back?
Not really, not to start with,
but that was the very first time I thought, "Well, this is it.
"We're not going to be looked down on and treated like idiots."
I mean, when you think we had to go to the House of Commons
to petition and I got cross-examined in the House of Commons.
I mean, how intimidating was that for me?
The legal battle lasted over five years,
long enough that the property boom turned to bust.
Already on the back foot, thanks to the changed economic situation,
British Rail was about to discover
that the Caledonian Road had a secret weapon.
Randal Keynes was the great-grandson of Charles Darwin
and the grandson of economist John Maynard Keynes.
These illustrious family connections would be used by Randal
to try to bring down the whole multi-million pound scheme.
When it came to the debates in the House of Lords,
I was able to approach two Peers of the Realm
who would ask a question and this was simply
could the Minister for Transport assure the House -
that was the language -
that the Government will pay for this Bill?
And he knew and he was able to tell the Peer presenting the Bill
that the answer would have to be no.
At that point, the whole thing unravelled
and the government told British Rail
that they must withdraw the Bill.
-'British Rail's preferred option will not now go ahead.
'That news brought jubilation for the campaigners
'who tonight are claiming a famous victory over British Rail in defence of their homes.'
It all sounds as though it was such a fight, but it was, I suppose,
and it did take an awful lot of my time,
but, you know, I just wanted a normal life.
I came to King's Cross from a life of privilege with a very good job
and learnt one big lesson while I was here
and that is that my assumptions
about how everyone in our country
has their home, their livelihoods, well protected,
that idea is just completely false if you are poor
and if you live in a place like this in the inner-city
and it needed so much trickery
and campaigning and fast thinking
to persuade the government
the British Rail scheme was wrong
and should be abandoned.
And I think we should all be ashamed about that.
At last, the people of the Cally managed to defeat outside forces,
determined to use the road to their own ends.
British Rail moved its grand scheme to nearby St Pancras Station.
The imminent arrival of hordes of European business people
finally encouraged the police to clear out the drunks,
drug addicts and prostitutes.
The Lower Caledonian Road began to move distinctly upmarket.
At the time, this was a hostel,
now it's Regents Quarter,
so now, as you can see,
just looking out the window, you've got an estate agent's there.
The place has changed.
You don't have the crack houses,
they're now estate agents, physiotherapist shops.
It's a terrible thing to say after all the appalling things I've said -
in some ways I find the place less interesting now.
The residents at the bottom of the Cally had saved the road
only to see it turned into a street indistinguishable from any other.
The prime location of the Caledonian Road
means that it will always attract those with their own ideas of how to use it.
If the development of King's Cross is leading the bottom of the road
inevitably upmarket, Cypriot landlord Andrew Panayi has taken the middle of the road
in a completely different direction.
Like many before him,
Andrew has taken advantage of a road without the usual rules
ever since he arrived there in 1985.
What did you think of England before you came here?
I saw the photographs of the River Thames, the tulips,
and I wanted to see it.
So how much money did you have in your pocket when you arrived in England?
I had a lot of money. I was rich.
£60 which I put in a bank, in Barclays bank.
-So everything you have now started with £60?
Andrew arrived as a qualified insolvency accountant.
After the property bubble of the late 1980s,
he was able to make his move and buy up property after property.
Andrew was an opportunist.
He had the money behind him,
so everything that became available, Andrew stepped in and went,
"Right, I'll buy that one,"
just like a Monopoly game.
People, though, at those days, they didn't recognise
the benefit of the residential above the shops.
But the rental income from the shop to me was only incidental.
So by developing the residential above, I could get more than enough
to compensate for even no income on the commercial.
Oh, this one was, until recently, a Chinese restaurant
but due to the recession it closed down,
and there are above it four residential units.
Andrew has worked out the best way
to take advantage of his property portfolio.
Above the supermarket, he's managed to fit in 20 flats.
As so often over the history of the Caledonian Road,
the best way is not always the strictly legal way.
I was not asking for planning permission. I was building.
Andrew has a reputation with Islington planners.
If you mention Andrew's name to the planners, the crucifixes come out.
It's... He does whatever he wants to do.
He gets enforcement action against him.
He totally disregards it and nothing happens.
If you go from the corner to my office,
you will see that there is an extra floor, the fifth floor built.
No planning permission.
They'll take enforcement action.
They will try to get him to pull it down and all the rest of it.
And inevitably they will back down.
And that's been, you know, for all the streets,
for all the properties he owns, he's always done something
that's not quite right, not quite legal, but he's managed to get away.
-Maybe it's his charisma, I don't know.
-And George was introduced to me to put me right.
I try to help him. I mean, when Andrew does developments,
he doesn't quite understand how things should be put together,
building regulations, how to stop things leaking.
So I try to guide him, because he takes advice from the people he hires.
Some might know what they're talking about, but most of the time they don't.
Do you feel misunderstood by the council?
Well, wouldn't you misunderstand a person like me
if you were in the council?
-What do you mean?
-With my unorthodox ways -
carry out the work first and ask them later.
Do you blame them?
But I think they shall basically realise
that over the last four years, I do abide the law.
And it's about time.
Not content with surreptitiously adding a whole new storey to the road,
Andrew has come up with a new innovation,
creating a whole new world underground.
We have here One Pound Shop,
and down there, this large area of 3,500 square feet is shelves.
What do you do? Commercial?
Or do you do something different?
And the quality is breathtaking.
This room here can only be used as a kitchen,
because the kitchen does not require daylight.
It's one of the rooms which they will not insist on daylight.
Now the bedrooms must have light.
With the curtains shut, as you can see,
look at the light that comes in. It is all about light.
The council's guideline is if you can read the paper in the room,
say at two or three o'clock in the afternoon, then it is acceptable.
Even with the curtains shut, there is sufficient light coming
to provide the facility.
And this is something which nobody thought before.
Who would rent a place like this? It looks like a student, no?
No. They are people who work in restaurants.
So during the day, and in the evening,
they will work in the restaurants,
and, of course, they need 12 hours rest.
They will come and sleep, because in the evening, this is very warm
and very cosy, especially for the winter.
They are habitable, yes?
-How many units are there?
-Well, there are 11 units.
It is now possible for perhaps 30 people to live
beneath a single shop on the Caledonian Road.
According to Andrew, it's all part of his efforts to rejuvenate the area.
I vet his tenants for him and supply him tenants.
He's my main agent.
And I exactly know the kind of tenants he's looking for.
Basically, I mean, we're looking for tenants, right,
who pay the rent first of all.
It's as simple as that!
Tenants that pay the rent, not only tenants that pay the rent
but the most important thing I've gathered, a tenant that can smile.
-You've got to be happy.
-You've got to be happy.
We don't want tenants who go into a place that is grumpy
because you know after two weeks, you've got problems for the rest of the six months.
We want happy tenants, we get along with them. If there's a problem, they're willing to wait.
It's like Earls Court, bedsit land,
Caledonian Road is becoming just like that.
Bedsits, bedsit land.
All the houses down here, rooms to let, just like that, years ago.
Exactly like this.
Sooner or later, we'll have thousands of Australians.
Flat nine in Andrew's underground world
is actually rented by an Australian.
Although he shares the £300-a-week rent with three French people.
-How did you end up finding this flat?
-Just off a real estate agent.
They said, "You'd better make up your mind pretty quick
-"or else this place will go."
-What did you think?
I thought it was a shit-hole. But of course, travelling and stuff,
this is how you got to live. This is my room.
This is where all the magic happens.
As you can see, it's only small but it gives me a room over my head.
This is the second bedroom. Three people live in here.
And this is our bathroom.
-So not a lot of windows?
-No, not a lot of ventilation at all.
-Um, you get used to it.
You have to go on the internet to realise what the weather is outside.
-You're not joking, are you?
So you can't really see what's going on, but, yeah, it's actually...
-Are there advantages to that?
-Yeah, it's cheap.
How long do you think you'll stay on the Cally?
Until I have to leave for Australia.
Do you have any sense of what the Cally people who come from here are like?
No, not really. I just feel like it's London,
you sort of keep your head down and you just keep going for it.
I don't know, I really haven't met anybody in this building.
There's been a few people, but they've complained,
the music being too loud and stuff like that.
Andrew's tenants may be just passing through the Cally.
He, however, has no intention of leaving.
With all the money you have, you don't have to work any more, do you?
-So why do you stay on the Cally?
OK, it takes such a long time,
a lifetime to create a business, successful business.
Doesn't it seem odd to you that as soon as you create
a successful business, you kill it?
Many years ago I went to Cyprus.
At the time my mother was about 77 and she said to me,
"I will give you a little advice.
"As long as the cow has milk, milk it."
Today, the fate of a decent chunk of the Caledonian Road lies under Andrew's control.
And as the working class of the old Cally is replaced
by a new breed of resident, soon there may be few left
to defend this most misunderstood of roads.
But for now, thanks to Andrew,
who just happened to have a pub to rent out,
Eileen is making sure there's still a heart at the centre of the Caledonian Road.
How many pints had you pulled before you took over this pub?
I'd never pulled a pint in my life. I'd never even been behind a bar, let alone a lot pint.
I'd never been on that side of the bar in my life.
So I remember when I got the keys, I went behind there
and I was like, "Oh-h! Oh, my God, what do I do?"
And the customers, I've got some great customers,
the old boys that come in. Percy sitting there,
I'm pulling a pint. "No, no, now leave it, put it down."
And they've told me, they've actually taught me everything I know.
The guy who owned this pub, Andrew,
he said "Do you know how to run a pub?" "No, I don't,
"but I think I'll be all right, I know the area."
And it took off, right from day one.
# That's life
# That's what all the people say... #
Do you ever want to leave the Cally and not come back?
I have left the Cally but I've had to come back.
I've had to come back.
I went to a little village called Much Hadham,
but it was too quiet. I mean, even of a night, when I go to bed,
you can hear the ambulances, the fire engines.
It's good, I like it. I've been out, I've come back, and I'm settled now.
# I've been a puppet, a pauper
# A pirate, a poet
# A pawn and a king
# I've been up and down and over and out
# And I know one thing Each time... #
When my husband died, I just felt it was time to move on.
Nobody could really believe that I was talking about it.
They just couldn't believe that I was going to leave the Cally.
But I did, and I haven't really looked back. Life moves on.
I'm not bitter about my life because, you know, like I said,
my dream was to get that flat over there and I got that.
And I had two children and my children are grown up and gone
and I'm here, I've got a little pub over the road that I run.
I don't own it. I rent it for a few years, that's it.
Unless we win the lottery, this is it.
I'll be in that old people's home in a couple of years' time and that's it.
And I know I'll be an old lady in a council flat
getting my state pension, that's it. That's it, that's how it is.
That's exactly how it is and that's how it will stay.
Next week we go to Portland Road, Notting Hill.
Full of multi-million-pound houses,
it's the ultimate London banker street.
But it was once the worst slum in London.
Portland Road was a slum as far as other people was concerned.
As far as we were concerned, it's where we lived.
And today, living on the same street,
some of the richest people in Britain, and some of the poorest.
My village is that way. Their village is that way.
To discover more about Britain's secret streets,
the Open University has produced a free guide book. Go to...
..and follow the links to the Open University, or call...
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
In 1886 Charles Booth embarked on an ambitious plan to visit every one of London's streets to record the social conditions of residents. His project took him 17 years.
Once he had finished he had constructed a groundbreaking series of maps which recorded the social class and standing of inhabitants. These maps transformed the way Victorians felt about their capital city.
This series takes six archetypal London streets as they are now, discovering how they have fared since Booth's day.
Booth colour coded each street, from yellow for the 'servant-keeping classes', down to black for the 'vicious and semi-criminal'. With the aid of maps the series explores why certain streets have been transformed from desperate slums to become some of the most desirable and valuable property in the UK, whilst others have barely changed.
This landmark series features residents past and present, exploring how what happened on the street in the last 125 years continues to shape the lives of those who live there now.
This episode features Caledonian Road, which starts next to King's Cross station and heads north for over a mile. From its beginning, the street has been resolutely working class and when Charles Booth visited he found it a depressing district.
But the people of 'the Cally', as it is affectionately known to residents, have held their community together despite being challenged by powerful outside forces as well as a reputation for being a bit rough around the edges.
Featuring fascinating and often passionate accounts from residents both past and present, the film tells the story of the changing faces of this remarkable street.