If you are local to Kentish Town you will have probably seen the amazing, Victorian building stood on the corner of Prince of Wales Road and will probably know it as 'The Old Pizza Express Building'. But we had a feeling its past was a lot more exciting than that, so Sophie did some research and discovered that its history links with its future.
"187 Kentish Town Road, also known as ‘the old Pizza Express building’, is a well-loved local landmark with a colourful history.
The site where the building now stands was originally in the grounds of a large house called Grafton Lodge, which had multiple uses over the years. In 1841, Eliza King ran a Dame School here, and after the passing of the Great Reform Bill, the St Pancras Reform club often used the Lodge as a meeting place.
After the turn of the century, as working people found themselves with more leisure time, and the railway station made the area more accessible, Ernest Mansell started an open-air cinema here. The Coronation Gardens Cinema operated from 1911 to 1913, until the grander Palace Cinema opened on the corner of Prince of Wales Road from 1913 to 1959.
In October 1929 the North Western Polytechnic opened on this site, in the impressive Georgian brick and stone building designed by W.E. Riley that survives today. The college was chaired by Sir William Job Collins, a renowned eye surgeon who went on to become MP for West St Pancras. Over 2,000 students enrolled on courses in social sciences, humanities and the arts. The grand opening attracted one of the largest crowds ever seen in Kentish Town and cinema audiences across the country watched the event on Pathé News.
127 Kentish Town Road was the main assembly hall for the college, with a stage at the back. A separate women’s entrance led to a women’s department on the top floor and a girls’ day trade school. By 1967, it had become the capital’s largest polytechnic, and in 1992 it became the University of North London. By 1996 the university had moved away from Kentish Town, leaving the building empty. Despite local campaigning, it was turned into apartments.
Fortunately, the beautiful assembly hall was preserved as a Grade II-listed building. It became a Pizza Express from 1998 to 2013. Throughout the beginning of this century, the building has been a home to squatters, a venue for diverse cultural events, and the subject of local campaigns both to preserve the façade and to bring a cinema and arts centre back to the space, honouring its roots as a local cultural hub."
Amazing. Thanks Sophie and also to the residents of One Prince of Wales and their super interesting website, where you can find lots of interesting, historical photos of the building and a tonne of information.
Work has now begun to transform the building in to a new cultural hub on the ground floor, with stylish new apartments above. We can't wait to tell you more soon but it in meantime, if you have any questions, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.