Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, London is the British capital’s latest hotspot for shopping, dining and entertainment. The glamorous centre, just five minutes from the famous train station, is housed in a Victorian structure, which has been lovingly restored. Its function has changed over the years: it has served as stables, a bottle warehouse, a film set and a three thousand-capacity party hangout. Initially, however, it was a coal depot.

trains from yorkshire

As its name suggests, Coal Drops Yard was a place where coal was literally dropped. Built in the 1850s, the two buildings were designed to receive coal from South Yorkshire. Trains rolled in on an open viaduct below the roof. The floor of the wagons opened and the coal dropped to the floor below. There, it was loaded onto carriages, for transfer to narrowboats on Regents Canal.


Coal was eventually replaced by electricity. The coal drops were used as warehouses and stables for up to 1,500 horses. For a long time, the eastern building was used for storage by glass manufacturer Bagley’s. In the 1980s, it became part of the rave  scene. Thousands of party-goers gathered there for house music and revellery. Legal nightclubs and bars took over, including Heaven, Shoom and the legendary Bagley’s. Then, the recession hit. The buildings were abandoned and neglected, until they became part of the redevelopment of the King’s Cross area.


The £100 million restoration of Coal Drops Yard was led by architect Thomas Heatherwick. Known for works such as the Olympic Cauldron and the New Routemaster bus, he preserved the character of the Victorian structures and cobbled yard. The two buildings were joined by extending the roofs. The ‘kissing roofs’ created a canopy over a section of the yard, which is now used to host events. It also added a third floor, which gives stunning views over London.


Now, Coal Drops Yard is a unique place where old meets new and where commerce meets conscience. Designer labels are sold next to indie brands. Artisans show their crafts. There are many places to eat and drink, including a café that employs young offenders to help them integrate back into society. A busy cultural programme includes talks, exhibitions, pop-ups and workshops. A weekend market is held under the canopy, with fresh produce, street food and music. There is even an open-air cinema on the banks of the canal. The multi-concept space redefines retail in a unique setting that celebrates its industrial heritage.