New temporary open space in heart of Euston
The Mayor of Camden, Councillor Nasim Ali has officially opened a brand new temporary open space at the former Maria Fidelis School.
This new open space has been created on the former Maria Fidelis School site in Starcross Street and will be open for the public to enjoy for the duration of HS2 works in Euston.
Starcross Yard open space is part of Camden’s programme of work to help mitigate the impacts of HS2 in the Euston Area. Improvements are also nearing completion at Cumberland Market and Ampthill Square Estate.
The creation of a new public open space on the site of the former Maria Fidelis School is a cause for celebration.
I am delighted to be able to officially open what I am sure will be a very popular location for the local community to meet friends and relax in a wonderful setting.
Access to quality open spaces is vital for all our communities, particularly for those living near to the HS2 works.
The ethos behind the creation of Starcross Yard open space is firmly based on expanding our future neighbourhood and circular economy project that is already running in Somers Town.
We have been able to reuse, repair and refurbish materials from across the borough to help create the yard. This includes railings and gates refurbished from the former St James's Gardens, which was located just behind the old school building.
The cast iron pillars which form the pergola have been salvaged from the Kings Cross station development. The cobble setts, granite blocks and flagstones have also been reclaimed from previous highways schemes across the borough, including some of the original 19th century cobbles from Cumberland Market. Finally, the granite kerbs which the railings sit on have been salvaged from Alfred Place as part of the West End Project works. This approach reduces the demand for raw materials and new products, which will help reduce carbon emissions.
Other improvements include 14 new trees, a large lawn and new planting including a wildflower meadow area. The benches and bins have been refurbished from across the borough.
Councillor Adam Harrison continued:
"The construction of High Speed Two is going to eventually cause the loss of two hectares of public green space for the Regent’s Park area – the size of three football pitches.
“The council previously secured several green space assurances from HS2 to help mitigate this loss of open space and to somewhat alleviate the impact of the construction works.
“Whilst these don’t make up for the loss of open space in the area because of HS2, it’s important we make the most of the spaces we do have. These projects have helped create a greener and more welcoming space for the community to enjoy for years to come.
“These are important to local communities because they improve health and wellbeing, the character of an area, as well as creating habitats for wildlife and benefitting the environment.”
Following the global pandemic, it is recognised more than ever the importance of having access to good quality green spaces.
Walking for just 30 minutes a day can improve your mental health and reduce the risk of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
The council are working with the Somers Town Museum who are creating a ‘Voices of Maria Fidelis – Echoes of the old School’ interactive trail which residents and park users can access later this year to hear stories from former students, listen to the choir and find out more about St James’s Gardens.
These improvements have been funded jointly by Camden’s Community Investment Programme, HS2 Green Space Assurance Fund and the Government’s Levelling up Parks fund.
Maria Fidelis School
Originally the school, built south of Clarendon Square, was an "industrial school" funded by charitable appeals and offered girls a basic education.
The school evolved, from a convent boarding school for girls, to a fee-paying day school and then into St Alyosius grammar school. In 1974 the school merged with St Vincent's Secondary School and became Maria Fidelis Comprehensive School. As well as an Upper School in Somers Town there was a Lower School for younger girls based originally in Victorian school buildings in North Gower Street which moved to Starcross Street in Somers Town in the early 1990s. From 2013 both girls and boys attended.
In 2019 a new building for the school was opened in Drummond Crescent. On 22 April 2019 the original school site officially closed which brought together the Upper and Lowers Schools on one site. Today over one thousand pupils attend the school supported by the sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus who remain involved in the school's administration.