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Saturday October 20th 2018

The Ladykillers | 1955

The Ladykillers location: Copenhagen Tunnel, London
The Ladykillers location: dumping the bodies behind Mrs Wilberforce’s house: Copenhagen Tunnel, London

Classic Ealing black comedy, with Mrs Wilberforce (Katie Johnson) unwittingly giving houseroom to Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness, in a role intended for Alistair Sim) and his gang of robbers, who are posing as a string quintet.

The locale is London’s King’s Cross, in the days before the area became synonymous with drugs and prostitution.

The Ladykillers film location: The old gasometers on Cheney Road behind King's Cross
The Ladykillers location: the robbery: The old gasometers which used to stand on Cheney Road, behind King’s Cross

The robbery of the armoured car begins beneath the Victorian gasometers in which stood on Goods Way, behind King’s Cross Station, and actually took place on Battle Bridge Road.

This stretch of cobbled road, backed by the picturesque ironwork of the gasometers, was a familiar location seen in films as diverse as Alfie, Backbeat, Chaplin, The Missionary and L’accompagnatrice. The area has been extensively redeveloped as part of the regeneration of the King’s Cross area. Only one of the gasometers remains.

The Ladykillers location: St Pancras Station, London
The Ladykillers location: the station, which appears to face Mrs Wilberforce’s house: St Pancras Station, London

Mrs Wilberforce’s house seems to be at the end of a cul-de-sac facing St Pancras Station, now St Pancras International, in Euston Road, NW1. From the view of the station, the house is clearly meant to be in Argylle Street, running south from Euston Road. Yet Argylle Street is not a cul-de-sac, and the railway lines from the terminus run north.

The Ladykillers location: Frederica Street, London
The Ladykillers location: Mrs Wilberforce’s street – now redeveloped: Frederica Street, London

Although the view from the house is Argylle Street, the house itself was a set constructed on a vacant lot at the western end of Frederica Street, about a mile to the north, running west from Caledonian Road facing Pentonville Prison.

In keeping with the off-kilter storyline, the lopsided house was built with no true right-angles. Sadly, the whole street has since been redeveloped as a housing estate and no trace remains of the old houses seen in the movie.

The tunnel entrance, where the bodies are dropped into goods trailers leaving King’s Cross Station, was indeed behind Frederica Street. It's the entrance to the Copenhagen Tunnel. There are three separate tunnels, and the one used for the movie conveniently serves the line to the King’s Cross goods yards.

It can't be seen any longer from Frederica Street, but Vale Royal, a cul-de-sac running east from York Way, N7, leads to a small car park from which you can see the weed covered plot of land where the Professor and Louis (Herbert Lom) have their final shoot out, and the decayed grandeur of the tunnel entrances. The apparently lethal old-fashioned signals have long since been replaced.