Mailbag: King’s Cross Gaffe in Deathly Hallows Lectures

It would hurt to learn what a doofus I am if readers were not so wonderfully kind in presenting my mistakes in their letters to me. I give you this note from Bill Davis about my Harry Potter’s Bookshelf and Deathly Hallows Lectures as a case in point. He wrote (and I share this with his permission):


I just read “The Deathly Hallow’s Lectures” and “Harry Potter’s Bookshelf”.  I found them to be quite interesting.   However, in both books (and I suspect some of your other Harry Potter books),  there are frequent references to King’s Cross tube station.   You stress the significance of this being an underground location.

I think that you may be confusing the King’s Cross train station and the King’s Cross underground station.  They are right beside each other, but they are separate facilities.  Harry would have traveled from the train station to Hogwarts.  There is no reference to the King’s Cross tube station in any of the seven books (as far as I remember).  Harry travels by tube at least twice (in book 1 and Book 5), but he wasn’t close to King’s Cross tube station based on the descriptions.

I happened to have been in the King’s Cross underground station a few weeks ago, and I don’t recall seeing in cathedral like ceilings.  It looked like a typical tube station (although it is a big station and quite busy).  The tube station has only 8 platforms (numbered 1 through 8).

The adjacent train station does have features that are more consistent with Harry’s description.   It is also the location that he must have traveled through most every year.  King’s Cross train station (currently under renovation) has 12 platforms (platform 0 through platform 11, I believe).   This would may sense with platform 9 and ¾ and the fact that Harry is traveling by a full size train.  (Even though it is a magical train, it makes more sense for it to left from King’s Cross train station for a long journey to the north  than King’s Cross tube station.)

The train station (like most train stations) is at about the same level as the streets outside.  It could not be reasonably described as being underground.  It does have high ceilings (at least in some areas) that might be considered to be cathedral like.


Bill Davis

What’s great is the guy thanks me after doing me the favor of correcting an important oversight (um, ‘point of ignorance’ is probably closer to the fact).

Thank you, Bill Davis! If ever my publishers go to a second edition of the two books you name, I’ll clean up the mess I’ve made of this simple but important distinction.


John, blushing

[The picture above is of the new concourse at King’s Cross Station, whose cathedral like ceilings may have been inspired by Harry’s trip to Logos-land in Deathly Hallows.]


  1. Well spoken, sir. Although the old King’s Cross did have vaulted ceilings, so the description is fairly factual at any case. What’s odd about it is that there wasn’t actually a barrier between platforms 9 and 10, although they’ve since helpfully renumbered the platforms to avoid disappointing HP fans.

    When Rowling was asked about this, as I recall, she admitted to have been mistaking St Pancras for King’s Cross. Which proved equally problematic, as there isn’t the requisite barrier there, either.

    North of the border, fans are keen to point out that in fact Edinburgh Waverley, a station JKR would have known rather well, seems to match the needed descriptions quite well, thanks very much. (Though I’ll verify this next time I’m down there.)

    But at this point we may be going after a butterfly with a shotgun…

  2. Mary Ellen says

    And don’t forget that St. Pancras was the site used for the exterior shots in the movies, not Kings Cross, so things get even more confused.

    I agree that the new Kings Cross Concourse has a dream-like, cloud-like look. Very cool.

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