I travel through St Pancras a lot but don’t often have the chance to take photographs so I made sure to do so on my last trip. A beautiful example of Victorian Gothic architecture it was opened in 1868 by the Midland Railway Company. Designed by William Henry Barlow, after it opened the MRC built the Midland Grand Hotel as part of the station’s facade (I’ll talk about that in the next post).
It was a massive building project at the time with the roof of wrought iron ribs the largest single spanned roof in the world when it was built, in a design that was imitated across the world including at Grand Central Station in New York.
The name St Pancras comes from the name of the neighbourhood which was cleared to make room for the station with no consideration given to those who were removed and the Church of St Pancras was destroyed completely though it was later re-erected piece by piece in Wanstead. St Pancras himself was a 14 year old boy who converted to Christianity and when he refused to renounce his faith he was beheaded in Rome in 304 AD.
The trains began to run on 18 July 1868 with the station opened to the public in October of that year and it became a major hub, as it is today, for travel to cities such as Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield. It suffered bomb damage during the Second World War but was also an important hub for the movement of troops and the evacuation of children out of the capital.
The station and the Midland Hotel began to decline with the hotel closing in 1935 and being used as offices until 1962 when British Railways declared plans to demolish the building. There was a massive outcry against the plans lead by the poet John Betjeman and the station and hotel were saved and given Grade I listed status in 1967. That is why this lovely statue of Betjeman can be found in the upper concourse, gazing up at the ceiling that wouldn’t be there without him.
The other major sculpture at St Pancras is the significantly larger “The Meeting Place” by Paul Day. An embracing couple are mounted on a plinth around which are other sculptures which represent train travel and the railways. I’m not sure that it would crack my top twenty but it is certainly an impressive piece of work.
A beautiful station I’d highly recommend anyone passing though to spend a minute to appreciate your surroundings. You can find more photos here.
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