When the Midland Railway commissioned William Barlow to design St Pancras Railway Station they also wanted a spectacular front to the building and the designs of George Gilbert Scott were selected, even though he far exceeded the cost and scope of the original commission. Gilbert Scott, whose other designs included the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and restorations of Worcester Cathedral and Lichfield Cathedral, wanted a building with the presence of an ornate palace in the Gothic Revival Style, and he certainly succeeded.
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).
Unlike Highgate Cemetery West, the East side is self-guided – you are given a map which marks the most notable people buried there and then left to explore at leisure. The East Cemetery was opened by the London Cemetery Company in 1860. The aim of the cemetery was to maximise space, which is why it was designed with less ornate decoration and buildings then the West Cemetery.
Highgate Cemetery had been on my list of places to visit for a long time and I finally managed to do so on a surprisingly warm and sunny weekend in January. The cemetery is split into two sites across the road from each other – Highgate Cemetery East will feature in my next post. The West Cemetery is accessed by guided tour only and costs £12 (which includes access to the East Cemetery which is self-guided). You can’t book in advance on a weekend but you must do so during the week – I had no problem getting on to a tour on the Sunday at 11am (tours start at 10.30).
The Royal Academy of Arts is based in Burlington House, a 17th century mansion. Construction began in 1664; the plot of land had been given to Sir John Denham, Charles II’s Surveyor of the Office of Works, as thanks for his loyalty to the King. Renovations to the exterior and interior took place over the years with the third Earl of Burlington in particular inspired by Italian architecture.
St James’ Church, Piccadilly is one of the churches designed and built by Christopher Wren, the foundation stone being laid on 3 April 1676. It was paid for by the Earl of St Albans who owned the land and probably selected Wren personally for the job.
The V&A is one of my favourite London museums. When I’m in the area I always pop in, visiting the fashion collection and then wandering up to the top floors. If you hit the right time – late afternoon on a weekday – you can pretty much guarantee to come across maybe only two other people and it feels like you have the whole place to yourself.
I’ve been to the Natural History Museum lots of times before but on this trip I wanted to pay particular attention to the building’s architecture, and of course to see the whale skeleton that replaced Dippy the diplodocus.
I visited Billingsgate Roman House and Baths as part of Open House London. There was a small queue to get in, as numbers down to the remains have to be restricted but it passed quickly and we were given an interesting talk about the remains while we waited. First discovered in 1848, outside of the arrangements for Open House London they can be visited at only certain times between April and November, so do check their website before making a visit.
I hadn’t planned on visiting Custom House for Open House London but as I’d been wandering taking photos nearby anyway I thought I’d pop in to see what it was all about. It doesn’t look like a very impressive building from this side – it’s the southern part of the building that looks out to the river and therefore the approaching ships which is more ornate.