When the St. Pancras railway station opened in 1868 its wrought iron and glass train shed, designed by Henry Barlow, was the largest single structure roof in the world. It was 689 feet long, 240 feet wide and 100 feet high. The station was the pride of the Midland Railway and was fronted by a Victorian gothic revival hotel, The Midland Grand, designed by George Gilbert Scott.
During the last half of the 20th century the buildings fell into disrepair; the hotel was used as a set for horror movies, and there was a movement to tear the buildings down. They were saved, in part, by the advocacy of the poet John Betjeman, whose statue stands overlooking the platforms where the Eurostar, the high speed Channel Tunnel train, arrives. There is a second, larger statue by Paul Day, called “The Meeting Place,” in which lovers embrace. The base has reliefs from the real and imagined history of the station.
To accommodate the Eurostar, the original train shed was lengthened with a glass shed extension of a different pattern, the modern blending nicely with Barlow’s original design. Aside from the Eurostar the station welcomes Themes Link trains as well as suburban trains and a train to Gatwick Airport. It is also a major hub for London’s Underground.
The hotel has been restored and expanded by Marriott as the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel. The old station booking office is now the hotel’s bar, with drinks served over the counter over which tickets used to pass. “The Booking Office” also serves a mean full English breakfast. Suzi and I stayed in this hotel in 2013 and again in 2014. To see pictures of the restored hotel please click here. This last trip was a 24 hour layover between flights. We opted to stay at a railway rather than an airport hotel. The excitement of watching an international high speed express train arrive is just too great for me to resist.