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A monument to the British craftsman

Mark Easton | 00:00 UK time, Thursday, 5 May 2011

The ghost of Sir John Betjeman will be grinning from ear to ear tonight as it hovers among the guests at the grand opening of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in North London.

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

Not only does the event mark the climax of a project to rescue and resurrect a building the poet personally sought to protect from the bulldozer barbarians of the sixties, it also glorifies an extraordinary monument to the skills of the ordinary English working man.

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

The George Gilbert Scott masterpiece, with its Hogwarts-style Gothic spires and gargoyles, is a reminder of Victorian self-confidence and dynamism. But the building also looks forward, encouraging optimism for a new golden age of railways and a celebration of British craftsmanship and endeavour.

The story of what began as the Grand Midland Hotel is a journey through the ups and downs of 150 years of British history, beginning amid the clanging social turmoil of the industrial revolution. Rapidly expanding English towns and cities were competing with each other for dominance as the railways transformed the economic landscape.

In the East Midlands, pit owners and factory bosses were determined their region should not miss out on the exciting opportunities for trade and prestige. They built a train line north to Leeds, south towards London and with links radiating across the United Kingdom, engines thundering to South Wales, to Southern England, to Scotland. The Midland Railway became the largest coal haulier in the land and felt no need to follow its competitors in moving its Derby headquarters to the capital. The owners were proud men with a deep loyalty to their regional roots.

In 1863 the company was granted Royal Assent to build its own line and terminus in London and purchased land at St Pancras, bang next door to its arch-rivals, Great Northern Railway's station at Kings Cross. Construction required the demolition of many houses; the working-class inhabitants expelled without compensation and forced to settle in nearby slums. The necessary excavation of a local graveyard added to the misery - the building site became amassed with open coffins and bones, workers surrounded by decomposing bodies.

The grand staircase at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

It was a shocking episode by today's standards, but the investment promised a neglected and squalid corner of the capital would emerge regenerated. The men from the Midlands saw this as the opportunity to promote their region and rub some of its success in the noses of their rivals. In May 1865, the railway company launched a competition for a 150-bed hotel to be built within sight of GNR's Great Northern Hotel.

George Gilbert Scott, an architect better known for his ecclesiastical works, submitted a design that must have seen jaws drop: a quite staggering vision of neo-Gothic extravagance that blew the minds and original budget of the Midland railwaymen. It was an audacious submission, but Scott knew how to play to the conceit of his paymasters. He promised that the station would eclipse every other terminus in the city and would stand as a monumental advertisement for the enterprise and industry of their region. The red bricks, the signature material in his new creation, would be manufactured in the Midlands.

As the hotel's own history relates: "It was too much for the Midland to resist. The railwaymen took a deep breath, dug deep into their pockets and gave Scott's vision the 'clear' signal."

The Gothic revivalism presents something of a paradox: the building was the product of industrial wealth but its architecture was a reaction against machine production and industrialisation. Scott was celebrating medieval craftsmanship with an architectural style also infused with Christian conservative values. For five years, builders, stonemasons, carpenters and artists laboured to bring his design to life; the result a station that became known, fittingly, as "the cathedral of railways".

St Pancras Station and Midland Grand Hotel London, circa 1905

St Pancras Station and Midland Grand Hotel London, circa 1905

The building included many innovative features; hydraulic "ascending chambers", electric bells, flush-toilets, Britain's first revolving door and a concrete fire-proof structure. Midland Grand won a reputation as an excellent upmarket hotel charging 14 shillings a night, sixpence more than the luxurious Langham in Portland Place.

St Pancras was, in many ways, the apotheosis of the golden age of steam travel, a time when engineers were superstars and every town or city worth its name boasted a station and at least one railway hotel to welcome tourists and businessmen. The Midland's wagons shifted coal from the rich Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire seams, transmitting industrial power throughout the United Kingdom and across an empire. Their passenger services, meanwhile, promised romance and luxury.

But then, like Britain itself, the Midland Grand struggled to adapt to new ideas and new technology. The hotel's concrete structure was too stubborn to be altered for a clientele which increasingly craved privacy and modesty. Scott's design meant guests had to share washing and toilet facilities, five bathrooms served the 300 bedrooms. Twentieth century patrons demanded en-suite. The Midland Grand put a potty under the bed.

Unable to install the necessary plumbing, the hotel tried to woo guests with a Moroccan coffee house and an in-house orchestra. But it wasn't enough and in 1935 the owners accepted the inevitable and closed its doors. After surviving the war relatively intact, the building was used as offices by the nationalised British Rail, dreary state austerity clashing with the opulence and faded grandeur of Scott's vision. Much of the original stencilling and paintwork was simply whitewashed over and the stone pillars boarded up.

Sir John Betjemen

Sir John Betjemen

In the 1960s city planners ridiculed the hotel as indulgent, outdated and an obstacle to efficient development. There were moves to tear it down and replace it with brutalist office buildings. Enter Sir John Betjeman.

As a founder member of the Victorian Society with architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, Betjeman mobilised a popular campaign against the demolition plans and, despite his fear that St Pancras was "too beautiful and too romantic to survive", managed to secure Grade 1 listing for the building in 1967.

Now, 138 years to the very day since it first opened its doors, the Midland Grand is reborn as the St Pancras Renaissance, Scott's vision painstakingly and meticulously restored. The £150m renovation transports us back to an age when English railwaymen commissioned a staircase that takes the breath away, sweeping past marble pillars and golden fleur-de-lis decorated walls to a painted ceiling adorned with the Seven Virtues - wisdom, justice, courage, temperance, faith, hope and charity. The developer, Harry Handelsman, must have exhibited many if not all seven qualities to see the project through.

The listed ecclesiastical panelling in the old booking hall (now a bar serving English ales, punches and porters) features 135 diamond motifs, each with a different centre-piece to shame the advocates of mass production. In the Gilbert Scott restaurant, (offering Kentish pigeon, Glamorgan Sausages and Scottish Halibut) experts have spent months reapplying gold leaf to the original surround.

A general view of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

This is not simply an exercise in nostalgia and sentiment. The building celebrates contemporary British craftsmanship and cuisine, offering an optimistic vision for our railways and hospitality industries.

The "Eurostar Generation", as the train company operating literally outside the hotel windows likes to describe its market, will decide whether the hotel can prosper once again. High-speed rail travel and the tunnel links to Brussels, Paris and beyond have given rise, it is claimed, to an "explosion of cultural exchange", bringing art and good cooking and friendship and business to and fro across the Channel.

Last year, defying the weather and the recession, Eurostar carried a record 9.5 million people, prompting its Chief Executive Nicolas Petrovic to claim "a real renaissance in rail travel".
The company recently welcomed its 100 millionth passenger: he lived in North London, had a French wife and daughter and was heading to Lyon for a family wedding - the epitome of the Eurostar generation, perhaps.

With air travel's image scarred by a deep carbon footprint and frustrating security, and with petrol prices historically high, the railways are booming: more British passengers are travelling further by train than ever before.

There are industry claims that the luxury hotel business is also "about to enter a golden age" with one analyst suggesting that multinationals like InterContinental, Wyndham, Hilton and Marriott (which owns the St Pancras Renaissance) will each have more than a million rooms by 2020. Across Europe, the concept of the railway hotel is taking off again. In Lille, a down-at-heel industrial backwater now thriving thanks to the arrival of the Eurostar, major hoteliers jostle for trade around the central station.

What might please the board of the old Midland Railway most of all, however, is that their terminus has helped breathe new life into cities like Derby, Nottingham, Wolverhampton and Huddersfield, places struggling to find new markets in troubled economic times and quick to spot opportunity down the tracks. The project is also promising to contribute to the current regeneration of the run-down Kings Cross area, echoing the station's original ambition for the neighbourhood.

St Pancras was the gift of proud men from a proud English region. Tonight their ghosts may join those of Sir John Betjeman and Sir George Gilbert Scott, ethereal knights beaming at a restored monument to the skill and artistry of the British working man.

PS A couple of people have suggested I thought Wolverhampton was on the East Midlands line.  Actually, the point I was making is that, according to rail industry analysis, Wolverhampton residents have been among the most enthusiastic in purchasing through-tickets to Belgium and France.  The Eurostar Generation resides in Mercia!

 

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Fascinating informative blog and a wonderful building to look at just dont buy a glass of wine at the station if you want to avoid a shock!

  • Comment number 2.

    A wonderful insight into the history of the building and the mindset of the men that created it. A beautifully written piece.

  • Comment number 3.

    Brilliant narative of a industrial driven beauty, re-emerging in resplendance! Good reading Mark, thanks for the research!

  • Comment number 4.

    Excellent article but is it celebrating the British or English working man, the two not actually being the same thing?

  • Comment number 5.

    As a child in the 1970s, I loved travelling to London by train, arriving at St Pancras station. Even though it housed British Rail offices, it was a completely magical place - and with the narrow steps down to the underground it was a world away from how it is now. I look forward to visiting the hotel now it's been restored to glory, although I always have Douglas Adams' description from the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul in my head whenever I'm at St Pancras!

  • Comment number 6.

    4. At 09:59am 5th May 2011, Kenneth McMurtrie wrote:
    Excellent article but is it celebrating the British or English working man, the two not actually being the same thing?
    ---
    A remarkable amount of these Victorian civil engineering masterpieces were dug by Irish navies so it makes little difference. I was born and raised in Scotland to English parents and now live in England so am very aware of the difference between 'English" and 'British' but I think the Midland railway running through the very heart of England should be an 'English' achievement.

    On a wider note with far less pollution in London than in late Victorian/early 20th century years the hotel probably looks better now than it ever did. A great achievment.

  • Comment number 7.

    I remember going in as a child in the early 60s on school trips - it always seemed sad to me then that such a beautiful building should be so run down. I look forward to seeing it again!

  • Comment number 8.

    I would go and have a read of Michael Crick's blog entry, Tuesday 3 May 2011, 'Sale of Heath home gets provisional green light', and reflect on comparisons.

  • Comment number 9.

    Super article. I visited in 2006 before a long foreign holiday, would love to go back.
    Rhod Sharp on 5live had an interview with Simon Bradbury, author of a book about the station on 04/05/11 @ 0330. Look it up on iplayer, fascinating stuff.

  • Comment number 10.

    Can you even imagine what it would look like if they had knocked that down? Euston probably. Why did the politicians of the 1960's not advocate the destruction of the gothic Victorian surrounds of parliament so they could immerse themselves in the "white heat" of progress? Too comfy in the trappings of the old world? But concrete is good enough for the rest of us I guess... typical socialists.

  • Comment number 11.

    I fear that everywhere beyond Watford is being lumped together as "the North". Wolverhampton's connection with London is through Euston, as it was in the days of the LNWR.

    Also no mention of the brewery trade from Burton which played such an important role in the design of the whole station complex.

  • Comment number 12.

    RAILWAY line, not the vulgar and incorrect 'train' line please, Mark.

    But a good read indeed. I assume they've fixed the plumbing problems now....?

  • Comment number 13.

    I remember in 1967 sitting on the steps of the hotel with the Third Ear Band playing as a group of us tried to levitate the hotel to the new Covent Garden site on the south bank to prevent it being demolished - ah the good old days. Glad it stayed and is renewed.

  • Comment number 14.

    10. At 11:03am 5th May 2011, TurnipCruncher wrote:
    Can you even imagine what it would look like if they had knocked that down? Euston probably. Why did the politicians of the 1960's not advocate the destruction of the gothic Victorian surrounds of parliament so they could immerse themselves in the "white heat" of progress? Too comfy in the trappings of the old world? But concrete is good enough for the rest of us I guess... typical socialists.
    ---

    To be fair parliament wasn't derelict and didn't need demolition. While most of these 1960's concrete blocks have aged very badly what they replaced (like the slums of the gorbals in Glasgow) were far, far worse. Rose tinted glasses taken off there is nothing desirable about thousands of homes per acre with no indoor bathrooms. Likewise any politician socialist or otherwise who proposes building anything as ornate as St Pancras station will be crucified for wasting precious public funds (see Scottish Parliament building for an example of how happy the tax payer is to spend £400M on architecture)

    Incidentally demolition or not wasn't a Westminster matter but one for Camden council. Were the town planners in the 1960's who proposed demolition socialists? I can't even find an exact date for this proposed demolition much less work out the balance of seats in the council at the time.

  • Comment number 15.

    Having checked, just a bit more than 14/- per night nowadays. A good news story that I'll continue to enjoy from the outside, however.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sadly there are all too many "monuments" to British "craftsmen" in the modern building trade, blighting huge swathes of our land.

    Quick, cheap (visibly so) methods of construction, phoney stone, slate, brick and tile made from dyed cement etc. and appalling planning, requiring silly densities all contribute to this.

    The above materials deteriorate quickly and do not self-clean as does natural stone, say, so the already grim appearance worsens rapidly.

    To be fair, I suppose not many builders these days would claim to be craftsmen, but tradesmen, so are relieved of the burden of pride that would go with that, and can concentrate on making what money they may untroubled.

  • Comment number 17.

    I consider myself very lucky, having worked on the HS1 project from the begining. I had been around the building many times before and during restoration. I personally oversaw the production of the new lanterns in the main archway entrance, as well as the lighting for the main station and underground concourse. Not many people know this but it is the fourth most important building in London, as recognised by English Heritage, it has a grade 1 listing. Great for London to have such a gothic building, and next to it the British Library not so gothic but a great building to visit.

  • Comment number 18.

    I agree they've done an absolutely outstanding job of reviving not just the hotel & offices but the roof too however they may as well have knocked it down for all the use it is as a railway station.

    Get a domestic train using either the Midland or Thameslink routes & you won't see any of the fantastic building. Your train arrives into a flat roofed soulless box & you're forced to walk a not inconsiderable distance through the grand building. The actual trains underneath the magnificent roof are Eurostar trains that most of the country will never use. It's as big a waste as the empty building at Waterloo that Eurostar vacated.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am so proud of my country and it's acheivements. This building is an example of corporate pride and beauty. We need more esprit de corps (in our Nation these days).

  • Comment number 20.

    Loved the article but am wondering (penultimate paragraph) when any train to Wolverhampton ever left St Pancras.

  • Comment number 21.

    "They built a train line north to Leeds.."
    Railway line, they built a RAILWAY line - train line is a website...

    Mutters under breath, exits stage left.

  • Comment number 22.

    Great article - hankering to know how they solved the concrete / toilet conundrum.

  • Comment number 23.

    Brilliant!
    Best news I've read for a long time.
    Incidentally, I agree with others about the difference between British and English.

  • Comment number 24.

    fascinating article, and a beautiful building to be sure. let's just hope that the hotel is not out of reach (financially) to the 'ordinary' man, to whom this is supposed to be an 'extraordinary monument'.

  • Comment number 25.

    A very impressive building as I look at it from my office window, particularly compared to the Prince Charles sponsored carbuncle that is the British library.

    A few years ago a visiting South Aafrican thought it was Westminster Abbey, her jaw dropped when I told her it was a train station....

    BUT... would I have rather had the money spent on having less overcrowded trains which run on time?

  • Comment number 26.

    PS.. clay for the bricks was quarried in Loughborough, where I go dog walking! :-)

  • Comment number 27.

    Some buildings are worth spending the money on despite the loss to other potentially more worthy causes. Given that this Station can be freely visited by Joe public at any time I think it's worth it.

    Please let's not spend public money on Buildings that require us to pay to see !

  • Comment number 28.

    Saint Pancreas would be proud.

  • Comment number 29.

    Numerous statues that were removed from St. Pancras for the aborted refurbishment in about 1979. Might I ask whether these have been returned to their niches?

  • Comment number 30.

    "A very impressive building as I look at it from my office window, particularly compared to the Prince Charles sponsored carbuncle that is the British library."

    Clearly written by someone who's not ventured beyond the British Library courtyard. Granted, from the outside it bears an uneasy resemblance to an 80s Tesco (although it does use the same brick as its Gothic Revival neighbour), but inside it's one of the best-designed buildings of its age and, unlike Scott's original hotel, doesn't sacrifice practicality to effect.

  • Comment number 31.

    To those pedants who wish to differentiate between the British and the English working man: one could take a look at current employment figures and conclude that any distinction between the two populations is slight at best. :-P

    Wonderful read, BTW.

  • Comment number 32.

    Been walking past this building while on my way to the HS1 service for ages. Really pleased that it is finished and what an iconic building it is! Congratulations to all those involved, and a wonderful read Mark.

  • Comment number 33.

    Excellent article, well written. Better than yer average BBC blog ...

    I would love to have seen around the more remote nooks and crannies of that building before the restoration began.

  • Comment number 34.

    Over a few decades on the occasional bsuiness trips to London I have departed at Sp Pancras (From leicester) and have always marvelled at the magnificence of the victorian structure, both from inside and out. Tere was even a quant charm to the lofy stained walls and rooves that harked back to days of steam befor ethe renovation. This blog as given me an insight into the history of the station that has brought the story to life, thank you for a great posting, in future I will not only admire but understand.

  • Comment number 35.

    "22. At 12:59pm 5th May 2011, Squiz of Islington wrote:
    Great article - hankering to know how they solved the concrete / toilet conundrum."

    With great difficulty is the answer!! I read an interesting article on this a few years ago when they completed the apartments in the building (St Pancras Chambers) One of the ingenious ways was to use the existing chimneys as risers to run services through the building. If you are interested go to www.building.co.uk and search for an article called "Sleeping beauty awakes: the St Pancras Midland Grand hotel" from 22nd May 2009. Some nice shots of the apartments as well.

  • Comment number 36.

    #30....isn't the British Library now obsolete due to Kindle?

  • Comment number 37.

    Thank you, Mark, that was wonderfully written.

  • Comment number 38.

    Great article on a fantastic building. I urge anyone who gets the chance to take a look inside to do so - the restoration work undertaken on the interior is awesome, particularly the grand staircase. For those who want to read more about the whole station, I recommend The Transformation of St Pancras Station by Alastair Lansley; it's a well-written book with some great photography.

    Squiz - all the services for the new apartments are in the chimneys that service each former hotel room. This does mean that it's not possible to have an open fire in the apartments, but I'll take the flushing toilet!

    A very happy St Pancras resident

  • Comment number 39.

    I believe that this hotel was used by the Spice Girls for their first video "Wannabe" - can anybody corroborate this ?

  • Comment number 40.

    Does anybody else think this magnificant building and Barlows glorious train shed has been totally mutilated by the modern extention which looks like a massive shoe box stuck on as an afterthought ? Its not only the developers of the 1960's that had scant regard for history and context, their modern counterparts are little better...

  • Comment number 41.

    Your best article ever.

    Congratulations Mark.

    It's nice to read about the achievements of our country's past without being made to feel guilty.

  • Comment number 42.

    John Betjemen would without doubt be proud of this Railway Station for it is a shining example of what can be done if people care enough to save this for future generations and to have HS1 terminate here is is totally a bonus that makes this wonderful building advance into the 21 century with everything going for it!

    I catch the Eurostar every couple of weeks or so and it is a pleasure to arrive at such a great station in the UK.

    Well done to all concerned in its preservation and rebuilding

    D K an Ex Londoner

  • Comment number 43.

    Aawww...it's really lovely!!
    Such a shame that the average train / rail / British / English / World traveller won't be able to afford to try the comfy beds at £300+ night...let alone afford a drink in the swish bars...
    Just what we need in these austere times...

  • Comment number 44.

    @cynicalyorkie you are not only cynical but incorrect. Prince Charles had nothing to do with the British Library at St. Pancras indeed he described it as looking like "an academy for secret police." Another missed opportunity is the new tower at the RSC Stratford upon Avon theatre. Was this supposed to be a computer generated perspective fashioned lighthouse without the sea? Oh yes there is the boats and canal. Well, it looks and is more suited for a prison watch tower without barbed wire yet includes institutional grey metal staircase & interior concrete cladding with exposed crooked nuts and bolts. Sigh. So let's hail St Pancras and pray the hotel does not overcharge for a glass of wine!

  • Comment number 45.

    Dave Goodman, 39 - yes, you're absolutely right. You can also see it in Batman Begins.

    I was fortunate enough to visit before the renovations. The lack of care afforded to this piece of our architectural heritage by British Rail was bordering on the criminal but clearly it had much still to offer and deserves a new lease of life.

    Definitely one to visit this year.

  • Comment number 46.

    just as a by the way--has anyone actually scrutinised the re-furbished gargoyles on the roof center tower section---there are modern faces that the builders added when the stone facia was refurbished in 2002 ---use a telescope

  • Comment number 47.

    Dave Goodman--yes the Spice girls video was filmed their as was the early Batman film--they used a pully system to show Batman decending the big Gothic Stairwell

  • Comment number 48.

    A great piece on one of my favourite buildings. Just one small factual error. Trains to Wolverhampton don't depert from St Pancras. Instead, passengers must endure those architectural gems called Euston and Birmingham New Street. In a way, it's still relevant to this article as those stations are a good indication of what we would have if Betjeman hadn't intervened.

  • Comment number 49.

    Those of you complaining about the British Library don't sound like users to me. I agree the courtyard and approach are anonymous, but they're not offensive and I don't think they'll age badly. The great success of the BL however is not the outside but the inside. It is exciting to look at and great to work in. That'll do for me.

    It's also a public building. If you want a good snooze, there's no need to spend £300 on a room in the St Pancras, get a reader's pass (free) to the BL and go to one of the reading rooms.

  • Comment number 50.

    6. At 10:39am 5th May 2011, Peter_Sym wrote:
    A remarkable amount of these Victorian civil engineering masterpieces were dug by Irish navies so it makes little difference.

    Not all navvies were Irish of course, only about 1/3 of the navvies employed at the time came from Ireland - mainly in an attempt to escape the famine which was ravishing the island. Originally the navvies were the people who had dug the canal system (navigations) but during the Victorian era of railway building there was less work on canals and rather more on railways.

  • Comment number 51.

    48. At 16:09pm 5th May 2011, Jonathan wrote:
    A great piece on one of my favourite buildings. Just one small factual error. Trains to Wolverhampton don't depert from St Pancras. Instead, passengers must endure those architectural gems called Euston and Birmingham New Street. In a way, it's still relevant to this article as those stations are a good indication of what we would have if Betjeman hadn't intervened.



    Agreed, thank heavens for someone with an eye for the decent. Euston is disgusting - they should pull the mess down and rebuild the original .

  • Comment number 52.

    Fabulous renovation-well done everyone!
    I'm sure in the seventies they used to roast coffee somewhere in the building.

  • Comment number 53.

    Back in the late 80's i remeber going to meet my father as he worked in the building when the remodelling was first going on. After decades of beige and magnolia paint it was great to see the first glimpses of what it used to be. The magnificent drawing rooms covered from floor to ceiling with gold leaf and the amazing mosaic floor in the lobby under heat resistant rubber tiles.

    I look forward to visiting now that all the restorations are complete and hope to relive a little of my childhood.

  • Comment number 54.

    What an uplifting article, I’ve just visited the web site & it certainly looks a wonderful building.

    I’m not so sure about Mark’s claims of a Golden age for luxury Hotels though; sounds a little optimistic given the current economic situation & future concerns.
    I travel a lot on business & the real drive these days is value for money rather than luxury & every penny counts.

    The St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel is strategically placed though & I’m optimistic that the investment in this grand building will indeed pay off in time.

  • Comment number 55.

    I was at the Royal Vet. College (just up the road) in the 1970's, and of course never realised how right Betjemen was. Now I think everybody ought to spend at least one night there. I certainly will!

  • Comment number 56.

    Great article. Why does someone always have to bring up the Irish?

  • Comment number 57.

    About time somebody spoke up for the East Midlands! We lost alll the jobs in the 80s and 90s when the pits closed and have had a bad time . But Nottinghamshire is a great place to live -do please come and visit us!

  • Comment number 58.

    @verymuchso. Yes, have used the British Library hundreds of times and fyi it is supposed to be a place to stimulate one's consciousness not go to sleep! As a wake up call may I kindly draw your attention to the subject of Mark Easton's admirable article: "A Monument to British Craftsmen!" An outstanding explanation of a history when architects creatively designed and engineered craft into every aspect of a building interiors and magnificent exteriors!

  • Comment number 59.

    Quote:

    'Construction required the demolition of many houses; the working-class inhabitants expelled without compensation and forced to settle in nearby slums'.

    It's a pity Scott's vision didn't including provision for these poor people.

  • Comment number 60.

    10. At 11:03am 5th May 2011, TurnipCruncher wrote:
    "Can you even imagine what it would look like if they had knocked that down? Euston probably. Why did the politicians of the 1960's not advocate the destruction of the gothic Victorian surrounds of parliament so they could immerse themselves in the "white heat" of progress? Too comfy in the trappings of the old world? But concrete is good enough for the rest of us I guess... typical socialists."

    The gothic Midland`s Hotel was declined by the foreign office before its original conversion to a hotel.I agree with them,I think it`s an architectural monstrosity which no amount of Betjemenasque nostalgia can commend.

    However,there it is, and as a point of fact, Camden council were the lead partners in its current ressurrection.I believe they were Labour at the time.

  • Comment number 61.

    I've marvelled at St Pancras station and the hotel from the first time I passed through the station. In 2009 I had a day out in London, just to see how the new station alterations had been done and was hugely impressed. Now that the hotel has been completed I'll have to pop back for a reunion, it might be more expensive than last time as I now live in Sydney.

  • Comment number 62.

    At 13:05pm 5th May 2011, cynicalyorkie2 wrote:
    A very impressive building as I look at it from my office window, particularly compared to the Prince Charles sponsored carbuncle that is the British library.

    A few years ago a visiting South Aafrican thought it was Westminster Abbey, her jaw dropped when I told her it was a train station....

    BUT... would I have rather had the money spent on having less overcrowded trains which run on time?

    --------------------------------------------
    You are wrong on two counts which is a lot for so few sentences. First Prince Charles criticized the exterior of the British Library and so it is in no way sponsored by him.
    Second this restoration was paid for primarily with private money and therefore has nothing to do with government investment in trains.

    Most of the money came from this American Harry Handlesman who clearly cares a lot more for our heritage than our billionaires like Philip Green. All they care about is avoiding tax. I for one thank him for helping preserve such an extraordinary building.

  • Comment number 63.

    Excellent article! It brought back many memories of when I worked there in the 1970s. I think I might just have to go and see the old place again.

    NB: Although the building was owned by British Rail it was, in fact, the headquarters of British Transport Hotels.


  • Comment number 64.

    @worzel777 ( comment 59) yes I must agree "it is a pity Scott's vision didn't including provision for these poor people." The iinvisible foundations of suffering.

    The responsibility rests firmly on the architect. These days human values are more respected with community planning even though forced evictions are on the rise in urban planning globally as slums and poverty increase.

    http://www.cohre.org/topics/forced-evictions
    http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?typeid=19&catid=24&cid=3480


  • Comment number 65.

    Seemingly a Victorian country parson travelled to London by train. Wandering the City streets he came upon St. Pancras and assumed from its magnificent construction that it was a Cathedral. Entering he found a uniformed official who he took to be a churchwarden, and asked him what time the next Service was........ and received the next train departure time by reply.

  • Comment number 66.

    What an inspirational man ,who managed to get all people to fund his dreams and to motivate others to succeed in doing good for the benefit of all.

 

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