St Pancras railway station is sometimes called ‘the cathedral of the railways’ and includes two of the most celebrated structures built in Victorian Britain – the train shed, which used to be the largest single-span enclosed space in the world, and the frontage of the station, which is an impressive example of Victorian Gothic architecture.
The station was erected in 1868 and during the 2000s it was renovated and expanded at a cost of £800 million, with an opening ceremony in 2007 attended by the Queen. The redeveloped terminus has been described by the travel writer Simon Calder as ‘the world’s most wonderful railway station’. The station is the terminus for East Midlands Trains services from London to Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Lincoln and smaller towns in between, and for Eurostar’s high-speed services to Paris, Brussels and Lille. First Capital Connect trains on the cross-London Thameslink route arrive at platforms beneath the main station and offer services south to Gatwick Airport, Brighton, and north to Luton Airport parkway station for Luton Airport and Bedford. High-speed domestic services to Kent, run by Southeastern, began in December 2009. The restored station has 15 platforms, a shopping centre and a bus station.
The initial plan of the station was laid out by William Barlow, the Midland Railway consulting engineer. A competition was held for the design of the station buildings and Gothic Revival designs by George Gilbert Scott were chosen. The sheer grandeur of Scott’s frontage impressed the Midland’s directors, who wanted to outclass other stations.
The single-span elliptical overall roof was the largest such structure in the world at the time of its completion. The materials used were wrought-iron framework of lattice design, with glass covering the middle half and timber (inside) and slate (outside) covering the outer quarters. The two end screens were glazed in a vertical rectangular grid pattern with decorative timber cladding around the edge and wrought iron finials around the outer edge. It was 207 metres long, 72 metres wide, and 30 metres high at the apex above the tracks.
Today St Pancras International remains one of the greatest Victorian buildings in London and it has been voted one of London’s favourite landmarks. The place has also very rich, colourful history.
The construction of the station was commenced in 1866 and at its completion in 1868 it became the largest enclosed space in the world. The red brick Gothic front façade, which is one of the most recognisable features of St Pancras, was created as part of a competition in 1865, and became the Midland Grand Hotel. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and built between 1868 and 1876. In 1935 the Midland Grand Hotel was closed and the building became a railway office. The station played an important role during both world wars, acting as a meeting place for troops, a departure point for soldiers off to war, and helping to transport children out of London to the safer countryside. During World War II the station was hit in the London Blitz. Despite the devastation, London Midland and Scottish Railway engineers soon had the platforms working again. After avoiding the planned demolition in the 1960s, the complex was renovated and expanded during the 2000s. A security-sealed terminal area was constructed for Eurostar services to Continental Europe, along with platforms for domestic connections to the north and south-east of England. The restored station has 15 platforms, a shopping centre and a bus station.