Essential Architecture-  London

S. Pancras Station


William Henry Barlow with R. M. Ordish. Hotel at front Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.


central London


1864 - 1868


NeoGothic (After Lord Palmerston vetoed Scott's Gothic designs for the Foreign Office) "At St Pancras, however, Scott got his chance. This time he decided to play down the Italian element. The polychromy is still there, But the skyline is no longer rectangular but syncopated, no longer Italian but Dutch or Flemish; and some of the details are Early English or Early French. The Cloth Hall at Ypres is the origin of the station entrance tower; Oudenaarde town hall probably supplied the inspiration for his gabled and pinnacled hotel entrance; the mouldings around the great entrance are Early French; the first-floor oriel windows incorporate distant echoes of Bishop Bridport's tomb at Salisbury Cathedral; other windows just as clearly, are Anglicised Venetian. With a pedigree like that - Pugin, Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc - now wonder Scott thought his design 'almost too good for its purpose'." J Mordaunt Crook, The Dilemma of Style, John Murray, London 1989 p93


brick and steel 74 meter clear span


railway station. In popular culture a losing competition entry for the Westminster Palace Houses of Parliament.
  The former Midland Grand Hotel at the front of St Pancras railway station.
  Close up view of the clock tower`and St Pancras station spires; in the foreground is the trainshed undergoing renovation.
  A Class 47 locomotive about to depart with a passenger train in January 2001.
The gasometers in the background, which are listed buildings, were removed during construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and rebuilt nearby.
  The interior of the Barlow Trainshed, circa 1870
  The new part.
St Pancras station is a railway station in north central London, between the new British Library building to its west and King's Cross station to its east. It is the southern terminus of the Midland Main Line, and is the main departure point from London for services to the East Midlands, via Leicester to Sheffield and other parts of Yorkshire.

St Pancras includes two of the most celebrated structures built in Britain in the Victorian era. The main trainshed (completed 1868), by the engineer William Henry Barlow, was the largest single-span structure built up to that time. In front of it is St Pancras Chambers, formerly the Midland Grand Hotel (1868-77), one of the most impressive examples of a type of Victorian gothic architecture. Designed by architect George Gilbert Scott, the building initally appears to be in a polychromatic Italian Gothic style - inspired by John Ruskin's Stones of Venice- but on a closer viewing, it incorporates features from a variety of periods and countries. [2] From such an eclectic approach, Scott, anticipated that a new genre would emerge. [3]

The Trainshed is currently closed to the public. Access to the spectacular interiors of the former hotel is by tour only.

Midland Mainline trains terminate in the western part of the extension which will accommodate Eurostar trains when the station becomes the London terminus of High Speed 1 (HS1) on 14th November 2007. Passengers using Midland Mainline services are now able to catch a glimpse of the restored roof of the Trainshed from the escalators to platform level.



The station was commissioned by the Midland Railway. Prior to the 1860s the company had a concentration of routes in the Midlands and north of London but not its own route to the capital. From 1840 Midland trains to and from London ran from Euston using the London and North Western line via a junction at Rugby. Congestion and delays south of Rugby quickly became commonplace as services expanded.

A new London line was proposed around 1845, towards the end of the period of speculation later dubbed "Railway Mania". The Great Northern line was approved by Parliament in 1846 and a Midland Railway spur from Leicester to Hitchin was agreed in 1847. While the Great Northern line was constructed, the Midland spur was quietly abandoned in 1850 due to financial problems. Pressure from businesses in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire, notably from William Whitbread, who owned roughly 12% of the land over which the line would run, revived the spur scheme. The line was re-presented to Parliament and approved in 1853. Building began quickly but did not proceed at any great pace: the line was opened in mid-1857. The Midland Railway secured initial running power for seven years at a minimum of £20,000 a year. The Midland Company now had two routes into London, through Euston and King's Cross, and traffic quickly expanded to take advantage, especially with the coal trade with the Midland Railway transporting around a fifth of the total coal to London by 1852.

In mid-1862, due to the enormous traffic for the second International Exhibition, the Great Northern and the Midland companies clashed over the restricted capacity of the line. This was regarded as the stimulus for the Midland Company to build its own line and surveying for a 49.75-mile (80-km) line from Bedford to London began in October 1862. However, the Midland Company had been buying large portions of land in the parish of St Pancras since 1861.

St Pancras was an unprepossessing district, with notorious slums. The area's other landmarks were the covered Fleet River, Regent's Canal, a gas-works, and an old church with a large graveyard. For the terminus the Midland Railway chose a site backing onto New Road (later Euston Road) and bounded by St Pancras Road and Brewer Street, a few hundred yards to the east of Euston and immediately to the west of King's Cross station. The problem canal was to be tunnelled under (the Belsize Tunnel), although the churchyard and the gas-works were added problems. The site was occupied by housing, the estates of Somers Town and the slums of Agar-Town. The landlords sold up for £19,500 and cleared out the residents, without compensation, for a further £200. The church was demolished and a replacement built for £12,000 in 1868–69 in Kentish Town. The demolished church was re-erected piece by piece in 1867 as a Congregational church in Wanstead, and still exists (now a United Reformed church).

The company intended to connect from the site through a tunnel (the St Pancras Branch) to the new Metropolitan Line, opened in 1863 running from Paddington to Farringdon Street below the Euston Road, providing for a through route to Kent.

Design and construction
The sloping and irregular form of the site posed certain problems and the Midland Railway directors were determined to impress London with their new station. They could see the ornateness of Euston, with its famous arch; the functional success of Lewis Cubitt's King's Cross; the design innovations in iron, glass and layout by Brunel at Paddington; and, significantly, the single span roof designs of John Hawkshaw being built at Charing Cross and Cannon Street.

The initial plan of the station was laid out by William Henry Barlow, the Midland's consulting engineer. The single span roof of 74 m (243 ft), the greatest built up to that time, was adopted on purely economic grounds to make maximum use of the space without obstructions (the roof design was a collaboration between Barlow and Rowland Mason Ordish). A space for a fronting transverse hotel was included in the plan and the overall plan was accepted in early 1865.

A competition was held for the actual design of the station buildings and hotel in May 1865. Eleven architects were invited to compete, submitting their designs in August. In January 1866 the brick Gothic revival designs of the prominent George Gilbert Scott were chosen. There was some disquiet at the choice, in part because Scott's designs, at £315,000, were by far the most expensive. The sheer grandeur of Scott's frontage impressed the Midland Railway directors, achieving their objective of outclassing every other station in the capital. A subsequent financial squeeze trimmed several floors from the frontage and certain ornateness but the impressive design largely remained.

Construction of the station, minus the roof which was a separate tender, was budgeted at £310,000, and after a few problems Waring Brothers' tender of £320,000 was accepted. The roof tender went to the Butterley Company for £117,000. Work began in the autumn of 1864 with a temporary bridge over the canal and the demolition of Somers Town and Agar Town. Construction of the station foundations did not start until July 1866 and delays through technical problems, especially in the roof construction, were commonplace.

The graveyard posed the initial problems - the main line was to pass over it on a girder bridge and the branch to the Metropolitan under it in a tunnel. Disturbance of the remains was expected but was, initially, carelessly handled. The tunnelling was especially delayed by the presence of decomposing human remains, the many coffins encountered, and a London-wide outbreak of cholera leading to the requirement to enclose the River Fleet entirely in iron. Despite this the connection was completed in January 1867.

The company was hoping to complete most essential building by January 1868. The goods station in Agar Town received its first train in September 1867, but passenger services through to the Metropolitan line did not begin until July 1868. However, the station was not finished when it opened, to little ceremony, on 1 October. The final rib for the train shed roof had been fitted only in mid-September and the station was a mass of temporary structures for the passengers. The first train, an express for Manchester, ran non-stop from Kentish Town to Leicester - the longest non-stop run in the world at 97 miles (156 km).

Work on the Midland Grand Hotel did not begin until mid-1868. With construction in a number of stages, the hotel did not open to customers until 5 May 1873. The process of adding fixtures and fittings was contentious as the Midland Railway cut Scott's perceived extravagances and only in late 1876 was Scott finally paid off. The total costs for the building were £438,000. The hotel was closed in 1935, and the building was subsequently used as offices before falling vacant in the 1980s. The Hotel was a popular location for film and television productions and appeared in both the Spice Girls first video and Batman Begins. In 2005 planning consent was granted for a refurbishment of the hotel building. Most of the public rooms and a small fraction of the bedrooms of the original hotel will be incorporated into a new hotel, but the majority of the new hotel's bedrooms will be in a newly built wing to the west of the Victorian trainshed. The remainder of the original hotel will be converted into apartments.


London and Continental Railways (LCR) was selected by the UK government in 1996 to undertake the reconstruction of St Pancras, as well as construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (externally branded as 'High Speed 1') and the takeover of the British share of the Eurostar operation, Eurostar (UK). The original LCR consortium members were National Express Group, Virgin Group, SG Warburg, Bechtel and London Electricity. Whilst the project was under development by British Rail it was managed by Union Railways which became a wholly owned subsidiary of LCR.

Originally the whole of the CTRL, including St Pancras, was to be constructed as a single project. However, in 1998 it ran into serious financial difficulties and with its future looking uncertain the project was split into two separate phases, to be managed by Union Railways (South) and Union Railways (North). A recovery programme was agreed whereby LCR sold government-backed bonds worth £1.6bn to pay for the construction of Section 1, with the future of Section 2 (including St Pancras)on target for completion in 2007. The original intention had been for the new railway, once completed, to be run by Union Railways as a separate line to the rest of the British railway network. However as part of the 1998 rescue plan it was agreed that following completion section 1 would be purchased by Railtrack, along with an option to purchase section 2. In return Railtrack were committed to operate the whole route as well as St Pancras station which, unlike all other former British Rail stations, was transferred to LCR/Union Railways in 1996.

In 2001 Railtrack announced that due to its own financial problems it would not undertake to purchase section 2 once it was completed. This triggered a second restructuring. The 2002 plan agreed that the two sections would have different infrastructure owners (Railtrack for section 1, LCR for section 2) but with common management by Railtrack. Following yet further financial problems at Railtrack its interest in the CTRL was sold back to LCR who then sold the operating rights for the completed line to Network Rail, Railtrack's successor. Under this arrangement LCR will become the sole owner of both sections of High Speed 1 and St Pancras, as per the original 1996 plan.

As a consequence of the project's restructuring the LCR consortium is, as of 2006, construction firms Arup, Bechtel, Halcrow and Systra (who form Rail Link Engineering (RLE)), transport operators National Express Group and SNCF (who operate the Eurostar (UK) share of the Eurostar service with SNCB and British Airways), electricity company EDF and the UBS Investment Bank. On completion of section 1 by RLE, the line was handed over to Union Railways (South), who then handed it over to London & Continental Stations and Property (LCSP) who are the long term owners of the line. Once section 2 of the line has been completed it will be handed over to Union Railways (North) who will hand it over to LCSP. Management, operation and maintenance of the entire line, including St Pancras, will be undertaken by Network Rail.

Current operations
St Pancras is the terminus of the Midland Main Line. Rail services operated by Midland Mainline serve routes to the East Midlands and Yorkshire regions of England, including Luton, Bedford, Kettering, Wellingborough, Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Beeston, Nottingham, Long Eaton, Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield. Occasional trains also run to Burton upon Trent, Leeds, Barnsley, Scarborough and York.

The platforms in the station are at an upper level and accessible by lift or escalator. Space for passenger facilities at the station, in particular waiting rooms and catering, is limited. However facilities at the station are Disability Discrimination Act–compliant, and station staff can provide assistance to passengers who require it.

Because of the ongoing building works on the old station, vehicle and pedestrian access to the station is not easy. There is a 500 m walk from King's Cross St. Pancras tube station, Euston Road and most bus stops. However there is a car and taxi drop-off point next to the station entrance, which passengers with limited mobility should use.

Between 12 April 2004 and 14 July 2006, trains terminated at an interim station occupying the eastern part of the extension immediately adjacent to the entrance. With the move of services to the western platforms, there is now an additional 70m walk at the lower level to the lifts/escalators.

Developments and future use of the station

The interim St Pancras railway station (now being integrated into the entire station complex), immediately to the north of the Victorian building; the latter will reopen on 14th November 2007
The trainshed in August 2006
New signage at St Pancras reflects the changing status of the stationThe main building will be re-used from 14th November 2007 as a terminus for Eurostar trains after completion of High Speed 1. The international departure hall will be built in the undercroft of the existing station, which is raised some 20 feet (6 m) above street level. The undercroft was formerly used to store beer barrels brought down from Burton-upon-Trent.

The station will ultimately have 13 platforms at the main level. Eurostar services will use the middle platforms, to be numbered 5–10, which will continue into the Victorian station hall; Midland Mainline services will continue to use the western platforms, to be numbered 1–4; and long distance commuter services from Kent will occupy the eastern platforms, to be numbered 11–13.

A new Thameslink station (St Pancras Thameslink) will replace King's Cross Thameslink station for cross-London First Capital Connect services from December 2007. Additionally, major work is ongoing at King's Cross St. Pancras tube station to link the various station entrances to two new ticket halls for London Underground and reduce overcrowding.

The station will be the terminus for the Olympic Javelin, a seven minute shuttle service that will ferry spectators between Central London and the London Olympic Park in Stratford during the 2012 Olympic Games.

Preceding station National Rail Following station
Terminus Midland Mainline
Midland Main Line Luton Airport
under construction
Terminus Eurostar
High Speed 1
(not yet operational) Stratford
Terminus Southeastern
(not yet operational) Stratford

^ Although St Pancras is in Zone 1, there is currently nowhere you can get to from the railway station with a London Travelcard.
^ "Classic and Gothic will probably run on for many years collaterally ... til at length ... they will unite in style infinitely more Gothic than Classic" Scott, Secular and Domestic Architecture, 1858 p277 cited in Mordaunt-Crook