At this time of crisis, when all travels are restricted or cancelled, let’s take the time to discover St Pancras International with another perspective. I personally love this place for its architecture and the many surprises hidden inside its walls!
St Pancras station is very popular in London for its central location and the fact that it is a easy way of transport to get to Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam. Not everyone knows the many things hidden inside and outside though, which are all worth of interest!
Today, DOYOUSPEAKLONDON invits you to explore St Pancras International as you may never have seen it before!
St. Pancras International: Britain’s gateway to Europe
St Pancras station (also known as London St Pancras) was designed and constructed during the Victorian era and opened in 1868.
The inside is made of a soaring single span iron and glass roofs, which gives a huge sense of space and also allows the light in, which you can only appreciate while walking inside the station.
St. Pancras was created to transport passengers and goods, most notably Burton Beer, from the north of England. Stored underneath the station, the beer was shipped to pubs all over the city. Following a post-war economic recession the station was renovated and extended, which had an impact on the entire neighbourhood (now beautifully restored and rejuvenated).
St Pancras was officially re-opened as St Pancras International on 6 November 2007 by Queen Elizabeth II, when the High Speed 1 service was launched (although the Eurostar services had run since 1994 from Waterloo International station to Paris and Brussels, before it was transferred to St Pancras).
St Pancras International now hosts an exciting range of shops, restaurants and bars, including Europe’s longest and most renowned Champagne bar: Searcy’s, which I dream of visiting one day (when celebrating the right to travel again??).
St Pancras iconic clocks
When it comes to travelling, time accuracy is a must. It is quite funny to think that “before the railways time was a much more local matter resulting in East Anglia being about 5 minutes ahead of London and Bristol being some 12 minutes behind”!To avoid any confusion, the ‘Railway Time’ based on ‘London Time’ (set at the Royal Observatory Greenwich) was first adopted by the Great Western Railway in 1840, until the Statutes (Definition of Time) Act 1880 defining a unified standard time for the whole of Great Britain was achieved and respected by all rail companies.
Clocks in railway stations are important and those in St Pancras have become quite iconic: outside, the clock tower on the Grand Hotel has a clock on each elevation, while inside the station a massive clock is displayed at the south end of the trainshed.
The clock that we can now see inside St Pancras, the DENT Clock, is not the original one as there is a long story behind it (which you can discover here, as part of the “Tale of three Clocks”). Nevertheless, the materials used for this modern version (and third clock), are similar to the original: a metal plate, slate diamond shaped hour markers and roman numerals.
“I want my time with you”
This quote from Tracey Emin RA is hanging from the station’s Victorian glass roof. This is the largest text piece she has ever made. “I Want My Time With You” stretches 20 metres across the famous Barlow Shed roof, hanging directly below the St Pancras clock.
Her idea was to “remind travellers to stop and take a moment in one of the UK’s busiest railway stations”.
I find this quote quite inspirational and I love thinking of it when coming to St Pancras. Who’s never looked at the travelers around, trying to imagine their lives and reasons for travelling (and secretly dreaming of unveiling a true love story)??
St Pancras Statues
On the upper level of St Pancras, you will find two interesting statues…
1/ English poet, Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984)
Sir John Betjeman statue stands above the shopping arcade at St Pancras International station.
He was a founding member of the Victorian Society, established in 1957 to protect architecture from the 19th and early 20th century, which seemed already out of interest at the time.
Thanks to Betjeman and his colleague Jane Hughes Fawcett (1921-2016) who fought to save the Victorian building, St Pancras was saved (and even given Grade I listing).
When St Pancras International re-opened in 2007, Betjeman was immortalized with a bronze sculpture by artist Martin Jennings. It shows the former Poet Laureate holding on to his hat as he gazes up at the Barlow roof.
2/ The Meeting Place
This 9-metre-high, 20-tonne bronze sculpture stands at the south end of the upper level of St Pancras railway station.
It was designed by British artist Paul Day and also unveiled in 2007. This couple is certainly here to evoke the romance of travel, but the many details at the bottom give a larger overview of all lived experiences at a railway station.
The different scenes are very realistic, sometimes revealing a touch of sarcasm …
Whenever you go to St Pancras, allow some time to look at the statue thoroughly as you may well recognize some familiar scenes …
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
I could not speak about St Pancras without presenting the adjacent historic and iconic Renaissance Hotel.
It opened in 2011, and occupies much of the former Midland Grand Hotel (in operation from 1873 to 1935; between 1935 and the 1980s it was used as railway offices).
Its interiors combine a sense of history with the best contemporary comfort. The central Atrium of St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel seems by far the best way to pass the time before taking a trip…
I was lucky enough to go inside the hotel and see the monumental medieval-looking stairs.
Walking these stairs, you have the impression to be either in a historic palace or inside a church.
Marriott International now owns the place, which offers all the luxury conveniences one can imagine and restores the image and glory of this emblematic building.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found inspiration here. If you are soon going to London St Pancras, please share your experience and opinion on DOYOUSPEAKLONDON’s blog!