Saturday, 14 July 2012

St Pancras International Railway Station

We left for the Moselle Valley from our local railway station, via London, to catch the Eurostar train to Brussels. Our station was part of the first major British railway construction for the Great Western Railway designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
via wikipedia
A contemporary and historic photo of the great train shed at St. Pancras.
via wikipedia
Departing for the Continent on the Eurostar train to Brussels rather than by plane was something that we had been looking forward to. We were keen to see St. Pancras following it's £800 million renovation which was opened by the Queen in 2007.
The train journey from London to Brussels takes two hours exactly.
A fitting monument in the station is the statue of the late poet laureate John Betjeman, the people's poet. It was John Betjeman who helped to save St. Pancras from demolition in the 1960s, and it is only right that he should be honoured with a seven-foot high bronze statue on the main concourse of the new station next to the arrival point of the Eurostar train. The statue depicts him walking into the new station for the first time. He is looking up at the great arc of the train shed, which he always did because "it took his breath away". He is leaning back, holding onto his hat, his coat billowing out behind him, caught by the wind from a passing train, and carrying his large Billingsgate Fish Market bag of books. The sculptor, Martin Jennings, has skillfully captured his eccentric slightly shabby appearance. His shoelace and unkempt collar are undone. He has knotted string for one shoelace, and his right trouser leg is hitched at 'half mast' above his shoe. He stands on discs of Cumbrian slate inscribed with his name, dates, and the words "Who saved this glorious station", along with quotations from his poetry. Few poets could have a firmer place in the affections of all those who enjoy poetry than John Betjeman.
St Pancras is often termed the 'cathedral of the railways' and includes two of the most celebrated structures built in Britain during the Victorian era. The train shed completed in 1868 by the engineer William Henry Barlow was the largest single-span structure built up to that time. The frontage of the station encompasses the Midland Grand Hotel opened in 1873, and since restoration known as the St.Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott.
Historic photo of the Midland Grand Hotel
newly restored and renamed St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel
Sir George Gilbert Scott's lavish Victorian Gothic interiors, sharing similarities with Augustus Charles Pugin whom he was greatly influenced by.
The extraordinary double staircase is an example of high Victorian gothic decoration. The balustrading, in wrought iron, contains original gas fittings and snakes three stories up to a vaulted cathedral like ceiling.
Lower part of the ceiling visible
From the ground floor looking up to the central part of the ceiling
The central atrium in the hotel
images courtesy Marriott Hotels & wikipedia

46 comments:

  1. Hi Rosemary,
    What stunning pictures from the start of your holiday! We took the Eurostar 2 years ago and were very impressed with restored St Pancras station. I don't know how we missed seeing the statute of John Betjeman, thank goodness the station was saved, it is unique.
    Sarah x

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    1. Dear Sarah - we have travelled on the Eurostar a few times, but previously we caught it at Ashford, which seems to have been made redundant now. Very few trains even seem to call at the new Ebsfleet station either. They both appear to have become rather like white elephants even though they cost lots of money.
      Next time you go there, you must watch out for the bonze of John Betjeman, it is delightful. I am not surprised that you missed him - he is upstairs on the top concourse where the trains depart, and standing all alone. I knew he was there, so made a particular point of finding him.

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  2. A really impressive looking building. I love the combination of the Gothic stonework with the modern-but-ornate cast iron. These Victorian Gothic structures need this kind of excess to be truly successful. The interior shots are great also.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. What a relief that the railway station and hotel were saved and not demolished as had been proposed. During the 60s it was often not appreciated what wonderful Victorian architectural gems we have. John Betjeman foundered The Victorian Society, and set about saving as much of it as he could. Today it seems unthinkable that such destruction could almost have happened. You are right about the Gothic stonework and the ornate cast iron which compliment each other perfectly.

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  3. Dear Rosemary,
    Another great adventure. I have only been to st.Pancras once.. I must have been about 7. So you can imagine, i do not remember it.
    It truly has been restored to a most magnificent modern station.
    John Betjeman..the name sounds Dutch or Begium. I will read up about him.
    The St. Pancras Renessance london Hotel. I can see a resemblance to pugin. Very opulent and magestic. I can imagine the rooms must be divine ..
    How exciting to go on the Eurostar. I think I would rather be on top of the sea than under it.!
    great photos. Glad that you enjoyed your trip.
    best wishes
    val x

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    1. Dear Val - John Betjeman's father's forebears came from Holland more than a century before John was born. His father had a very successful business manufacturing ornamental household furniture and gadgets distinctive to the Victorian era. They were a very comfortably off family and he was sent to Marlborough College, one of the top public schools.
      You are under the sea for such a short time that you do not have time to think about where you are. As I mentioned the journey all the way to Brussels takes only 2 hours, an amazingly quick trip.

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    2. Wow Rosemary,
      I just took a guess at Betjeman's name.. as I said it to myself in Afrikaans.. the sound tj is ch..in Dutch.. That's fascinating. How ironical that the tunnel is there going to Brussels.
      Close to his home country.

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    3. Dear Val - you did very well recognising his name as being of Dutch origin.

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  4. Fantastic photo's of te start of you holidays. Not only a great writer but also a great photographer.
    Have a nice weekend Rosemary.

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    1. Dear Marijke - your comments are so generous, but glad that you enjoyed the photos and writing. I think it is probably a post for the boys with it being about the railways, but if the girls enjoy it too then that is a bonus.

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  5. Beautiful building! I had never heard of it. Love the statue as well. Great honour to the poet.
    I have never travelled on the Eurostar and probably never will; It would be crazy to drive two hours to Brussels first when we could take the shuttle from Calais which is much nearer to us and brings us to Britain in half an hour I guess. But it must nevertheless be an adventure to travel on the Eurostar. Oh and we never took the shuttle either. It's really time we did and then visited beautiful UK.... and remembered to drive left there ;-) That would be an adventure as well I think.

    Bye,
    Marian

    Looking forward to more pictures from your vacation ;-)

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    1. Dear Marian - thank you for your visit. Yes, it would certainly be an adventure if you visited Britain and forgot to drive on the lefthand side! However, hope you will pay us a visit some day.
      Some more photos of our trip will follow once I have done all of the sorting out from the holiday, washing etc, and got my mind back in gear once again.

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  6. Lovely restoration...but isn't the approach to the Eurostar a great let down...

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    1. Hello - do you mean the approach from the underground? Tube stations never seem to be very exciting places, I can never wait to get out of them.

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    2. No, I never expect much of the Tube stations either...but the Eurostar departure area is so nondescript....

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    3. I think there is a mental block re: departure areas generally - all that seems to concern the officials is getting you through the passport and security checks. I liked the top level concourse departure with my beloved statue of John Betjeman. Thanks for your comment.

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  7. Gorgeous post Rosemary, the hotel interior looks intensely indulgent and reminds me of a little of Saint Chappelle in Paris, which I adore.
    I have promised myself a trip to St Pancras since the refurb but never seem to get round to it even though quite often I am practically a stones throw away. When I drive by the hotel those tall windows have me craning my neck imagining what stories lay behind them.
    I had no idea about the very interesting connection between John Betjeman and St Pancras. An incredible start to your holiday. Journey is as important as destination to me and you are off to a flying start.....well without flying as such!
    More please....
    Paul

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    1. When we were sitting on the Eurostar I mentioned to H that it felt like flying as we made such fast progress over the French countryside to Belgium.
      You must try and make a moment to look at the station, and also pop into the hotel, both are worth a visit.
      More when I have sorted out my head. I always feel so lethargic when I return home, may be it is all of the piles of washing to sort out, and the weeds that have grown in the garden.

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  8. Dear Rosemary
    Welcome back! I am sure that you rested and went wonderfully. Another wonderful post today! Unfortunately, in 2010 when we visited London we were not able to visit the station. But today I saw, three in the noon , in TV(Travel Channel, only this I see) was a tribute for that station.
    Great pictures of hotel !
    Olympia

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    1. Dear Olympia - what a coincidence that it should be shown on TV, and pleased that you saw it. We had a lovely trip, and once I am sorted will show some more. Thanks for your lovely welcome back♥

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  9. What a beautiful, affectionate look at this loveliest of stations, Rosemary. I am a staunch Betjeman fan, and I love the way you have photographed his statue. And that shot looking up the stairs from the ground floor! Fantastic!

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    1. Dear Kate - I have been intending to visit ever since I saw the documentaries charting the progress of the station on TV. I am a fan of Betjeman too, he must have been a lovely character to have known. I am pleased that you liked the collage, someone was watching me take photos, and I think they probably thought I was rather crazy taking his shoes, and trousers bottoms etc.

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  10. Just amazing pictures. I am always surprised to see such architectural beauty.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. Thank you Filip - you always show some beautiful architecture on your blog too, which I enjoy seeing.

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  11. Rosemary -
    Welcome back! Thanks for this most informative post on St. Pancras. We have not used St Pancras....Ashford International is the station we frequent. Would love to see and experience St. Pancras one day.....such a grand and important station. Ashford on the other hand is quite forgettable.
    Cheers,
    Loi

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    1. I have departed from Ashford myself, and as you say it is totally forgettable. However, you would probably have difficulty departing from Ashford these days as the station seems to have become a bit of a white elephant since the opening of St. Pancras. Ebsfleet seems to have taken over the Ashford role, but even that does not have a frequent service. Try and make it from St. Pancras next time, a far more memorable journey to begin and end from.

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  12. Very cool! Love your description of the statue and all of the details the artist included in his work. Awesome! That hotel looks stunning. How grand.

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    1. I loved the statue Marie, as I am sure you have guessed. The details included by the sculptor typified John Betjeman's character beautifully.
      The hotel is a wonderful building of high Victorian Gothic and has been superbly restored.

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  13. fantastic reportage and so much interesting info you have shared with us here, glad you had a lovely trip:-)

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    1. Thank you Jana - pleased that you found it an interesting post.

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  14. The staircase is stunning, in fact all the structured you have shared are. A wonderful story about John Betjeman too.

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    1. Dear Karen - glad you enjoyed seeing the architecture, and the story of how John Betjeman saved it for us all.

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  15. Dear Rosemary,

    What a great excursion you and H had! I really enjoyed the exterior and interior shots of the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel since I'm currently researching Victorian Gothic interiors for a future project. How great that the interiors have stayed true to the original design. Of course, it would be sacrilege if it were otherwise!

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    1. Dear Mark - I am happy that you enjoyed seeing a bit more Victorian Gothic especially as you are researching for a future project. I am intrigued as to what you might be going to do!!! No doubt you will reveal all at some time in the future.
      I understand that the wall coverings and the carpets in the hotel were all re-created as per the originals.

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  16. Dearest Rosemary,

    You had a great journey along some valuable cultural places.
    Have a great Sunday,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - thank you for your visit. The holiday got off to a really good start by leaving from St. Panras Station, somewhere that we had both been wanting to do for quite a while. I will do a post from the Moselle Valley very shortly.

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  17. Such an impressive station and hotel Rosemary. I wouldn't mind spending the night there.

    Thank you for your kind comment on my blog too!

    Wish you a lovely new week,

    Madelief x

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    1. Dear Madelief - the whole hotel has been authentically restored with the appropriate pieces of Victorian Gothic furniture in the bedrooms and main reception rooms. We really enjoyed seeing the station having watched a restoration programme about it on the TV.

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  18. What a gorgeous post, Rosemary, informative and wonderfully illustrated. I love the statue of Betjeman - so very appropriate. It's a long time since I visited Saint Pancras, but I must do so again soon, as it's changed so much with the restoration.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Perpetua - the statue of Betjeman is wonderful - I really loved it. Not so keen on the other statue called The Meeting Place which stands an amazing 9 metres high. However, I took several photos of it, and may show it if I run out of things to post. If you ever see it you will know that the barrel is running dry.

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  19. St Pancras is a magnificent railway station - and my link to London :-) It is a gateway to so many exciting destinations...

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    1. Ah! that means you travel on the 'bedpan' line. As you mention it is truly a great link for so many exciting destinations.

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  20. What a delightful monument, it really captures his character.

    Thank you for coming to my help with your comment on my blog, I would be grateful if you could email me with details of how to reduce my pixels. I also have a Mac but am able to operate at only the most basic level!

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    1. Dear Rosemary - the statue is delightful, and I loved it.
      I do not have your email, I could not find it on your blog.

      You may find the process of changing pixels on the Mac difficult at first, and may in fact find it easier to change the pixels via PicMonkey.

      This is the website for PicMonkey
      http://www.picmonkey.com
      It is free and very easy to use once you get into the swing of it. You need to have downloaded Adobe Flash first - which is easy to do, you may have already done it.
      You will see Edit a photo - go into that, and it will ask you to select a photo from your computer.
      When you have selected the photo you will see choices i.e. Resize, go in to that and make the picture 800 x 600 or anything below that figure, but keep it no bigger than the 800 x 600 then apply it, and that is it. Just save it and then you can post it without any cost.
      If you want the Mac details send me a message on one of my posts, with your email, or any other questions you may have. Good luck.
      I miss your posts.

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  21. What a wonderful tribute to the man responsible for saving something so historically and architecturally significant. The staircases in your other photos will live on in my dreams, they are amazing!

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    1. John Betjeman really was a saviour. He formed the Victorian society that prevented so many wonderful buildings being pulled down.
      The staircase is, I agree, rather amazing, and memorable.

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