Of the many London buildings I love, Saint Pancras Train Station & Hotel probably tops my list. It is a delightful confection of Victorian Gothic Revival—handsome, theatrical and full of wonderful, handcrafted decoration. It is also a stone's throw from Russel Square, in Bloomsbury, the neighborhood where I stay when visiting London. I get to see it several times a day, coming and going from the King's Cross Tube Station and it is always an elegant and welcomed sight.
The station was designed by William Henry Barlow and opened to the public on 1 October 1868. It was built by the Midland Railway company as the London terminus for its train lines. Previously, the area was a slum which was cleared for the project. After the station was completed and opened, work commenced building the hotel which sits above it (and which opened, in increments, between 1873 and 1876). The canopy over the tracks is a single-span of iron, wood and glass—the largest such covering in the world at the time the station was built.
As they have with so many urban treasures, land developers sought to demolish the building in the 1960's. Fortunately, the people of London rose-up to fight this desecration. Instead, the building was refurbished, improved and preserved as one of London's great landmarks. Today, St. Pancras continues to serve destinations within England and is the British departure point for the Eurostar International "Chunnel" train between London and Paris. The renovated hotel is now one of the finest in London.
The station was named Saint Pancras after the nearby parish (which has existed in the area since the Middle Ages). Pancras was a 14 year old Roman citizen, Christian convert, saint and martyr who was beheaded for his faith in 304 AD.
I had once booked a ticket on the Eurostar from Saint Pancras to London, plans I was compelled to abandon due to an unexpected death in the family. Every time I walk past the station, I admire the handsome façade—and dream of stepping aboard an elegant Eurostar train, beneath the soaring wonder of a glass canopy, and finally taking that high-speed train to Paris. All from my favorite building in London.
More from my travels tomorrow.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248