Wednesday, December 22, 2010

London St Pancras

St Pancras railway station, also known as London St Pancras and since 2007 as St Pancras International, is a central London railway terminus celebrated for its Victorian architecture. The Grade I listed building stands on Euston Road in St Pancras, London, between the British Library, King's Cross station and the Regent's Canal. It was opened in 1868 by the Midland Railway as the southern terminus of that company's Midland Main Line, which connected London with the East Midlands and Yorkshire. When it opened, the arched Barlow train shed was the largest single-span roof in the world.

The Midland Railway directors were determined to impress London with their new station, although the sloping and irregular form of the site posed certain problems. They could see the ornateness of Euston station, with its famous arch; the functional success of Lewis Cubitt's King's Cross station; 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. Barlow persuaded the company to modify its original plans, raising the station 6 metres (20 ft) on iron columns, thus providing a usable undercroft space and also allowing the approach tracks to cross the Regent's Canal on a bridge rather than in a tunnel. The single span 74-metre (243 ft) wide roof was a collaboration between Barlow and Rowland Mason Ordish and was the greatest built up to that time. It allowed the station to make maximum use of the space beneath without obstructions. 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 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, (£21.4 million as of 2010), were by far the most expensive. The sheer grandeur of Scott's frontage impressed the Midland Railway directors, achieving their objective of outclassing all the other stations 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.

Work on the Midland Grand Hotel did not begin until mid-1868. Designed by architect George Gilbert Scott and 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, (£28.8 million as of 2010) . The hotel building initially 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. From such an eclectic approach, Scott anticipated that a new genre would emerge.
Following construction, services were provided by the Midland Railway. This was a period of expansion as the major routes to Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Carlisle opened.

After escaping planned demolition in the 1960s, the complex was renovated and expanded during the 2000s at a cost of £800 million with a ceremony attended by the Queen and extensive publicity introducing it as a public space. A security-sealed terminal area was constructed for Eurostar services to Continental Europe—via High Speed 1 and the Channel Tunnel—along with platforms for domestic connections to the north and south-east of England. The restored station houses fifteen platforms, a shopping centre and a bus station, in addition to London Underground services from King's Cross St Pancras tube station. St Pancras is owned by London and Continental Railways along with the adjacent urban regeneration area known as King's Cross Central.

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