An Ode to St Pancras

A few days ago I returned from my first trip away since covid hit the world and stopped us all in our tracks. While I knew I had missed travel, I hadn’t realised how much I missed the little things of travel. And one of those things is St Pancras, the station I use in London, and have probably taken for granted over the years. So, this is my appreciation of one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.

I have been using St Pancras since I was little, and it has changed so much in that time. My early memories of the station aren’t great, probably not helped by the fact I was little, and probably tired. But all I remember is a big, draughty red brick shed-like building, with few shops, just a newsagent. Although, as this was the 1980’s when the station wasn’t being used much anyway, it’s possible my memories are a true reflection of the station.

The station was in fact threatened with demolition in the early 1960’s, and was saved by the poet laureate John Betjeman who led a successful campaign to save it. But despite this, by the 1970’s the the iron girders and the glass roof were on the verge of collapse, and the station was underused and neglected – hence my poor memories of it. However, in the 1990’s the decision was made to use St Pancras as the terminus of Eurostar. This led to a subsequent major redevelopment in the 2000’s to develop a 2 storey shopping concourse, opening up a previously closed-off area underground, which now hosts major brands from Gant and Jo Malone, to M&S and Fat Face, as well as numerous restaurants and cafes.

The station these days is a thing of beauty, the old draughty station a thing of the past. The glass roof and iron girders are no longer in danger of collapse, the red bricks have clearly been cleaned up, and it is architectural masterpiece and is a Grade 1 listed building. The pandemic has probably had an impact on the takings for the shops and the trains, but it does mean it was nice and quiet, great for taking photos of the building.

There is also a (a very nice, not cheap) hotel, accessed from outside, which has also been redesigned and redeveloped. It looks lovely on the website, but it is slightly out of my price range sadly, so I have never stayed there.

Like all stations, St Pancras is a meeting place, a place to say farewell, to friends, family, lovers…
John Betjeman, who led the campaign to save the station.

I have no idea how many times I have passed through St Pancras over the years, on my own, with family, on my way to far off countries, or just a day out in London. I have said hello to old friends there, and waved goodbye to my sister there. I have definitely taken it for granted. But, this time, it signalled my return to travel, to return to normality. And I was excited to see it.

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