I recently had the good fortune of experiencing one of my bucket-list must-do’s – a stay at the beautifully restored hotel designed by Sir George Gilbert Smith – the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel – in the historic Chambers wing.
Constructed originally as the Midland Grand Hotel opening in May 1873 to service the thriving rail routes to the industrial heartlands of the East Midlands and Yorkshire, the station and hotel were constructed by Sir George Gilbert Scott of the Albert Memorial fame. He drew inspiration from Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin’s Gothic revival Palace of Westminster, whilst taking it a step further to encompass a colourful Venetian gothic style, championed by his contemporary, the art critic John Ruskin.
Tall ceilings, ornate Gothic fanlights over every door, beautiful carved detailing, vivid colourful heraldic colourings and neo-classical murals – the St Pancras Renaissance is that and much more. Even the brickwork was innovative, its usage inspired by Scott’s travels around Europe. Here’s five key facts about the hotel:
- The Midland Grand had the first revolving door in Britain, installed in 1899.
- The columns in the hotel are made from 14 different types of granite and limestone.
- The Ladies Smoking Room was the first public room in Europe where women were permitted to smoke.
- In the restaurant, The Booking Office, there are 173 carved diamonds in the wood panelling, each featuring a flower of a different design
- The hotel was the first privately-owned building to include “hydraulic ascending chambers” or water-driven lifts. One of these was in place until 1958.
The original hotel closed in 1935 and was then used as office space. So fallen out of favour was this flamboyant example of Victoriana in the 1960’s, that many wanted to demolish the hotel in its entirety. It took a concerted campaign by Sir John Betjeman, the late poet laureate and co-founder of The Victorian Society, to ensure its survival by succeeding in making it Grade One Listed in 1967. The current owners of the building could obviously see its potential and when St Pancras was confirmed as being the new terminus for the cross-channel Eurostar service, they worked with the Manhattan Loft Corporation and English Heritage to restore and bring it back in all its glory.
I personally think they have done a formidable job but why not judge for yourself? Rates for a double room start at around GBP230 per night subject to availability or take a Guided History Tour of the hotel at just GBP20 per person. Bookings required by calling 020 8241 6921.
St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR, tel: +44 (0) 20 7841 3540.
Contributor & photographer: Sue Lowry
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