Whenever I round the corner from my flat and look up an inevitable happy sigh escapes me. There, looming tall and sandwiched between King’s Cross Station and the British Library, is the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in the midst of red double deckers and black cabs pacing past. It’s the first building in London that has ever stopped me in my tracks, followed closely by St Paul’s Cathedral. I’m drawn to its breathtaking grandeur, architecture and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit … its link to a fictional wizard who captured my heart so many years ago. It finally dawned on me that after six years of living near my favorite London landmark, I’ve never much considered the history of and within the building but that recently changed.
Follow the diamonds: St Pancras Renaissance Hotel history & architecture
It was on a recent Sunday morning when I joined a group tour at the St. Pancras Hotel. Mike, our knowledgeable and handkerchief donning guide, talked at length about the history of the building from the height of its time to when it was nearly earmarked for demolition 90 years later. I’ll share some of the tidbits I was fascinated by in the captions of the photos but for London history & architecture buffs I’d highly recommend the 1 -1/2hr guided tour that takes you into areas of the hotel that usually only hotel guests get to visit. Tours are offered every weekend and are open to the general public for £20 and are complimentary to hotel guests.
The St Pancras Hotel was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, who specialized in ecclesiastical architecture. In his lifetime, Scott designed hundreds of churches, cathedrals and chapels but St Pancras would be the first and only hotel he worked on. Part of his brief was to use materials sourced only from the Midlands such as the red bricks that make up the signature material of the building. The original design that Scott drew up included an additional floor but it was later abandoned because of mounting costs.
It was my first time stepping foot into the Gilbert Scott bar & restaurant. I couldn’t stop craning my head to look up and admire the cast iron ceiling with intricate detailing in the restaurant. The Gilbert Scott bar was originally the reception area for the hotel and still bares some of the original design. The ceiling in the Booking Office bar (not photographed) is drastically simpler in comparison because it was damaged during WW2 bombing.
The Midlands generated a lot of wealth from the Industrial Revolution and to further showcase materials from places such as Derbyshire and Yorkshire, the Midland Railway company requested everything used to build the hotel and station be sourced from there. Throughout the hotel you can find a plethora of Midland materials such as iron, stone, marble and granite.
The grandeur of the Grand Staircase took my breath away. I loved the contrast of the vaulted ceiling with a painted celestial scene and the Seven Virtues against a crimson red wall with gold painted fleur de lis patterns. Right under the landing in the upper level you can see what looks like an iron bar with intricate detailing is actually wood carved made to look like iron!
For Harry Potter geeks, doesn’t the blue starry sky remind you of Firenze’s Divination classes?
And for anyone wondering why there is always a cute purple Nissan Figaro parked outside the hotel, it belongs to someone who lives in the apartments! I now leave you with my first time lapse attempt. Many thanks to the folks at the YHA St Pancras for allowing me access to take this footage.