A Huge Palace Of Business – The Historic Buildings in the British Rail Eastern Regional Headquarters Complex York, by Stuart Rankin, 1979 [ebook]


 A Huge Palace Of Business – The Historic Buildings in the British Rail Eastern Regional Headquarters Complex York, by Stuart Rankin, 1979.   Souvenir booklet, paper covers, 8.25”x 6”, 22 pages. With 15 B&W illustrations including half-tone photographs, engravings and plans.


The late 1970s were difficult times for Britain’s Railways particularly in North East England where the decline in the traditional industries of coal, steel, shipbuilding and heavy engineering hit freight revenue. Rampant inflation (at one time in the decade railway staff had a pay increase every month to try and maintain the value of the wage packet) lack of investment and continuing line closures made for a sorry state of affairs.


Little money had been spent on the “Old Station” complex, as there had been a scheme afoot to demolish it and extend the new “Hudson House” blocks over the site to accommodate all the Eastern Region H.Q. staff. This would have been partly funded by selling the 1906 North Eastern Railway Main H.Q. building, for long coveted by the Yorkshire General Insurance Company.


Two successive Eastern Region General Managers, Geoffrey Myers and Frank Patterson, strenuously opposed this scheme and successfully argued that even with the sale of Main HQ there would be insufficient money available to accommodate all the staff and there would probably be a long planning battle over the demolition of the Grade II listed Old Station. It made more economic sense given, the financial situation, to spend what money was available on repairs, renovation and upgrading. The project started under Geoff Myers was enthusiastically taken up by his successor Frank Patterson, an energetic Scotsman with a sense of history who lobbied hard for a thorough job to be done, and enlisted the aid of external bodies like the York Civic Trust, where, as a former Chairman of a small-Yorkshire town Civic Society I was able to help with contacts and introductions, and English Heritage.


The project took nearly two years, and when completed, General Manager Patterson asked me to write this booklet a copy of which was given to each member of the York H.Q. Staff.  I am proud to mention that it was nominated for the Oliver Sheldon Memorial Prize for the best piece of historical research concerning the City of York. Unfortunately somebody read the small print of the original bequest which stipulated that first publication must be by the York Civic Trust, so I was disqualified. However, the Civic Trust was very decent to me, paid a fee equivalent in value to the prize money, and published the text as part of their Annual Report…

The buildings described in this booklet are no longer in railway use. The former North Eastern Railway H.Q. is now a luxury hotel and the Old Station complex is now offices for York City Council.



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