In 1865 the Midland Railway held a competition for the design of a 150-bed hotel to be constructed next to its railway station, St Pancras which was still under construction at the time. Eleven designs were submitted, including one by George Gilbert Scott which, at 300 rooms, was much bigger and more expensive than the original specifications. Despite this, as “the New Kid on the Block” the railway company needed to make an impact, liked his plans and construction began.
The east wing opened in 1873, and the rest followed in Spring 1876. The hotel was expensive, with costly fixtures including a grand staircase, rooms with gold leaf walls and a fireplace in every room. It had many innovative features such as hydraulic lifts, fireproof concrete floors, and revolving doors, though (as was the convention of the time) none of the rooms had bathrooms. The hotel was part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway hotels group from1923 before closing in 1935, by which time its facilities were outdated and too costly to maintain, such as the armies of servants needed to carry chamber pots, jugs of hot water, coal scuttles and hip-baths.
After closing as a hotel, the building was renamed St Pancras Chambers and used as railway offices, latterly for British Rail which had hoped to demolish it, but was thwarted in a high-profile campaign by the Victorian Society, a historic preservationist organisation founded in part to preserve the Victorian railways and other buildings. In 1967, the Hotel and St. Pancras staton received Grade I listed status.
The building continued its use as rail offices, until the 1980s when it failed fire safety regulations and was shut down. The exterior was restored and made structurally sound at a cost of around £10 million in the 1990s.
Planning permission was granted in 2004 for the building to be redeveloped into a new hotel. The main public rooms of the old Midland Grand were restored, along with some of the bedrooms. The former driveway for taxis entering St. Pancras station, passing under the main tower of the building, was converted into the hotel’s lobby. In order to cater for the more modern expectations of guests, a new bedroom wing was constructed on the western side of the Barlow train shed. As redeveloped the hotel contains 244 bedrooms, 2 restaurants, 2 bars, a health and leisure centre, a ballroom, and 20 meeting and function rooms. At the same time, the upper floors of the original building were redeveloped as 68 apartments by the Manhattan Loft Corporation.
The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel opened on 14 March 2011 to guests; however, the formal Grand Opening was on 5 May – exactly 138 years after its original opening in 1873.
The Guide was given free to hotel guests, and includes comprehensive details of all the tourist sights, and how to reach them. It can be dated from internal evidence to the early part of the London “Season”, 1883 and may well have been issued annually for a time, because a particularly interesting feature is a section detailing “What’s On” at the leading London Theatres, complete with times of performance, full cast lists and prices. At the Gaiety in the Strand, Sarah Bernhardt appears nightly in “French Plays”, while the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, presents Arthur Wing Pinero, Forbes Robertson and Squire Bancroft in “The Rivals”. Henry Irving stars, with a young Ellen Terry in “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Lyceum, and Rutland Barrington appears with George Grossmith in “Princess Ida” at the Savoy.
In all it is is a fasinating document of social history, includng best train times to provincial places of interest, telegraph charges to other countries, passport requirements and steamer services to Europe and the rest of the world. It is noteworthy that the suggested route to German Cities is via Queenborough and Flushing.
PREVIEW BELOW – MAY TAKE A WHILE TO LOAD.