Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
King's Cross and St Pancras Stations present in easily appreciated form the cleavage in
Victorian architectural thought. Both are, of course, superb. Those great arches spanning
the arrival and departure platforms of the old Great Northern Railway are as dramatic as an
etching by Piranesi. The clock tower in between is less satisfactory; it is an Italianate motif
appearing at this time (about 1851) in market halls; the fa├žade of King's Cross would have
been more impressive without it.
St Pancras gives me endless free entertainment and real pleasure each time I see it. The
old story that Sir G. Gilbert Scott, the architect, utilised his rejected design for the For-
eign Offices is simply not true. He had long before acquired a knowledge of Continental
Gothic, and used it at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1858. Still, it is very fortunate for White-
hall that no similar building appeared there, tame as Scott's Government offices eventually
became. St Pancras is a vast wedding-cake assembly of ornament, scenic and cheerful -
Euston Road would be very dreary without it. French and Venetian Gothic intermingle to
provide a style that is pure Scott. One might truthfully call it Academic Gothic Revival -
in other words, eminently able but somehow lacking in enthusiasm. It is worth examining
in detail at leisure, admiring the varied skyline, the dormered roof and massive projecting
porch, fretful with carved stone and ironwork. It is intensely evocative of the late 186os,
and must have been charming when shining in its new Nottingham brick and Ancaster
stone, with crinolined and top-hatted figures emerging from horse-drawn cabs below.
There is not much else to detain the explorer in this part of Euston Road, except an early
cinema, not quite a collector's piece, but with its old electric lamp brackets remaining, ori-
ginally built as The Euston Music Hall.
Euston is too well known to be mentioned at length. Its original simplicity has been
overlaid by later additions. The demolition of the great arch and the Great Hall was a na-
tional loss. Above the Great Hall were rooms of splendid quality, unknown to most trav-
ellers, the Shareholders Room and the Board Room of the L.N.W. Railway. The architec-
ture was late Classical Revival, a style favoured by mid-Victorian bankers. It possessed a
massive dignity and inspired confidence. I regret the Board Room especially, having a lik-
ing for the fireplace of white marble, topped with three busts of the railway giants; Locke
and the two Stephensons. Things in England change but slowly; the fireplace still had its
Victorian fender, coal scuttle, and clock wreathed in laurel, ticking away the minutes to
demolition. One of the nicest bits of Euston was the arched end to the corridor outside the
Board Room. It had slender columns of cast iron filled in with glass, and as can be seen in
my drawing, gave a view over the old platform sheds built by Charles Fox. You felt as if
you were up in a balloon, looking over the chimney pots of Euston, floating aloft with the
starlings wheeling in the smoky London sunset. There is more than one sunset here; there
is also the sunset of the age of steam when England's prosperity was based on coal.
Here I leave railway architecture for the moment, to return to it later at Camden goods
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