St Pancras Station was opened in 1868 and is one of the wonders of Victorian engineering. Along with the former Midland Grand Hotel, it is a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic Architecture and one of the most elegant stations in the World.
St Pancras was a 14 year old boy who had converted to Christianity and would not renounce his faith. As a result he was beheaded by Diocletian in Rome in 304 AD. He is the patron saint of children. St Pancras is a Greek name meaning ‘the one that holds everything’.
The Regent’s Canal was built to link the Grand Junction Canal’s Paddington Arm, which opened in 1801, with the Thames at Limehouse. One of the directors of the canal company was the famous architect John Nash. Nash was friendly with the Prince Regent, later King George IV, who allowed the use of his name for the project. The Regent’s Canal Act was passed in 1812 and the company was formed to build and operate it. Nash’s assistant, James Morgan, was appointed as the canal’s Engineer. It was opened in two stages, from Paddington to Camden in 1816, and the rest of the canal in 1820.
Midland Railway Company adopted the silver wyvern as its unofficial coat of arms allegedly because it was the standard of the kingdom of Mercia. Mercia was the Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the region now known as the English Midlands.
A wyvern is a mythical winged creature with a dragons head and wings; a reptilian body; two legs and a barbed tail.
Kings Cross Station Opens. Designed by Lewis Cubit it was built between 1851–1852 as the London Hub of the Great Northern Railway. It was constructed on the site of a smallpox hospital and took its name from a monument to King George IV which had been erected nearby but demolished in 1845.
Closure of St Pancras burial ground and opening of the St Pancras & Islington cemetery in East Finchley. This was the first public cemetery in London and followed the passing of the Metropolitan Burials Act 1852. The Cemetery is listed Grade II* in the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Garden of Historic Interest (no. 5283).
The Metropolitan Underground Railway, the worlds first underground railway began services between Edgware Road and Kings Cross. Later in this year Royal Assent was granted for the Midland Railway (Extension to London) Act.
November: The first section of the St Pancras wrought iron roof truss is erected by the Butterley Company of Derby. The brickwork and the foundations are by Waring Brother. Barlow and Ordish’s trainshed is the largest single span enclosed space in the world.
The Somers Town Goods depot adjacent to St Pancras Station is completed. The Midland Railway acquired the site where the British Library stands today for the depot: the construction resulted in the demolition of 4,000 homes and displacement for 10,000 people.
Milk was being transported into London from the Peak District over 150 miles from St Pancras. One such station was Millers Dale, on what is now the Monsal Trail where farmers would rush their churns to pick up trains for St Pancras where they would be unloaded at the station or in the Somers Town depot and distributed. Listen to their story courtesy of the Peak District National Park.
After the war, the railways were not permitted by Government to return to their pre-war competitive positions. Of the four great railways formed in 1923 by the Railways Act of 1921, the London, Midland and Scottish was the largest. It was the only British railway serving England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Henry Croft (1861-1930) was a road sweeper working around St Pancras and was the founder of the working class tradition of Pearly Kings & Queens. He was born and died in St Pancras Workhouse and was buried in St Pancras & Islington Cemetery. His memorial is now in the crypt at Martins in the Fields.
War is declared and the railways are brought under Government control. They were used extensively to carry troops and weapons around the country and to ports. The notice board at St Pancras gives train information and special announcements to troops. The advert is for ‘Halo’ hair nets.
A 500kg bomb breaks through the train shed roof and causes serious damage to platforms 3 & 4. The bomb also damages the undercroft below and the Metropolitan Railway. The Station is back in operation after a week of emergency repairs.
The station and goods depots were attractive haunt for rats and mice so British Rail employed rat catchers to keep them under control. Jim Forty and Alfred Greenwin with their dogs and ‘catch’ at St Pancras Goods yard.
Philip Hardwick’s Doric Propylaeum – the Euston Arch, the grand entrance to Euston Station – is demolished on the orders of the British Railways Board. The destruction of the monument arouses great controversy. John Betjeman leads the protests. The conservation movement learns tactical skills from this defeat.
The delivery and storage of beer in the undercroft of St Pancras was a fundamental part of the station design and operation. This activity ceased with the last steam train from Burton on Trent as rail distribution was superseded by road.
British Railways Board proposed to ‘combine’ (i.e. demolish) both Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations. Permission was denied. A campaign to protect the station was launched with Sir John Betjeman at the head and underpinned by the detailed research of Jack Simmons. 2 November 1967 the Station and Chambers are listed Grade I
Between 4th – 11th May 1969 the Daily Mail Trans-Atlantic Air Race took place. The race was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the first non-stop transatlantic flight, by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown, from Newfoundland to Ireland on 14/15 June 1919.
Competitors had to go from the top of the Post Office (now BT) Tower in London to the top of the Empire State Building in New York, in either direction. They could make use of any type or number of transportation provided that they cross the Atlantic by air. The shortest overall time between London and New York was by Squadron Leader Tom Lecky-Thompson, flying a Royal Airforce Hawker Siddeley Harrier in 6 hours 11 minutes and 57.15 seconds – he flew from the Somers Town Goods Yard adjacent to St Pancras (and now the British Library/Francis Crick site). His prize was £6,000. The shortest time between New York and London was by Lieutenant Commander Peter Goddard in a Royal Navy McDonnell Douglas Phantom 5 hours 11 minutes.
The Goods yard was a temporary but official RAF Station which was established to serve the flight by Tom Lecky-Thompson – RAF St Pancras opened and closed in May 1969.
Footage credited to the Imperial War Museum (IWM).
The Channel Tunnel is officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II. Royal Assent for the Channel Tunnel Act was granted in 1987
18th December the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill received Royal Assent. This allows for the construction, operation, maintenance and renewal of a high speed rail link and stations between the Channel Tunnel and St Pancras.
Archbishop Richard Arthur Dillon (died 1806) an exile from the French Revolution, was returned to France and reinterred in Narbonne, France after exhumation of his coffin in St Pancras churchyard during the construction works. The coffin was conveyed along the Canal de la Robine, a fitting tribute as Mgr. Dillon was instrumental in its original construction.