Decay and Restoration

 

Despite being saved from demolition in the 1960s there was limited investment in the station by British Rail (BR) and by the 1990s the train shed was black with soot from years of steam and diesel use. The roof glazing had been redistributed following the Second World War and remained that way. The glazing to the north gable end had been removed to improve ventilation and the southern gable had been largely neglected following the closure of the hotel in 1935. Both train shed walls had suffered water ingress from leaking gutters resulting in staining, spalling of masonry surfaces and efflorescence. The west elevation to Midland Road was in a very poor state of repair in places.

Image: Midland Road elevation, much deteriorated, 2001 © Paul Childs

In a move to further strip the assets BR offered the Station Clock for sale in the 1970s and had a prospective buyer in the USA. Unfortunately the clock face smashed while it was being removed, the pieces being purchased by a railway worker, Roland Hoggard, for £25.00 and taken home to Leicestershire where he mounted them on the external elevation of his barn. The station clock was replaced in 1975 with a glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) replica.

In 1978 the linenfold panelling ticket office in the Booking Hall was relocated to the west wall where it could be better seen by travellers, following a failed application by the British Railway Board for its demolition and reconfiguration.

Decorative stonework and cast-iron windows had been removed as part of railway operations, and building services insensitively cut through the masonry.

Conservation

All the work carried out at the station as part of the restoration was undertaken following good conservation principles: a solid understanding of the history and significance of the building, minimum intervention, reversibility, breathability and the use of appropriate matching materials for work to the original building. Where significant changes were made these were carefully investigated, justified and agreed with English Heritage, London Borough of Camden and the Victorian Society.

In order to repair the roof its structure needed to be fully understood and thus the original Butterley Iron Company contract drawings which are held in the National Archives at Kew were carefully examined.

The entire roof coverings were removed to allow repairs to the arch members. The wrought iron roof structure was in much better condition than expected although a number of arch springing points, known as ‘boots’ were extensively corroded as were some of the roof elements and gables; these all needed to be carefully rebuilt.

The original roof covering consisted of Welsh slates and timber framed glazing. The glass occupied the central part of the roof span with slates on timber boarding to either side, east and west. There was evidence of two original walkways with ornamental cast iron bracketing and handrails that ran north south at the junction of the clear and opaque roof coverings. These were replaced in a combination of cast iron and cast aluminium with some additional elements to ensure it complied with safety requirements.

Image: The newly restored station roof © Paul Childs

To retile the roof ‘best Welsh slates’ were sourced. In all 160,000 slates of a single size have been fixed to timber battens, using traditional nails. Cladding to the underside immediately above the arches and principle rafters are colour coated perforated aluminium planks that match the size and profile of the original timber planks. The cladding contains internal acoustic absorption material to improve the acoustic performance in the station.

The glazing of the original roof was of the ‘ridge and furrow’ type made famous on the Crystal Palace constructed for the Great Exhibition of 1851. This was lost as a result of war damage but was replaced as part of the restoration. The original profiles of glazing bars were replicated but using powder coated aluminium and laminated safety glass for safety and ease of maintenance.

The gable ends are in effect three dimensional structures in riveted wrought iron, the whole acting to resist wind forces on the gable. Evidence was found of the original fixing cleats for the original timber joinery and glass. With the help of original drawings, which carefully detailed the infill glazing it has been possible to reglaze both the north and south gable end screens with delightful results.

Image: The newly restored north gable end © Paul Childs

The original bricks supplied by Edward Gripper were no longer in production and thus new bricks were sourced from Charnwood Forest Brick, fortuitously located near Tuckers defunct works, who could offer a brick in clay that was similar to the original. In order to achieve the correct size and finish they had to develop a refined handmade process specifically for St Pancras. At the height of the works six skilled brick makers were producing 12,000 to 15,000 bricks per week.

Image: The reconstructed Midland Road elevation © Paul Childs

The stone used in the original construction came from the Midlands: Bramley Fell, or Derbyshire gritstone specified for the foundations; Ancaster and Ketton, both limestones, and Mansfield Red, a sandstone, were used for interior and exterior elevations and Mansfield White for stairs and steps. For the restoration original sources were used where possible and if not, as in the case of the Mansfield Red an approved alternative, Corsehill was used in its place.

New construction

In order to accommodate full length modern trains and to allow the station to remain fully operational during the restoration of the train shed an extension was constructed northwards. The new section is a modern lightweight construction in glass, steel and aluminium, designed as a respectful adjunct to Barlow’s masterpiece. The roof consists of four trusses hosting curved steel rafters providing light and ventilation. A transition roof closes the gap between the old and the new roofs and highlights the separation between the two.

Image: The newly restored north gable with new transition roof below © Paul Childs

 

To support modern train loads and meet fire regulations a new 400 millimetre structural reinforced slab was cast above the wrought-iron and riveted buckle plate deck. This was supported directly by the original cast iron columns. With the concrete deck relieving the horizontal loads from the roof, four large lightwells were inserted into the platform deck in order to bring light into the undercroft and create necessary access between the two levels. Redundant columns and ironwork were re-used for repairs elsewhere in the undercroft or retained for future maintenance.

Image: The cast iron undercroft columns supporting the new concrete train deck above © HS1 Ltd

The coal drops and parcel yard at the west side of the station, which were in a very poor state of repair, were demolished to allow for the construction of the new Thameslink Station below ground level, within the St Pancras branch tunnel described above. This area was rebuilt and the new brick and stone façade along Midland Road was carefully designed to replicate the original elevation. 

In order to bring activity to the north end of the station and service the Midland customers in the deck extension fifteen new openings were made through existing blind arches in the west wall. These created access to new station retail units.

Image: New openings in trainshed wall © Paul Childs

 

 

 

 

 

Records and paint analysis showed that the ironwork to the roof had been painted 18 times before the present restoration and was first painted brown on Barlow’s instruction, but that its second coat was sky blue, possibly following the intervention of the Midland Railway Company, managing director James Allport. This second blue colour was agreed to be the colour of the restored station. 

Image: Arch rib with decorative spandrel © Sam Lane Photography

A new London Underground ticket hall was excavated beneath the Hotel forecourt. This area had previously been service space for the hotel and in order to create a new ticket hall was excavated and deepened to create a spacious two storey galleried enclosure.

 

 

 

 

A new clock was manufactured by Dent & Co. which had made the original. The decorative outer ring and side ring were moulded from the original clock and the original white colour of the chapter ring was identified through paint analysis. The outer ring, hands and Roman numerals are finished in 23 carat gold leaf, and the diamond markers are slate from the original quarry area of Swithland in Leicestershire.

Image: The new Dent clock © Samlane Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

Construction of the deck extension resulted in new excavations within the area of the St Pancras burial ground. It was not known whether any burials survived the original construction of the St Pancras Branch tunnel and viaduct however an area of intact interments were discovered. During the works a total of 1302 burials were recorded three dimensionally and 699 were removed for osteological analysis. The results of this analysis revealed diseases such as syphilis as well as endemic poor dental health. Preservation of wooden coffins, metal coffin fittings and human bone was exceptional.

Image: Well preserved coffin plate to Mary Lane, dated 1826 © HS1

 

 

 

 

Burial clothes, as well as textile linings and covers for coffins were also found, with the remains of floral tributes surviving in two cases. Documentary research showed that the cemetery included a number of refugees who fled the French Revolution. Five of the excavated coffins held French clergymen, two of whom were prelates. Arthur Richard Dillon, the last Archbishop of Narbonne, and Pierre Augustin Godart de Belbeuf, the last Archbishop of Avranches. Both have been repatriated to France with Archbishop Dillon returned in 2007 and reinterred in Narbonne Cathedral with great ceremony.

Image: Monsignor Dillon returned to Narbonne © P Emery

References

Emery, Philip & Wooldridge K. 2011. St Pancras Burial Ground. Excavations for St Pancras International, the London terminus of High Speed 1, 2002-3. Gifford / Museum of London Archaeology

Lansley, Alastair et al. 2011 St Pancras International Laurence King Publishing Ltd

Simmons, Jack & Robert Thorne 2012. St Pancras Station. Historical Publications Ltd