ST. PANCRAS: BUILT ON BEER

Before the 1860’s The Midland Railway Company (MRC) had no direct line into London and had to transport its goods traffic via rival companies, London and North Western Railway into Euston, and later via Great Northern Railway into Kings Cross Station.

In the early 1860’s the MRC eventually had a bill passed by Parliament for their own rail route between Bedford and London. The MRC began construction plans for St. Pancras Station soon after.

With tastes in London progressively favouring Burton-style pale ales, beer was an important export for the MRC and St. Pancras was designed to specifically manage the delivery and storage of beer into the station’s ‘undercroft’, known today as ‘The Arcade’.

Image: ©National Railway Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

The spaces between the columns matched the arrangement found in the warehouses of Burton, the distance of 14 feet between them being the size of multiple beer barrels. To get the beer into the cellars, beer-laden wagons were pulled into the station, then reversed onto a hydraulic lift just outside the trainshed that took them down. Below, two railway lines ran the length of the stores and there were three wagon turntables, so that wagons could be manoeuvred throughout.

688 cast iron columns were built to support the deck in what was once a beer barrel warehousing space. Those remaining can be appreciated best in Eurostar’s International check-in and departure lounge. 

The cellars below the platforms became filled with brewers; in 1882 the Burton Brewery Company, Ind Coope & Co. and Thomas Salt & Co., which had the largest operation, were in occupation. They were joined by Joshua Tetley & Sons of Leeds, and later Marston, Thompson & Son, also of Burton. Allied trades also did business there, including beer bottlers and a brewers agent. In later years the types of businesses occupying the cellars diversified; Adams & Son, a wine and spirits wholesaler, United Glass Bottle Manufacturers and F.J. Edwards, who made machinery and tools, all took up tenancies in the 1920s and 1930s.