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London certainly has no shortage of beautiful buildings, but one of my favourites is actually a hotel and can be found just to the north of the centre at St Pancras Railway Station. 

The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel with its majestic gothic architecture dominates the Station and surrounding roads, seeming to gaze down benevolently at the constant movement buzzing around it. 

So stunning is the exterior, that it has featured as a backdrop for many movie makers over the years, including Harry Potter and James Bond!

It’s past wasn’t all plain sailing though. St Pancras Station opened in 1868 as a terminus for the Midland Railway who previously had no route into London for its train services and much to its chagrin, had to use the Great Northern Railway terminus and track at Kings Cross Station

Midland Railway felt they were treated as second class citizens by the Great Northern Railway, their trains often being held up to allow the Great Northern Railway trains to arrive first. To add insult to injury, Midland’s trains were sometimes deliberately stopped short of the platform, so their passengers had to walk along the track in order to disembark their trains!

Needless to say, this led to a lot of enmity between the two Railway Companies and finally Midland Railway petitioned Parliament to be able to build their own track and terminus in London. They were duly granted permission but were forced to build their new terminus right next door to Kings Cross Station, ensuring an ongoing rivalry between the two Railway Companies.

So in 1865 when their new station was being built, Midland Railway decided to hold a competition for architects to submit plans to build a hotel that would form the front of the station. Such was their desire to outdo their rival at Kings Cross, they were determined to build a magnificent structure that would be the envy of their neighbours.

The Midland Grand Hotel opened in 1876, it’s towering spires dwarfing the more squat and simple design of Kings Cross Station next door. Mission complete, the Midland Railway now had a terminus second to none.

Unfortunately, the success didn’t last and in 1935 the hotel closed and eventually was used by British Rail as offices and for storage and the magnificent structure fell into neglect. There were even plans to demolish it. But the Victorian Society, an organisation dedicated to the preservation of Victorian buildings, campaigned to have the hotel to be allowed listed status and the building was saved.

It’s fortunes finally changed when The Eurostar came to St Pancras in 2007 and planning permission was granted to redevelop the now derelict building into a new hotel, to coincide with the coming of the Eurostar trains. And in 2011, after a multi-million refurbishment, it reopened its doors, fittingly renamed The Renaissance St Pancras Hotel. Finally fulfilling its role as truly a fitting gateway into the city.

(Note: St Pancras was a rural village that occupied the area in the 18th century. Named after a 14 year old boy who had converted to Christianity and was subsequently executed by the Romans in 304AD. He is the patron saint of children).

George Gilbert Scott was probably the most prolific and successful exponents of the Gothic Revival architecture style during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Born in Buckinghamshire in 1811, Scott came to London as a young man to study architecture. His first encounter with an Architectural firm gave no indication of the extraordinary and energetic career he was later to have – his employer complained that Scott “wasted his time sketching medieval buildings”!

But Scott’s interest in Gothic architecture came after he embarked on a European tour where he fell in love with the continents medieval gothic Churches and buildings.

During the Victorian period, architecture in Britain was going through a Gothic revival, so Scott was perfectly placed to take advantage of it.

As director of the largest and most foremost architectural firm of the period, he was involved in the design of well over 850 buildings all over the country. But it was here in London that he really left his mark, giving us arguably, the two most stunning structures in the capital – The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens and the Midland Hotel, now renamed St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

Sadly, during much part of the 20th century, Gothic architecture became unfashionable and plans were even muted to demolish The Albert Memorial and the Midland Hotel. But happily, a wider appreciation of British architecture eventually prevailed and George Gilbert Scott’s masterpieces were saved, so that we can still enjoy his extraordinary work today.