Victorian London - Houses and Housing - Hotels - Midland Grand Hotel

will be open for Visitors from
MONDAY MAY 5, 1873
Two Hundred and Fifty public and private Sitting and Bed Rooms, varying in charges from 2s.6d. to 20s. per day, are now ready. Perfectly dry and replete with every comfort.


advertisement, Illustrated London News, April 26th, 1873

Of the general appearance of the St. Pancras terminus the reader can judge for himself. Occupying a site in the Euston Road, between the Great Northern and London and North Western stations, it is incomparably more complete and ornate than either of them. The design of the station offices and hotel is from the pencil of Sir G. G. Scott; it was selected from a number sent in for competition; and is in the ornate Pointed Gothic style. The total frontage is about 600 feet. It is not too much to say that "it is one of the chief architectural ornaments of the metropolis," -that it is " a veritable railway palace." As another authority has declared, it is "the most perfect in every possible respect in the world.
    Before we take our place in the train, and journey over the Midland system, there is one part of the station which deserves special notice. It is the Grand Hotel, which, when completed in a few weeks, will be unsurpassed and probably unequalled for combined comfort and magnificence in Europe. The other day we had the pleasure, in company with the manager, of seeing over it from the laundries and kitchens to the summit of the clock tower, and it may, be interesting to our readers to know in detail what the final arrangements will be. 
    The entrance into the hotel for foot passengers and carriages will be direct from the Euston Road into the western curved wing. Alighting under a magnificent porch, the guest will find himself in a large hall. Immediately to the right are the offices of the manager, for "information," and of the bedroom clerk; and on the left is one for hall porters, and for letters and parcels. Passing along the corridor, there is a small sitting or waiting room on the left; then a gentlemen's lavatory; and above, up a mezzenin, or half-flight of stairs, a ladies' lavatory. Further on is the passenger lift, and in a recess to our left the luggage lift, both of which ascend to the fifth story, and are worked by hydraulic power. Immediately to our right we enter the general coffee room, which sweeps along the whole curved wing of the building, 100 feet long by 30, and 24 feet high, and ventilated with shafts. Close by are the waiters' pantry and the still-room, whence dinners and tea and coffee are served.
    Turning through a door at our left, we find ourselves at the foot and in front of the grand staircase. It rises to the third floor, is lighted by three two-light windows which continue up to the roof, a height of 80 feet, and are divided by four transom windows; the whole being crowned by a groined ceiling, with stone ribs and carved bosses at the intersections, filled in with Portland concrete a foot thick, the face being finished with Parian cement, which some day will be coloured and decorated. The groined ribs spring from stone corbels, and are supported by polished green Irish marble columns.
    Ascending the first floor of this staircase, on turning to the right we again pass the lifts and lavatories, and reach the general drawing and reading room, a spacious and beautifully decorated and furnished apartment. The five front windows look into Euston Road, over a terrace, which will be adorned with flowers and plants, and covered with an awning in summer. Three side windows look westward down Euston Road, and three others eastward along the whole frontage of the building. From hence we enter the music room, another splendidly furnished apartment; and immediately adjoining there will be "the private coffee room," for the use of which it is intended to make a somewhat higher charge, in order to keep it more select. We are now near the west end of the corridor, which runs from one end of the building to the other, a total distance of some 600 feet, and conducting to the noble suites of bedrooms and sitting-rooms with which present visitors to the hotel are familiar.
    We pass along the deep-piled silent Axminster carpet. On our right are suites of rooms, with a balcony in front, looking out upon the wide space in front of the hotel and on to the Euston Road. The spacious and lofty apartments, the handsome furniture, the Brussels carpets, the massive silken or woollen curtains, and the pinoleum blinds; the wardrobes, chests of drawers, clocks, writing tables, sofas, arm-chairs, with which they are supplied, leave nothing to be desired by the wealthiest and the most refined. On the north side of the corridor are apartments equally well appointed, side by side with others less spacious; while on the floors above there are from three to four hundred other bedrooms, of various sizes, but all finished and furnished with completeness. Yet all are to be enjoyed with such moderation of cost that it is obvious that the design of the company has not been how to make the largest amount of profit out of the hotel, but to give the largest amount of comfort to their passengers.
    Continuing our ascent of the grand staircase, we reach the second floor. This is wholly occupied by private apartments and single bedrooms. The western wings can easily be extended so as to give, on four floors, fifty additional bedrooms.
    From the eastern end of the fifth floor we enter a room which leads into the clock tower. Here we climb a series of iron ladders, and at length find ourselves out on the open, 130 feet above the ground. Above are the four faces of the clock. They are of iron and glass; they are thirteen feet in diameter; and they are illuminated at night. The hour hands are three feet seven inches, and the minute hands six feet in length. This clock, as well as that over the platform, was constructed by Mr. John Walker, of Cornhill, London.* (** The platform clock dial is of slate. It is eighteen feet in diameter. The length of the hour hand is four feet five inches, and that of the minute hand seven feet three. It is the largest clock at any railway station in England.) From our lofty elevation outside the clock tower we look around and beneath. Far below is the mighty roof of the station itself, with its ribs and ridges of glass and iron. There are also the Great Northern station and Hotel, both seeming dwarfed in their proportions by the contrast with the Midland. The dome of St. Paul's and the column of the Monument are beneath the level on which we stand; while for miles in all directions stretch interminable lines of streets, the roof of countless thousands of houses, the spires of churches, and the vast black swollen receivers of gasworks; and just beneath us, adorning a lofty pinnacle of the hotel, a giant figure of Britannia looks benignly over to the east, with her trident in her hand, but, sad to say, with an electric rod thrust into the crown of her head! The clock tower itself is 240 feet in height.
    We descend into the basement of the hotel, where, however, there are more departments of interest than we can stay to describe. We walk over the sawdust-strewn floors to the bottling room, where the bottler is at work; cellar after cellar is unlocked for us, where perhaps £10,000 worth of wine is treasured up in thirty-six gallon casks piled one upon another, or stored away in stacks of bottles arranged with geometrical precision in open wooden bins. Here is the plate room, where the elegant handiwork of Messrs. Elkington is cleaned and placed ready for use. Now we stand in the kitchen, before a fireplace with a vast iron screen full of iron cupboards that keep plates, dishes, and covers hot for use; and turning back the screen, we see the huge fire, in front of which a couple of dozen joints could be cooked at once. "Potatoes for one," says a voice behind us, for an order to that effect has come on a ticket down the lift; "potatoes for one," repeats a subordinate, who with a little gum sticks a ticket on the handle of the cover under which the said potatoes are immediately deposited; a warning bell rings, and the lift carries ticket and potatoes swiftly away to their destination. And as with the potatoes so with ten thousand other commodities and comestibles every day.
    We linger for a moment in the refectory, where the chief pastrycook and his assistants are at work. A wedding party is at breakfast upstairs, and we watch the cunning skill with which the wondrous piles of viands of magic mould and brilliant hue and wondrous delicacy have been reared, the builder striving to deceive even the connoisseur as to the composition of the dish before him, and to make him feel, as he thrusts his spoon into the mystic mass, that he is solving a conundrum. Here is a mighty salmon girt around the ribs with a gorgeous wrapping, and with a parsley crown about his neck,-a victim adorned for sacrifice; while there, in one fell pile, the breasts of a whole covey of partridges lie in a rounded glistering tomb of jelly.
    We pause for a moment to cool ourselves before the bed of ice covered with canvas, on which rests fowls, game, and fish, oysters in their shells and shell-less. We notice in the next apartment that the vegetables are cooked by steam, in iron steam-chests (fortunately guarded with safety valves); and then we are in the boiler room, with two boilers each 16-horse power, which alternately supply steam and steam-power for the whole establishment.
    Hard by is the laundry. Here the washing machine, six feet in diameter, boils by steam and washes to a snowy hue from 2500 to 3000 pieces of linen a day of average size; in twenty minutes the centrifugal wringing machine will extract all the water; and after having passed through the drying closets, the heated rollers of the two steam mangling machines will bring them a stage nearer fitness for use; and finally the airing room will, we dare say, finish them off. But of that we know nothing except that from the fervent heat of its threshold we made a precipitate retreat. The linen of visitors staying at the hotel is got up in a department by itself. Whichever of these subterranean abodes we visit, order, cleanliness, and method seem to reign supreme.
    Among the minor arrangements we may mention that the ventilation of the kitchens is conducted up the "service" staircase and shaft, being completely separated from the establishment generally; that a dust shaft runs from the top floor to the bottom, provided with a closed mouth on each for the reception of dust, and terminating in a fireproof cistern; that apparatus for the prevention and extinction of fires is provided in all parts of the hotel; that electric bells and speaking tubes run in all necessary directions, giving the maximum of accommodation with the minimum of noise; and that an office for the receipt of letters is found on every floor, a leaden weight coming down from the top to the bottom each time the letters are despatched, in order to prevent any one of them being by chance lodged in the tube in its descent.
    We may add that the manager, Mr. Etzensberger, has for many years had charge of the Victoria Hotel, in Venice, and also for several years the commissariat of the Nile steamers as far as the first cataract; and we have no doubt that the hotel will fulfil the prediction of Augustus Sala, that it is "destined to be one of the most prosperous, as it is certainly the most sumptuous and the best conducted hotel in the empire."
    But our train is alongside the departure platform, ready to start; so we must away, asking our kind reader to accompany us in our journey, and we will endeavour to beguile the way by telling some facts of interest with regard to the Midland line over which we travel, and by Pointing out some objects worthy of special notice in the scenes among which we pass.

Frederick S. Williams, The Midland Railway : Its Rise and Progress, 1878

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - St. Pancras Station : The Exterior

St. Pancras Station : The Exterior -  photograph


If the interior of St. Pancras railway station be remarkable, what shall be said of the exterior? This splendid Gothic pile, designed hr Sir Gilbert Scott, is ornate to a degree seldom seen in such structures, and is of a rich red well calculated to defy the begriming effects of London atmosphere. The front, facing the Euston Road, constitutes the Hotel - a necessary supplement nowadays to every great railway station. Vehicles enter the station through the arch under the western tower, and leave through the one nearer the centre of our view. The lofty clock tower is the finest feature of the façade. On the right of the picture is shown the entrance to King's Cross railway station, the terminus of the Great Northern Railway, with part of the Station Hotel.

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