St Pancras station is one of the most distinguished railway termini in Europe, and from November 2007 has been the gateway between the railway systems of Great Britain and continental Europe.
It was opened in 1868 as the London terminus of the Midland Railway, originally a consortium of provincial railway companies whose hub was at Derby. From 1857 the company’s trains reached London by a route south from Leicester through Bedford to Hitchin, from where they used the tracks of the Great Northern Railway. The 80 km direct route from Bedford to St Pancras was built after frustration over delays to trains caused by the rival company. The platforms are located beneath a 75 m span iron train shed designed by William Henry Barlow (1812-1902) and Rowland Mason Ordish (1824-86).
The train shed has been thoroughly restored and since November 2007 has been used by Eurostar trains to and from Brussels and Paris. Trains to and from the East Midlands, following the original routes of the Midland Railway, now use four platforms in an extension beyond the train shed.
At the head of the platforms is a building designed by George Gilbert Scott as the Midland Grand Hotel, which opened in 1873 and closed in 1935. It is a spectacular polychrome brick building, whose true qualities have only emerged since a process of cleaning began in the early 1980s.
The hotel, after use as offices, has long been empty but is being restored, partly as apartments and partly as a component of a Marriott hotel due to open in 2011.