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4.3 out of 5 stars19
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 25 December 2010
A book about a station may not sound too promising. This is a pleasant surprise, though, as it is about one of the most striking buildings of its type in the country and the writing style is excellent for a general reader, combining appropriate detail with a light touch. The chapters cover the Gothic style of building (the hotel fronting on Euston Road is an example), the train shed (which covers the platforms), the relationship between engineers (who built railways and sometimes stations) and architects (who had increasing influence over time), and the Midland Grand (who commissioned the whole thing). The final chapter, now a little dated, is about plans to restore the buildings in the 21st century.
A regret for me was that the paperback copy only has black and white photos but a Google search can help in that respect (type in "St Pancras Midland Grand"). I note one of the other reviewers refers to the scholarly treatment of the Gothic style and this dragged a bit for me as well, but fear not - you can simply jump ahead a bit and start the next section or chapter without any disadvantage; the chapters are relatively self-contained.
Otherwise, however, this was an enjoyable account that taught me more about architecture, engineering, hotel design and railway history without boring me! If you've ever passed through St Pancras or wondered about the building on Euston Road, I would recommend this as a good and informative read.
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The first third of the book is given over to a scholarly treatment of the derivation of the particular Italian gothic style employed by George Gilbert Scott to build the Midland Grand Hotel, the magnificent frontage to St. Pancras Station. The philosophical roles of Pugin and Ruskin are examined and details provided of the life and the architectural activities of Scott; some might think this the long route towards talking about the station per se. The design and construction of the train shed by William Henry Barlow is described very well. The almost unique (at the time) single unsupported arch construction is explained and compared with that used on other major railway termini. Interesting facts such as the spacing of the cast iron pillars in the undercroft being related to beer barrel size are fascinating and just the sort of detail enthusiasts will be looking for. The interior and Victorian usage of the hotel are described well. There then follows brief notes on the Midland Railway and changes which the railways wrought in society, the latter being of dubious relevance. A perfunctory description of the station resurrection is provided. This is an interesting book but leaves the reader feeling short-changed with regard to a direct treatment of the station and its renovation. It does not quite live up to the eulogies printed on the cover; it is not a masterpiece nor fabulous. The black and white printed illustrations are of poor quality.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 March 2011
I really enjoyed this book-all the way through. I think that the preamble saves the reader looking to other sources to answer questions. The building of the Hotel was an organic evolution of what had gone before and as such this needs to be understood. The Station was a first in engineering terms and strictly speaking a one off, but it just didn't arrive one day, so the thinking behind it needs to be absorbed. The book makes a very good read and points you in the direction of other sources if you wish to follow up. We have to be thankful that neither edifice was swept away, both are completely different but sit well together. If they had of gone, where would Eurostar have departed from and with what extra costs for the construction? Don't be put off from reading it by some of the comments.
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on 23 February 2010
When I visited St Pancras station for the first time recently, I bought this book at Foyles bookshop on the concourse. I was at first disappointed that the book was published before the Eurostar services started to run from the newly-restored station. But as I got into the book I realised that it actually sets the scene beautifully for the restoration of both the hotel and the station itself.

The history is fascinating, and the author evidently has a good knowledge of both architecture and railway history. This is not a train buffs' book, though it should interset them (and as far as I can tell, is accurate in what it relates of railway technology). It lifted my heart to see how two important monuments that might have been lost were not only repserved but restored with great care.
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on 1 March 2010
This is a beautifully written and affectionate book on one of the defining pieces of Victorian architecture and engineering. It's hugely entertaining and informative and goes off on some lovely tangents, rather like a pre-Beeching branch line. You certainly don't have to be a railways enthusiast to enjoy this short work.
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on 30 July 2009
A superb, comprehensive and thoroughly entertaining account of the true architectural wonder that is St Pancras Station. This book does full justice to what is undoubtedly one of Britain`s finest buildings. It explains how and why it was built, the background to the Gothic revival and perhaps more importantly the key role St Pancras has to play in the future as the `Gateway to Europe` and now the home to the `Javelin train` to the 2012 Olympic Stadium in Stratford. A must read for anyone interested in architecture, London, transport, social history, the Gothic revival and the work of Sir George Gilbert Scott. Hats off to Simon Bradley for a terrific piece of work.
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on 1 April 2007
This is so much more than a book about a single railway station and its hotel. Architecture, engineering, and the synergy between the two, social history, railways throughout the UK, stations throughout the world. It's one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time!
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on 16 December 2007
Whilst this book has a nice glossy cover with good reviews, it is spoilt by the very poor quality illustrations which do not do justice to this wonderful building. All of the 'pictures' are merely black and white images printed in the same form as the text, with no true glossy photographs. The diagrams are almost unreadable - a magnifying glass may help. Over-rated by the reviewers, and over-priced.
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on 14 February 2016
A good read, full of interesting facts and background of which the reader may not be aware. Makes you wish that it could have carried on into its new role in the present day.
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on 11 November 2012
St Pancras Station is a great book with lots of interesting pictures and will make a great present for a railway enthusiast
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