A decade ago, work started on refurbishing one of London’s more famous derelict buildings, and a few years ago, it opened as a posh hotel.
Last week, was a chance for a large number of the public to have a look around, without the encumbrance of paying for a tour.
A public tour which included a very special room.
Although we didn’t know it at the time, the chap who started our guide around the building was also the owner of the special room, although he darted off when our expected tour guide eventually arrived.
The building is St Pancras Chambers, the gothic revival hotel that fronts St Pancras station. Originally, the Midland Grand Hotel, it gained its current name as that’s what British Rail called it when they took over the building for offices.
The building has a history as rich as the decoration that was so famously preserved by that tirelessly campaigning poet, John Betjemann, whose statue now adorns the station behind the hotel.
This was not really a chance to see the hotel though, just a quick glimpse in the main foyer, and to stand at the bottom of the grand staircase which is so famous for photo shoots, and today off-limits to those with modest wallets.
What this tour was to see was the bit the public, even those visiting the hotel rarely see — the private apartments.
For the upper floors of the building are a series of private rooms with their own discrete entrance on the front of the building,
There was apparently some dispute about the restored staircase, as was officially a servants staircase, but is now a posh-person’s entrance, so should it have carpets? No was the eventual decision, so the rich who avoid the lift use the servants stairs to get to their multi-million pound flats.
What the residents do get is a train-geeks delight in the view from the staircase overlooking St Pancras Station, and a rather rarer view of the main Dent clockface that dominates the space.
And long posh corridors, although with odd municipal plastic tubs dotted around the place.
It’s the far end of the corridor that the very special room can be found — built into the very fabric of the gothic clock tower.
The modest sized flat was being freely shown off by its owner, who was at that moment downstairs taking another group on a look around.
You might not have been on the tour, but you can stay in the flat, if you don’t mind sharing for a few nights, as it’s listed on Airnb, and weirdly, cheaper than the hotel rooms below.
Alternatively, if you fancy taking a tour of the hotel, then the guide, Royden Stock is someone I met nearly a decade ago just after tours of the derelict hotel stopped. He is an expert, and while my camera back then was rather basic, here are a few before/after photos.
And a final treat — St Pancras Station during its restoration — photo taken from within the then derelict hotel.