Peril in St.Pancras 2003 :: Grand Midland Hotel
The Most Haunted team take on the Midland Grand Hotel live on April Fools Day.
In May 1865, (while the station was still being constructed), the Midland Railway Company launched a competition for the design of a 150 bed hotel, with eleven architects asked to submit their entries.
One of the architects, Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878), got completely carried away and submitted a grand plan bigger and far more expensive that the original specification.
But his bare-faced audacity paid off and he was awarded the contract – although the Directors of the Midland Railway immediately demanded some hefty cost cutting measures which included knocking off two floors of office accommodation and one floor level from the hotel.
The usual financial problems beset construction, causing delays in building the hotel with the eastern wing of the building not opening until 5 May 1873, with the rest following in Spring 1876. Altogether, the hotel fabric had cost £304,335, decoration and fittings £49,000 furnishings £84,000, adding up to a not-inconsiderable £437,335.
The completed building had used 60 million bricks and 9,000 tons of ironwork including polished columns of fourteen different British granites and limestones.
The Midland Grand soon acquired an excellent reputation as an upmarket, 300-room hotel, charging 14 shillings (70p) a night in 1879 – only six pence (2.5p) more than the luxurious and famed Langham in Portland Place, W1.
Inside, the fixtures and fittings throughout the hotel were to a very high standard with Gillow (now Waring and Gillow) being closely involved in providing furniture and furnishings.
The building included many innovative features including hydraulic ‘ascending chambers’, concrete floors, revolving doors and a fireproof floor construction.
The Victorian decor was rich, lavish and expensive, with suites of rooms decorated with gold-leafed walls and a blazing fire in every room.
But the hotel was built before the time of en suite bathrooms, requiring an army of servants to scuttle around the 300 rooms, laden with tubs, bowls, spittoons and chamber pots.
The hotel managed to prosper until after the first world war, but even the Moroccan coffee house and in-house orchestra couldn’t protect the hotel from the country-wide decline in the hotel trade.
The Midland Grand was taken over by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1922, before closing in 1935 – its facilities were outdated and it had become too expensive to run and refurbish. Now renamed St Pancras Chambers, the premises settled down to a somewhat less glamourous existence as railway office.
The building survived the bombing raids of the Second World War but found itself threatened with complete demolition in the 1960s.
Thankfully, this incredible building was saved from being swept away, and was awarded Grade 1 listed status in recognition of its importance as an example of high Victorian Gothic architecture.
In the 1980s, the building failed its fire certificate and was closed down, remaining empty ever since.
In the mid nineties, the exterior of the building was restored to its original condition and made structurally sound and weatherproof, at a cost of around £10 million (paid for by British Rail and English Heritage).
Some restoration work continues to take part, while the entire site around St Pancras is being dug up as work on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link continues.
Although the interior of the building has suffered badly at the hands of corporate vandalism, much of the original decoration, including stencilling, mosaics and ornamental ceilings, survives.
First Broadcast: 1st April 2003