St Pancras Hotel Reopens, Offering a Unique New Filming Location
Date posted: 13.04.2011
Following a £150m restoration the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel has reopened after 74 years of slumber offering a unique new filming location in London.
First known as The Midland Grand Hotel, it was designed by master of gothic, George Gilbert Scott. Initially it welcomed travelers through the station during rail's golden age and provided the station's dramatic façade.
When opened by Queen Victoria in 1873, London was awestruck. It had England's first hydraulic lifts and London's first revolving doors. It was, as Arthur Conan Doyle described it "The envy of any medieval king...Nothing in fact or fiction can match this wonder."
The station, itself restored in 2007 under the guidance of English Heritage, is now London's gateway to the continent. The Hotel overlooks the platforms at St Pancras Station where trains rush to and from Paris.
The station's iconic frontage was famously saved from destruction by poet laureate John Betjeman and since it reopened 4 years ago, a commemorative statue of the poet gazes up in apparent wonder at the spectacular Barlow roof.
The restoration of the hotel has been meticulous. Inside the vast once derelict ballrooms have again come to life. The wide majestic corridors have been re-lit by lanterns. The original marble and cast iron fireplaces have been cleaned and scrubbed. The gold leafed ceiling and hand stenciled wall designs have been lovingly restored.
While there are touches of modernity, some rooms including the Gilbert Scott suite, have been faithfully recreated (when a fragment of rare wallpaper was found, it was reinstated at a cost of £47,000 for the single room).
The Hotel's centerpiece is as dramatic and as awe-inspiring as when it opened in 1879. The vertigo inducing staircase sweeps up with its elaborate balustrades like a fairytale fantasy. Curtains billow in large arched windows.
Despite being one of the most iconic locations in London, before being reopened, St Pancras was also one of the most exciting hidden filming locations in London. Like an insanely large spooky house, the Chambers had stood empty for years while all life continued busily around it.
The vast empty interiors were the stuff of dreams for film-makers. It has been used for a variety of films from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to Howards End and Richard Attenborough's Chaplin. In Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins it was became Arkham Asylum, in Howards End scenes were shot in the beautiful wood paneled Ticket Office and famously the staircase appeared in The Spicegirls's 'Wannabe' video.
Now restored to its former glory, the hotel's unique exterior and rich and dynamic interiors offers film-makers and producers an exciting new filming location in the heart of the city to explore and exploit.
The actual station and the surrounding area have a rich cinematic history, most notably with JK Rowling's Harry Potter films. The famous Platform 9 ¾ is commemorated with a plaque.
For Rowling, Kings Cross was also undeniably whimsical. "King's Cross Station is a very, very romantic place, probably the most romantic station, purely because my parents met here...My dad had just joined the navy, my mum had just joined the Wrens, they were both travelling up to Arbroath in Scotland from London and they met on the train pulling out of King's Cross... therefore it had to be Kings Cross."
You do not have to wander far to indulge in the filmic or literary connections the area boasts, from 102 Dalmatians to The Ladykillers, from the British Library to the birthplace of Mary Shelley and the resting place of John William Polidori (The Vampyre).
The area is steeped in legend and myth - a certain Thomas Hardy was employed with the grizzly task of re-locating bodies from a nearby graveyard during construction of the station approach and Boudicca is reportedly buried under Platform 9. Undoubtedly it will continue to be the setting for many more.
To Betjeman, the hotel and Station seemed "too beautiful and too romantic to survive". But they have, even after taking a direct hit from a Zeppelin during the First World War. Like a phoenix from the ashes, the hotel which dominates the skyline and the surrounding locale has opened its revolving doors once again.