The Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras: Refurbishment in Keeping with its Station?

Travellers in need of a good night’s sleep are hardly likely to want to stay at the nearest station hotel. And, if you’re a regular commuter, you certainly won’t relish the thought of a room that looks out onto a station concourse… These are some of the reasons why I still need some convincing over the concept of a ‘luxury railway hotel’.

I’d read about the expensively refurbished Midland Grand Hotel, and seen photographs of its extravagant Gothic Revival décor in newspaper and magazine articles. Designed by George Gilbert Scott, the St Pancras Hotel was the most expensive hotel in London when it opened in 1873. The building’s huge maintenance costs eventually saw it closed for the best part of the 1920s and 30s. From the late 1940s, it became the headquarters for British Transport Hotels and Catering Group (creators of that trademark of culinary blandness known as Travellers Fare). Despite being given a grade I listing in the 1960s, the building was once again abandoned after British Rail’s privatization – until English Heritage became concerned that it was starting to fall down.

A £200 million (to date) refurbishment is still ongoing. The Manhattan Loft Corporation and Marriott International funded a development of private apartments, which have since been sold off – and a large part of the redevelopment now forms the Marriott Renaissance Hotel. There are 245 rooms, priced at up to £10,000 a night (for the Royal Suite, with 3 bedrooms – which, according to larger than life ex-security man turned guide, Royden Stock, is always fully booked). There’s also a private Chambers Club for guests staying in the hotel’s suites.

The common parts are impressively restored. A sweeping York stone staircase, with wrought iron balustrade by Francis Skidmore, is graced with an intentionally faded copy of the former Wilton Axminster carpet by Brintons of Kidderminster. The original carpet was woven on the largest (55’) loom in the world. There are stenciled fleur de lys, elaborate ceramic tile mosaics and quirkily asymmetric carvings by Farmer and Brindley. Paintings copied from illuminated manuscripts based on Spenser’s Faerie Queene have been uncovered and repaired, though some of the authentic fixtures (like the old radiators and lamps) were pilfered long ago.

Whilst the function rooms boast ornately decorative ceilings, contemporary designer light fittings look curiously out of place – as do the regular issue conference chairs. The reproduction furniture is also unlikely to appeal to purists – and judging by the kitsch selection of room ornaments and accessories, these may well have been sourced from the Franklin Mint.

The old booking hall, though buzzing with activity, has all the ambience of a 1970s ticket office. Soaring ceilings and industrial grade ironmongery are somehow besmirched when kitted out with the mediocre trappings of modernity. I am unable to comment on the service, though from evidence of staff nipping eagerly up and down the grand corridors, it looks to be pretty attentive. I can certainly recommend the hotel’s offical tour guide, Royden, for anyone wanting a discounted preview of the premises.

With the Olympics coming up, the hotel is probably already fully booked. Those expecting old fashioned glamour associated with the Great British railway age may well be disappointed at the cramped conditions in some of the smaller rooms – along with the obligatory greige executive styling. However, a rubber duck in the bathroom is likely to bring a smile to almost anyone’s face. And, for train spotters the views are,  no doubt, worth every penny…

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

10 thoughts on “The Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras: Refurbishment in Keeping with its Station?

    December 3, 2011 at 09:36

    A fascinating review of a fascinating place Susan! Good pics too. I’ve mentioned on here before that I became interested in this building after attending a series of illegal raves held here over a few months in 1997. This was just after the spice girls had filmed the video for ‘wannabe’ on the hotel’s Axminster clad staircase…personally I’m definitely not a fan of Puginesque interiors but I’m sure the combined effect of it throughout such a big building must be fun. Glad they didn’t try and turn it into yet another shopping mall at least (which is almost surely the fate that will befall battersea power station)

      December 3, 2011 at 14:06

      I agree with you on the style, it’s an acquired taste – and looks more authentic when a little dilapidated rather than freshly painted… So was that the old carpet you were dancing on, Worm? It was very hard wearing – bet the new version doesn’t last 120 years.

    December 3, 2011 at 10:40

    A great post, Susan, thank you. The art critic John Russell said that great architecture sometimes makes us feel that we should put our lives in order. The contrast between the Victorian architecture here and the modern furniture, which you observe so astutely, makes me feel the users of this place haven’t got their lives in order yet, but, well, at least they’ve restored the building, for which I’m grateful.

  3. Gaw
    December 3, 2011 at 11:24

    Thanks for such a perceptive review, Susan. I agree with it all.

    I’ve been to the hotel a couple of times for a late-night drink. The service is a bit weird: matey in a false, over-familiar way and pushily sales-oriented. The decor outside the bar looked mostly either gauche or bland; the carpets are gopping.

    The Gilbert Scott restaurant and bar, which are under different management, are great though – lovely, good value lunch menu and beautifully refurbished.

  4. Gaw
    December 3, 2011 at 11:26

    I should clarify that I was referring to the modern additions to the decor. I enjoy Victorian exuberance.

    December 3, 2011 at 14:21

    Thanks Philip, the scale of the works (and the building) are something else – and Harry Handelsman of the Manhattan Loft Corporation (who still owns the Penthouse flat) has done an amazing job. I’m sure there must be suitably grand and enormous Victorian furniture available at knock down prices through antique shops and auction houses…

    I’ve yet to visit the Gilbert Scott, Gaw – am waiting to be invited! I still rue the day that the Eurostar terminal moved from Waterloo… you’re lucky to have it on your doorstep.

    John Halliwell
    December 3, 2011 at 16:00

    Lovely post, Susan, and great photos – some, especially the staircase shots, remind me of classic Disney films from the forties. It really is a glorious building. But as an old train spotter from the age of steam, it is the train shed that really interests me. I remember Bryan A’s piece for the Sunday Times in 2005. It was Appleyard at his best (and hard to forget), a celebration of the astonishing renovation of the old station. He opened the piece with a reference to the grout used in the original construction and………….oh, there’s no need for me to ramble on because it’s here in all its glory:

    December 3, 2011 at 23:28

    Yes, 210 Kilonewton. I could do with a tub of that to complete a few jobs around mahlertowers. But thank you Susan for an wonderful post, and JH for steering me toward a Yard piece that somehow slipped below the radar. And thank you Yard for writing it.

    December 6, 2011 at 20:12

    Worm: “I’m definitely not a fan of Puginesque interiors”

    Coincidentally, we visited “Pugin’s gem” today – St Giles RC Church in Cheadle, Staffs. It made the interior of the Midland Grand Hotel seem quite minimalist in comparison. Have you ever braved its exuberance, Mr Worm? If so, how long did it take you to recover?

      December 7, 2011 at 07:30

      I haven’t mary, but I don’t think I’d mind Pugin’s churchy style within a church! Don’t ask me why but in interiors I just have a thing against red gold and green. (although I did once live in a 1930’s mock-pugin house in Berkshire that was pretty grotty, perhaps that’s where my fear comes from)

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