You might not know however that you will be walking out under the largest enclosed station covering in the world and when it was built by William Barlow in 1868, it was the largest enclosed space in the world. It was designed to outshine all the other neighbouring stations and its frontage was formed by the Midland Grand Hotel designed by George Gilbert Scott.
The Barlow Train Shed arch spans 74m (243 feet) and is over 30.5m (100 ft) high at its apex. It was built over a canal so the platforms are elevated above ground level, resting on 850 pillars. These pillars were apparently set a certain length apart to exactly accommodate the beer barrels from the Midlands that it used to store in the undercroft! The station was built by The Midland Railway Company after all. To build it, they used 6,000 men 1,000 horses and 100 steam cranes. To restore it, they took 150 tons of dirt from its brickwork (probably the remnants of a century of steam travel) and used 20,000 litres of Barlow Blue paint on its ironwork. By the way, there are 18,000 panes of glass in that roof!
Why is there a statue of the poet Sir John Betjeman? Well he saved the station from closure with his 1966 campaign influencing the Government to list the building (and the adjoining hotel) as Grade I thus protecting it from destruction in 1967 – just ten days before demolition was due. Phew. The 2.6m (8.5 ft) statue commemorating this hero is by Martin Jennings.
The other monumental piece which you can’t really miss is of a couple embracing (entitled The Meeting Place) – this 9m (29.5 ft) tall bronze is by Paul Day. Oh and that famous clock? It has been reconstructed by the original makers, Dent.
Today, there are shops and restaurants galore, the longest champagne bar in London (above – suitably sited alongside the Eurostar platform) and Station Sessions and happenings occurring all over the place. I have to say, it’s one of my favourite places to visit and what a welcome for incoming tourists to London! Makes you proud as a Londoner.
Contributer: Sue Lowry
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