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Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 2 May 2009

"St Pancras Station" by Simon Bradley

This book is a mixture of histories: a brief biography of St George Gilbert Scott, the architect behind the St Pancras Hotel and the Albert Memorial; an architectural history of the St Pancras hotel and "train shed"; a history of the railways; and a description of the development and decline of the hotel and its subsequent regeneration (unfortunately the book was published before the opening of the new concourse; or course the hotel is not yet reopened).

It was surprisingly interesting. I learned about the revival of Victorian Gothic architecture with its homage to the late medieval. I found out that the reason that the St Pancras platforms are on the first floor is because the line approaching them had to either go under or over the Regents Canal and over was cheaper. I discovered that the iron pillars that support the platforms were spaced a certain number of beer barrels apart so that the undercroft could be used as a beer warehouse to bring Burton Ales to London and the South (freight from the Midlands being a principal source of revenue for the new Midland Railway). I was informed that the reason for the stations along the Euston Road (Paddington, Euston, King's Cross and St Pancras) was the early legislation that prevented the rampant railways companies from intruding further into London. I also became aware that the railways were a great catalyst for social change, promoting milk drinking in cities, national brands, out of town printing (Clay's in Bungay could undercut London printers and still distribute through the trains), Melton Mowbray pork pies and Chivers jam (Mr Chivers owned a fruit farm in Histon near Cambridge and converted his surplus fruit into preserves which he then distributed via the brand new railway system).

The single arch train shed of St Pancras, at the time the world's largest single span structure, was conceived so that more platforms could be fitted beneath. Previous constructions such as King's Cross's had pointed roofs (KX has a pair) but this means that you need supports and that can get in the way of platforms. Furthermore a twin roof idea such as KX means extensive extra guttering to carry away water. Form follows function. I really got interested in station design and I much pay more attention to the built environment. I even started to appreciate the massively over-ornate architecture that is Victorian Gothic.

Fascinating stuff!

May 2009, 174 pages

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