7 Weird Facts About St Pancras Station

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 13 months ago
7 Weird Facts About St Pancras Station

Arguably London's grandest station, St Pancras is not short on quirky facts...

1. The trains are 5m above the ground

ReaLondon Blue Badge guide Caroline Dale told us the legal reason why St Pancras's train lines are elevated above street level: The 19th century Metropolitan Acts prohibited the intrusion of railways inside the old ring road to the south. And, as the Regent's Canal lies to the north of the station, trains coming in on a bridge across it would not have enough space to descend to ground level before reaching the train shed. As a result, a viaduct had to be built over the canal to accommodate the train line. King's Cross station, built 10 years earlier, got round the problem with a tunnel into the train shed, but St Pancras architect William Henry Barlow decided not to mimic this neat solution.  

2. Fortnum & Mason keep bees on the roof

St Pancras International's roof is home to several beehives owned by Fortnum and Mason who opened their first spin-off store in 300 years at the station in 2013. The honey is "a lovely pale, toffee colour with a soft consistency".

3. Based on beer barrels

800 columns support the platforms above the undercroft, but a very odd unit of measurement was employed in their original design. The spacing between columns was calculated to match the plans of beer warehouses in Staffordshire, meaning St Pancras's undercroft was worked out using the length of beer barrels. In the station's freight heyday, three dedicated beer trains (and even more in the brewing season) arrived from Burton on Trent daily, their boozy wares lowered into the undercroft, before being farmed out to thirsty Londoners.

4. Elton John has gigged here

In spring 2016, Elton John donated a Yamaha piano to the station following a surprise performance during morning rush hour. He played (but didn't sing) a few songs including Tiny Dancer to a huge crowd of passers by. He signed the piano, which currently sits in the arcade for the public to play, with the inscription 'Enjoy this piano, it's a gift. Love, Elton John'. The piano has already attracted more celebrity interest in the form of Jools Holland who played an impromptu set recently to promote his new album.  

5. Screwy?

The screws that can be seen in all of the original wooden doors of the Grand Terrace shops face the same way. We can verify this is true, because we checked, although nobody could tell us why... a particularly conscientious craftsman perhaps?

Photo: David McKelvey.

6. John Betjeman's coat

Everyone knows that John Betjeman played a big part in saving St Pancras from the wrecking ball. Tourists and Londoners love to pose next to his larger than life size bronze statue, by sculptor Martin Jennings. What they might not have noticed is that Betjeman's billowing coattails seem to mimic the curve of the train shed's roof — which, at 74.8m wide, was the largest sing roof-span in the world when built in 1862.

7. St Pancras was a murdered teenager  

The station takes its name from a 4th century saint who was beheaded by the Roman Emperor Diocleation in 304 AD for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. He was only 14 years old. Saint Pancras is the patron saint of children and his Greek name means 'the one that holds everything'. Well, St Pancras does have an annual footfall of 35 million.

Watch our video Secrets of St Pancras International for even more quirky facts about the station.

Last Updated 10 November 2016