King’s Cross St Pancras is the third busiest station on the Underground. It began life as simply King’s Cross on the Metropolitan Railway in January 1863, gaining its present name in 1933. In addition to the current Metropolitan line, it is now served by five others(Northern, Circle, Victoria, Piccadilly and Hammersmith and City) and underwent major reconstruction throughout the 20th Century. The original platforms from 1863 were re-sited in 1941 to allow better interchange with the deep level lines that had arrived in the early 20th century.
The station was the site of a tragic fire on 18th November 1987 that killed 31 people. The fire was caused by a burning match discarded by a passenger that caused a fire underneath the old escalators. This led to a complete smoking ban across the network and major health and safety improvements.
In recent years, the station underwent further modernisation to prepare it for the coming of the Eurostar to St Pancras with two new ticket halls opening. Leaving the station you are greeted by the magnificently restored St Pancras Station, as well as the also recently restored and arguably equally as impressive, King’s Cross station, both with their soaring trainsheds.
The Pub: The Betjeman Arms, Unit 53, St Pancras International Station, Pancras Road, N1C 4QL
The arrival of Eurostar has been cited as a catalyst for the regeneration of an area previously blighted by prostitution and crime. It is certainly true there has been a significant clean up in recent years. The pubs within the immediate vicinity of the stations still leave something to be desired, so I stopped in at the Betjeman Arms, which is located on the first floor of St Pancras Station.
Station pubs tend to have a poor reputation but this one benefits from being in a grand old station. It is named after Sir John Betjeman, the poet who successfully led the campaign to save the station in the 1960s and the sadly unsuccessful one to save the Doric Arch at Euston.
There is a good selection of ales, including one named after Betjeman himself brewed by Sharps(of Doombar fame) while the walls are decorated with railway posters of years gone by. Sitting in this pub gives you a chance to appreciate the beauty of the station with a drink beside you. It also has an outdoor terrace should the weather even change to make that worthwhile. That said, some of the views of the opposite side of Euston Road aren’t exactly picturesque. It’s worth a visit before you head on to pastures new.