St. Pancras Station: where England and Europe meet

England, London, Poetry

My favourite station in the UK is Saint Pancras International. It’s a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture and must be England’s most elegant place from which to start a journey. It was opened in 1862, and one of its glories is its immense single span iron roof , designed by William Barlow. That wonderful facade, which includes the Midland Hotel, was designed by Gilbert Scott, and this is what you’ll see as you approach, and then wander among all the fairly up-market shops which line the concourse these days. It’s such a treat just to wander round admiring the structure, listening to travellers chatting in French as they accustom themselves to their English surroundings. Here’s a little gallery to give you as taste of the handsome brickwork, the charming attention to detail.

What a shock, then, to find yourself suddenly facing this statue, The Meeting Place. some 9 metres high. Designed by Paul Day and unveiled in 2007, it’s intended to encapsulate the romance of travel.

This weekend’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge invites us to use a photo of this work as a prompt for a piece of Ekphrastic Poetry (if this is a new one on you, as it was to me, you’ll find out what it is if if you follow the link). For the challenge, it has to be in syllabic form, so I chose Prime Verse. And I think my feelings about this work may be clear…

Saint Pancras and the lovers.

A magnificent

Victorian masterpiece.

Elegant springboard of a thousand journeys –

Saint Pancras Station.

What greets you here?

A schmaltzy piece of kitsch:

a statue of two lovers who embrace

as they meet once more.

A crude mawkish piece, whose presence I abhor.

The featured image is by Daniela Paola Alchapar via Unsplash.

64 thoughts on “St. Pancras Station: where England and Europe meet

      1. Hi it amazing how we all see something different in the photo. I have always loved the statue especially the plinth. So much said in the plinth a whole poem there too. I like the honesty in your poem and your take on the photo.

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      2. Oh, thanks Willow. I guessed you probably liked the statue and I worried that you might feel offended. It was an excellent image to offer for this challenge – so many different responses!

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  1. Great architecture beautifully captured in your photos!
    As to the statue, I reserve judgement until I see the โ€œloversโ€ in person, though I could feel the dissonance in the narrative and in your poem.

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  2. One of my favourite London buildings. The trains to Kent leave from here (I used to visit Whitstable, Margate etc quite regularly) and it always felt special arriving into or departing from this station.

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  3. Well, don’t be disguising your feelings in the interests of art, Margaret! I love the station too, but haven’t been there for quite some time so haven’t seen your ‘monstrosity’. Crass of me, but I rather like it. Haven’t got my poetic head on yet, but will hopefully investigate a little in quieter times.

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    1. Not crass at all Jo. I think it was a missed opportunity to engage someone a little more edgy. This is neither in tune with the station, or with the 21st century, is what I feel.

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  4. The more I’ve travelled by train in Europe, the more I’ve realised that stations were temples dedicated to the new wonder of transport. St Pancras is a fabulous example of that, but that statue… I much prefer Mr Betjeman seeing me off on my hols!

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  5. I love St Pancras both for its beautiful architecture and also the nearness I always feel to France when I go there (even if I’m catching a train to the far more prosaic Leicester or similar!) But I have to confess a fondness for the Meeting Place sculpture. Not so much for the oversized lovers (although I don’t dislike them) but for all the wonderful details around the plinth ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Wonderful to visit the Saint Pancras International through your post. Thank you for introduce it to us. Beautiful architecture and details you captured.

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  7. Well Margaret, tell us how you REALLY feel LOL. Not having been there I should hold judgement however based on your images of the gorgeous structure and (I agree) the schmaltzy statue, I’m with you all the way!!

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  8. Hello, Margaret. You made it! What is “Prime Verse?” I couldn’t find the form listed anywhere. The statue is different, isn’t it? Some of the other poets added photos that were clearer than Willow’s. There is an angularness to the faces that I didn’t expect to see. You provided us with more information about the station. I’ve never visited the station, but it seems like the statue is almost too modern for the history of the station. (???) And, ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป for sharing your opinion. Speak your truth! ๐Ÿ’œ

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    1. We did some work on syllabic poetry in my writing group recently, and this is one of the things that came up: Prime Verse – nine lines in total; 5,7,11,7,5,7,11,5,11. The last couplet is the only one that rhymes and is 5 and 11 syllables. I had fun with the challenge. and it gave me an excuse to showcase my favourite station. And luckily Willow doesn’t seem to have taken offence! Thanks for providing a stimulating set of challenges.

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  9. Love the details in your photos, I wish now that I had taken photos of the station when I was last there, probably on the Eurostar in 2010, but I do not recall that statue. It reminds me a lot of the “Unconditional Surrender” statue. Great poem BTW.

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  10. Agreed the unbeatable St Pancras station and the romance of rail travel. I seriously wonder why anyone would fly to Paris when a celebration weekend in Paris could begin here.

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    1. Much as we love Eurostar travel, the experience at the starting point is too much like air travel. Queue (allow an hour minimum). Security. Take your belt off. Take your shoes off. Get passport stamped (Grrrr). Show Covid passport…. Brexit. The gift that keeps on giving.

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    1. Here you are! Pancras was a Roman citizen who converted to Christianity, and was beheaded for his faith at the age of fourteen, around the year 304. His name is Greek and means “the one that holds everything”. I didn’t know either … ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  11. Beautiful photos of the station! Thank you, Margaret. Sharing as you have, your poem seems to beg the right questions. Well done!

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  12. Beautiful photos, Margaret. I saw this post and got nostalgic about train stations, really early airports. I grew up in an era where train stations had largely been replaced by airports in America. I am a child of the 60s and 70s when air travel took over. I have visited Paris and London and my experience with the British rail system was the train from Reading to Paddington station and back. In Chicago, we have two main train stations – Union Station and Ogilvy which is the former Chicago and Northwestern train station. Both are the terminus for the commuter lines that serve the suburbs. Union Station hosts Amtrak the America’s passenger rail service. Rail travel must have been something. I am sure I missed something special. Stay well. Peace.

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  13. I still enjoy rail travel Clay. Because the UK is so small compared with the States, internal flights aren’t a big thing here. But rail travel, sadly, is an increasingly expensive option. Still, I’m off to London by train in a fortnight. A treat in store!

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  14. Margaret you sent me on a mini research project to find out more about St. Pancras (this is my third time to visit this post). What an incredible history. A brilliant poem. Have you ever thought about reciting it? Just a thought.

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    1. At the moment, the only recitations I do are nursery rhymes to my 18 month old granddaughter. I have neither the headspace or energy for anything else, but will bear it in mind, I promise! Thank you for your enthusiasm.

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