qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

At Bertram's Hotel

Legend has it that uitlander has only to think about visiting London to bring the Circle Line to a halt. So I can only presume that yesterday she was considering the possibility quite seriously, as it was closed for the entire weekend for "planned maintenance". There is something of the bean-counter accountant's logic in closing services at weekends or Bank Holidays "because there is a lower demand": this may be true, but at these times it should be observed that there are a number of different travellers to those during the week, in many cases probably far less familiar with the concept of deriving "alternative routes".

So here's a public service announcement: Reading will be shut for the Bank Holiday weekend (which is also the weekend of the Reading Festival). There will be no trains between Reading and Paddington, there are major roadworks on the A4 west until December, the A329(M) junction is partially closed, there are roadworks on the A327 at Lower Earley, and the A33 is always f***ed anyway.

Anyhow, by a more circuitous route than planned, kharin and I arrived a little late for the tour of St Pancras Chambers, but got in by battering the door down (actually, we arrived at the same time as two other people who battered the door down, but we benefitted from their actions just the same). The tour takes in a relatively small part of the building, as much of the space is not safe, but includes the Grand Staircase and various of the "public rooms".

The Midland Grand Hotel was spectacular and innovative at the time of its construction in the 1860s-70s, but like Bertram's, nothing ever changed, and it benefitted from the long-term view that prevails in British management circles to this day, when they declined to fit innovations such as bathrooms or central heating, and closed as a hotel in the 1930s. Over decades of decline the building was used as office and computer space by various railway operators until it failed its fire certificate in the 1980s, when British Rail tried to have it demolished. Fortunately this attempt failed, but only now, as St Pancras station is being revamped to provide Channel Tunnel access, is the building (which is Grade I listed) being restored. The ambition is to incorporate all or part of the original building into a new hotel complex, probably not as luxurious in our time as the original, but just as unaffordable.

kharin's book of Art Deco London provided a cookbook of other, more recent, architectural delights, and later in the day we also admired Florin Court, the location used to portray the London apartement of Hercule Poirot in the TV series.
Tags: exhibitions
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