Building Name

St Pancras Hotel London (Architectural Competition)

Greater London, Competition entry
Midland Railway

The Midland Railway Company were the only large railway not to have a headquarters in London, theirs being in Derby. On 3 May 1865 a competition was launched by the Midland Railway to find an architect to design the hotel, which was to include office space for the Midland Railway Company headquarters. Ten architects were originally invited to enter the competition, but after the entry period was extended to accommodate Scott and others, there were thirteen:   G. Somers Clarke; E.M. Barry; T.C. Sorby, G.H. Stokes;  Edward L'Anson,  F.P. Cockerell,   H.A. Darbishire,    Owen Jones,  Henry Lloyd,  George Gilbert Scott,  Hine & Evans,  Edward Walters,  Lockwood & Mawson.

The first premium It was awarded to George Gilbert Scott in January 1866, after the extension period of one month was added to the entry date. The runners-up were G. Somers Clarke (200), E.M. Barry (£100) and T.C. Sorby (£30). Walters’ inclusion was presumably through his association with W H Barlow and his work on the  Ambergate to Manchester Railway. His design with an estimated cost of £190,000 has not survived. (Scott estimate £316,000)

THE HOTEL DESIGN - For two years after the passing of the Act sanctioning the London extension, the Midland Railway Company had concentrated the whole of its effort on the building of the railway from Bedford and of the train-shed,which was the first necessity for the reception of passengers at St Pancras. It had still to provide for the permanent booking-offices, waiting-rooms, and other amenities that would be required; and for the hotel that was to supply the station’s facade on to the Euston Road. When, in May 1865, the Company decided to hold a limited competition for the design of the station buildings and hotel, it invited eleven architects to compete, listing them, not very accurately. as follows:  G  H Stokes, Edward Walters, E M Barry, Edward l’anson III, Somers (?), G S Clarke, T C Sorby, F P Cockerell, H F Lockwopod, Gilbert Scott, and “the architect of the passenger station at Exeter.” The premiums were fixed in their final form in July: the successful competitor to carry his plans into execution at the usual rates of commission, with three other prizes of £200, £100 and £50.

Not all the architects in the Committee’s list competed. Those who did were Walters, Barry, Clarke, Lloyd, Sorby, Cockerell, Lockwood, and Scott. To these were added - presumably by additional invitation — H A Darbishire, T C Hine and Owen Jones. In August Barry, Cockerell and Scott all asked for an extra month for sending in their designs, which was granted. The competitors’ work was submitted in the autumn and exhibited in the Shareholders’ Room at Derby in December. Early in the New Year it was announced that the Directors had put Scott’s designs first. Next, in order of merit, they placed Clarke, Barry, and Sorby. A good many architectural competitions of this kind were held in the Victorian age, until the strange proceedings in the one for the Law Courts in 1866-74 discredited them. St Pancras station is the only railway building of importance in London that was designed in this way. The Midland Directors did not employ an assessor to guide them in their choice, as municipal bodies did — and this was made a matter of reproach to them later. None of the competitors objected at the time or criticized — directly, at least - Scott’s victory: But two of the runners-up had complaints to make. Sorby sent a circular letter to the Directors of the Company, in which he said that ‘certain points in detail in the plans sent in by him upon which he had conferred with the General Manager had been communicated by the latter to the other competitors. who had embodied such details in their plans to his Mr Sorby’s detriment’. After questioning Allport on the matter, the Board firmly replied that it considered he had ‘acted both honourably and impartially through the whole proceedings’. Somers Clarke felt moved to write a letter to The Builder pointing out that Scott had gone far beyond the instructions laid down to the competitors. ‘It is manifest,’ wrote Clarke, ‘that the addition of two extra stories of bedrooms to a building of 600 ft. frontage must necessarily give it a vast advantage in dignity and importance of effect over one of less altitude, providing less accommodation. ‘The exact adherence to printed instructions, as a rule, would fetter too much, and probably defeat the intention of getting the best design out of the profession by public boards; still, the extent of accommodation, involving as it does the ultimate cost of a building, is of such primary importance to shareholders in a commercial undertaking, that it ought not to be left to the individual discretion of the competitors themselves, as in this case.” [Jack Simmons “St Pancras Station” page 51-2]

Reference    Builder VXIII page 896
Reference    Builder XXIV 33, 67, 105, 928
Reference    Jack Simmons “St Pancras Station” 1968 revised 2012 page 51