In The Eighteenth of November Fabriel and Alice take refuge in the derelict St Pancras Chambers after the fire. It becomes their home for the duration of the story. I have always loved that wonderful mock-Gothic building. I bless Sir John Betjeman for his part in getting it listed Grade I, thus saving it from being demolished. Despite its listed status, when I was writing the book the building was still in a terrible mess, both inside and, perhaps a little less so, outside.
St Pancras Chambers, now carefully restored, has transformed into the magnificent St Pancras Renaissance hotel, with luxury flats above it. Many of the sumptuous, original Victorian features have been preserved; it bears no resemblance to the wreck of a building that I explored. And the old station itself is now a typical, and expensive, mall type shopping area, with the Eurostar check in on one side and local services at the back. The Eurostar trains are one level up, where you will now also find some additional bars, including the long, narrow champagne bar.
I still miss the dirty, somewhat tatty and romantic old station. When you walked into the old Booking Hall you could easily imagine you had been transported back to Victorian times. The station itself was sort of cosy, if you can say that of a station. It held so many memories for me. It was from the old station that we caught the train to Sheffield every week when I was doing my M.A.; it inspired me. That’s all changed. If you travel to Sheffield nowadays you have a long hike through the new squeaky-clean malls to reach the repositioned St Pancras station. Totally devoid of any atmosphere or interest, it may be clean and modern, but it’s boring and hasn’t a romantic bone in its body.