2018 marks the 150th anniversary of St. Pancras station first opening. This year HS1 are celebrating this historic milestone by revealing and sharing stories about the place, the people who worked or used St. Pancras and the journey that the station has been through to date. To start, they will look at the transformation of the station over the last 150 years, which is set to be perfectly showcased on the 25th January, as pottery company, W. Moorcroft Ltd, launch two new designs – a heritage pottery design by Moorcroft and the other, a new brand of pottery that was launched in ELLE Decoration magazine in January 2017 called designconsort, for the contemporary artistic interior.
Operating out of the original brick factory in Stoke-on-Trent, England, complete with its own Grade II listed bottle oven, Museum and Heritage Visitor Centre, Moorcroft uses the proprietary glazes and distinctive slip-trailing methods pioneered by William Moorcroft at the end of the 19th century. This incredibly labour-intensive process produces colourful designs of intricacy, brilliance, and clarity in the Arts and Crafts tradition. From the very same kilns as each piece of Moorcroft, each piece of designconsort is also outlined by the hand application of liquid clay, before being handpainted but often, tinged with delicate amounts of gold or silver lustre. Moorcroft and designconsort show just how important it is to protect heritage assets as well as striving for a distinct design image for a changing generation in much the same way as St. Pancras.
St. Pancras is a Grade I listed 19th century mainline railway station situated on Euston Road (London, UK) and two designs, one created by Moorcroft and another from designconsort epitomise the genii of both art potteries as they represent St. Pancras to mark its special anniversary in different ways. St. Pancras was built at the dawn of railway expansion and industrial revolution with the original roof structure made up of a series of wrought iron ribs resulting in a space 100ft high, 240ft wide and 700ft long. It was the largest single spanned roof in the world when first built, and its design was copied across the world, including at Grand Central Station in New York.
Sadly, the famous station became architecturally unfashionable, disfigured by pollution and deterioration, disused and in 1966, proposals to demolish both Kings Cross and St. Pancras were put forward by British Rail. However, following the public response from figures such as architectural historian Niklaus Pevsner and poet John Betjeman, the station was listed Grade I in November 1967. Outstanding design had won a great victory! When the station was finally regenerated for international destinations, the work took three years, from 2004 – 2007, and followed a rigorous and painstaking process of conservation. The original designs for the station were examined at the National Archives at Kew and the original sources of brick and stone were identified for repair work. The newly restored station was opened by HM the Queen on 6th November 2007 at an opening concert performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra – this was and is a station championed by all the Arts.
Its recent transformation into St. Pancras International has created an impression of perfection that belies its age to the uninitiated. The role of conservation and restoration, and the station’s historical significance is therefore concealed. In much the same way as designconsort is a W. Moorcroft Ltd brand, St. Pancras epitomises the struggle between preservation and use. Designer Emma Bossons’ interpretation for designconsort does something that Paul Hilditch’s historic design of the stations period features cannot achieve in traditional Arts and Crafts design, it harnesses elements from St. Pancras’ past, but allows contemporary design to travel along hidden train – tracks of perfection, as corners of the station design pull together to form an inspired pattern. St. Pancras Arches of Blue shows roof arches, pattern work from the ceiling structure and diamond shapes from the famous clock face, which include roman numerals for 150 to celebrate 150 years of the station, transformed through a process of peeling away architectural elements, and pulling geometric structures, until a Post-Millennium design appears. In truth, Emma’s design is an outstanding representation of the station and one only has to consider the juxtaposition of the placement of glass shop fronts in the undercroft, however, to see its honesty – these shops and restaurants do not obscure the original fabric, but allow it to be read and appreciated.
Emma used a delicate colour palette in-keeping with the station’s identity today along with silver gilding. The old structure of St. Pancras is still there but hidden for future discovery. In contrast, Paul’s ceramic Moorcroft plaque takes us back to the golden age of steam where glistening glass ceilings and freshly painted iron beams canopy over a burgundy steam train. Ladies in their fine attire and gentlemen in top hats emphasise the luxuries of the middle classes. Like the designconsort offering, this is exciting and breath-taking, but in an utterly different way. The interaction between different characters, along with the colour and attention to detail, encapsulate everything that is appealing about designs crafted at Moorcroft today.
The Golden Age of Steam also captures an idealistic vision of Victorian Britain, where power, progress and change gripped the growing Empire, whilst elegance, finesse and traditional values still prevailed in the metropolis. St. Pancras was regenerated to be a cosmopolitan station for European and mainland destinations, and it was only ever going to be the genre of designconsort that would truly be able to capture the urban design which would steam into the future. One year on, the new W. Moorcroft fledgling brand has indeed become a viable consort – to Moorcroft! On 22nd March 2018 11am-3pm both W. Moorcroft Ltd brands will be revealed at an event to celebrate the stations 150-year history at St Pancras itself.