London’s first railway hotel has reopened for the first time in almost 12 years following a comprehensive £40m renovation programme. The Great Northern Hotel occupies a prime position between King’s Cross station and St Pancras International, the busiest rail transport hub in Europe.
The privately-owned Grade II Listed building has been thoughtfully restored by owner-operator, Jeremy Robson at Ram. The Great Northern Hotel forms an integral part of King’s Cross station, with the signature dome of the new Western Concourse designed to fit the crescent shape of the hotel itself. The venue is located only 18m away from the main Eurostar entrance to St Pancras International.
“The restoration and reopening of the Great Northern Hotel has been a dream of mine for many years,” says Jeremy Robson. “I saw the quality in the original architecture, and realised what a careful renovation could contribute to the major regeneration being undertaken at King’s Cross.
“The hotel has an enchanting beauty, and enjoys the most spectacular of locations in one of London’s most exciting neighbourhoods. I wanted to recreate something of real and lasting value – a London landmark that would serve visitors and Londoners alike.”
Originally designed by architect Lewis Cubitt, the Great Northern Hotel opened in 1854 as the first of the new generation of Victorian railway hotels. Its Italianate, classical features are textbook examples of the early Victorian period. Reflecting its architectural heritage, the 91-bedroom hotel has been sensitively refurbished, and its interior design exudes a timeless elegance with a hint of modernity.
The intention has been to evoke the romance of rail travel from a bygone age and to preserve a sense of history and style. David Archer and Julie Ann Humphryes, co-founders of Archer Humphryes Architects, were commissioned to execute the concept and interior design of the hotel.
Leading international consultancy and construction company, Mace, acted as the hotel’s design and build contractor and contributed to the funding of the project. Great care was taken to sympathetically refurbish the hotel’s original features and structures such as the facades, windows, lead-lined gutters, cast iron grilles and drainpipes.
In regaining the lost stature of the building and returning it to use after many years of neglect, there was much valued collaboration between English Heritage, The London Borough of Camden, the contractor, the owner and the design teams.
Stephen Pycroft, chairman of Mace, comments: “As co-investor and contractor, I am delighted that we have played a considerable part in the restoration and transformation of such a significant London landmark. The team have excelled themselves in the challenge of restoring the hotel to its former glory.”
The hotel has an overwhelming sense of space and light with its high ceilings, sweeping staircases, large sash windows and wide curved corridors that are hallmarks of the original architecture. The furniture – supplied by Benchmark for the guest rooms and bars – is all of bespoke design, and handcrafted by artisans selected for their quality and provenance.
The comfortable and elegant bedrooms feature a Victorian-inspired colour palette and black American walnut, which complements the abundance of natural light – creating a sense of tranquillity and calm. There are three room types: Couchettes, which emulate train sleeper compartments; Wainscot, which are named after their walnut wainscot panelling; and Cubitt, which is named after architect, Lewis Cubitt.
Rooms include access to professionally-compiled playlists, a library of blockbuster and classic films, an audio book literary collection and WiFi connection. Every floor offers guests a complimentary pantry, with a selection of home-cooked snacks and drinks, daily newspapers and books.
The hotel also features a destination restaurant and a glamorous bar. The 90-cover restaurant, Plum + Spilt Milk, offers views overlooking London’s newest public square, the King’s Cross piazza, and St Pancras International. Set in an elegant yet informal space, it has been created for people to meet, eat, work and socialise.
Daylight streams into the dining room through 17 3m floor-to-ceiling sash windows. A total of 120 hand-blown pendant lights from Firefly Lighting Design create an ethereal atmosphere, and the handmade furniture adds an air of understated sophistication.
The GNH Bar takes up almost all of the ground floor, and opens directly into the new western concourse of King’s Cross Station and onto Pancras Road. The decadent interior features striking glass chandeliers, a central polished pewter island bar, mirrored glass ceilings inspired by French railway restaurants and a small private mezzanine lounge overlooking the bar.