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The Barrel Vault

This new opening can be found in ‘the finest and smartest railway station in London’.

Unit 23, St Pancras Station, Pancras Road, London, N1C 4QP

Wetherspoon is opening a pub at the iconic St Pancras International railway station, in London (25 September). The pub, The Barrel Vault, opens in the station’s 150th anniversary year. It will have an entrance from within the station and a terrace on Pancras Road. St Pancras International was designed by William Barlow, originally opening in 1868. It became renowned as an engineering marvel – it was the largest space in the world enclosed by a single roof and provided the grandest entrance into London. Following an £800-million restoration project, St Pancras International reopened in 2007. 

The Barrel Vault will be set on one floor, with one bar, with a feature barrel display over the bar and customer area. This display is a reference to the vast storage area, below the station, created owing to the natural slope of the land. When the station was built, the chief engineer, Barlow, decided that trains would enter the railway station on a raised deck, more than five metres higher than the adjoining roads. The deck was supported by hundreds of cast-iron columns, and the elevated platforms created a huge space below, used to store thousands of barrels of Burton Beer – highly popular in the capital at the time. There will also be a large painted mural across one wall of the new pub, depicting the station in the 19th/20th century, before its modern extension.

The pub‘s name harks back to the station’s original design, its links with the breweries of the Midlands and the original role of the station’s undercroft for the storage of beer barrels in the late 19th century. A key feature of the station’s original design was to incorporate the storage of beer. The station’s 688 cast iron columns were spaced to the width of beer barrels. In the 1870s, more than 200,000 barrels arrived into St Pancras each year from the Bass Brewery alone. 

Wendy Spinks, commercial director of HS1 Ltd, the company which owns and operates St Pancras International, said: “This is a hugely exciting year and, as well as celebrating the past 150 years, we want to look forward to what we can offer for the next 150… and beyond. 

“The Barrel Vault complements the station’s existing offer perfectly, giving tourists, commuters and people who live and work locally to St Pancras a place to socialise, as well as shop and travel.”

Wetherspoon’s chief executive, John Hutson, added: “We believe that The Barrel Vault will be a great asset to St Pancras International and will be welcomed by travellers and visitors alike. “We are delighted that the pub will be opening in the station’s 150th anniversary year.” The pub will be open from 7am to midnight (Sunday to Thursday, inclusive) and from 7am to 1am (Friday and Saturday). We will feature photographs of The Barrel Vault in the next edition of Wetherspoon News.

Vault supplies 150 beers for St Pancras’ 150th year

To celebrate the opening of our new pub, The Barrel Vault, and St Pancras Station’s 150th anniversary, we are hosting a special beer festival. The joint celebration will be marked with a selection of 150 various festival beers, during the month-long event, one for every year since the station opened. The festival will run at The Barrel Vault from Monday 1 October until Wednesday 31 October (inclusive). 

Wetherspoon’s marketing manager, Rob Davies, said: “This joint celebration beer festival will be a fantastic opportunity for customers to sample some great British beers at our brand-new pub. 

“The festival ales will be from breweries in the many different regions across the UK served by the station. 

“Many of the beers are associated with some of the various calling points on the lines and routes, in towns and cities accessed from St Pancras.” 

Pub history
The landmark Victorian station and its 21st-century extension are bounded by Pancras Road and Midland Road. The former is named after a 4th-century saint and the latter after the Midland Railway Company (MRC) which built the grand terminus. Before the station opened in 1868, Midland Road was Brewer Street, one of several streets laid out by the Brewers’ Company. Three centuries earlier, this was an area of pasture land acquired by Richard Platt, ‘citizen and brewer of London’. Platt was the proprietor of the Old Swan Brewery by the Thames. He was also twice master of the Brewers’ Company and gave the pasture land to the company for the upkeep of a school.

The MRC was determined to make St Pancras ‘the finest and smartest railway station in London’. The single-span iron-and-glass roof, designed by its chief engineer William Barlow, is a marvel of Victorian engineering. Painted blue to ‘give the impression that the roof melted seamlessly into the sky’, it was recently restored using a new paint named English Heritage Barlow Blue.

To overcome the natural slope of the land and numerous other constraints, Barlow decided that trains would enter the railway station on a raised deck, over five metres higher than the adjoining roads. The deck was supported by hundreds of cast-iron columns. The elevated platforms meant that there was a vast area below available for storage. It was used to store thousands of barrels of ‘Burton Beer’ – highly popular in the capital at the time.

‘Burton Beer’ was brought mainly from the Bass and Thomas Salt breweries in Burton-on-Trent. Salt’s store dominated the eastern façade of the station (a few steps south of the J D Wetherspoon site) and included a sampling room, in which wholesalers could taste the beers. Salt’s business was later taken over by Bass, whose trains continued bringing beer to St Pancras until 1964.

The almost-never-ending beer barrels were lowered from platform level into the vast storage area below by means of a hydraulic lift. The site of the lift is clearly marked on old Ordnance Survey maps (from the 1870s until the 1960s), almost within touching distance of today’s J D Wetherspoon premises. There were also several signal posts in the immediate vicinity, vital for the safe passage of the many beer trains entering and leaving the station.

Be sure to visit us on our opening day – Monday 1 October.

These images have been supplied by the architect Eve Jeffries.