21st April 2011, 3:25pm
Lincoln experts at the heart of St Pancras Hotel restoration
St Pancras restored mirror Conservation and restoration experts from the University of Lincoln will see nine years of their meticulous work revealed to the public when the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel at Kings Cross, London, is officially opened on 5 May 2011.

Crick-Smith University of Lincoln became involved in the £150 million restoration project in 2002 and have worked on many of the original areas of the hotel including the entrance hall, main coffee lounge, ladies’ coffee lounge, main entrance corridors, grand staircase, first floor corridor and the state guest room, some of which are considered to be of significant historical importance.

The original building - The Midland Grand Hotel – was designed and built by the foremost Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott and opened on 5th May 1873. It exemplifies High Victorian Gothic architecture in its most dramatic sense, the stunning redbrick building having been saved from demolition in the sixties by a protest led by former Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman.

Crick-Smith UL became involved in the very early stages of the project, undertaking detailed paint analysis and research into the appearance of the main public areas throughout the history of the hotel. The findings of this research were then instrumental to the accurate restoration of these areas by Crick-Smith UL, the University of Lincoln’s Conservation department and other expert teams of craftsmen and painters.

The striking gilt-framed mirror (pictured) in the Sir George Gilbert Scott Suite stands at around four metres high and was conserved and restored by the Crick-Smith UL team at their base in Lincoln. Just two of these mirrors have survived at the hotel out of several that it is believed were specially commissioned from renowned cabinet-maker Gillows of Lancashire. The frames, which had deteriorated considerably over time, were carefully cleaned and the mouldings recreated. They were then re-gilded with real gold-leaf, which took a team from the University’s Conservation department several weeks to complete.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the team was recreating the intricate paint stencil on the ceiling and wall faces in the main entrance hall which had been damaged by a fire in an adjacent room.

Conservator and Researcher at Crick-Smith UL, Paul Croft, said:
“We were faced with significant damage to a very elaborate stencil scheme and decorative plasterwork. Less than 20 per cent of it, over an area covering 18 x 6 metres, could still be clearly seen, with the rest being either completely lost or lying under a layer of black soot. An added problem was that subsequent layers of paint that had been applied over the original paintwork over the years had blistered from the heat of the fire, so we had to find a way of removing the soot and the damaged later paint layers, without damaging the original décor.”

A complex process involving gridding the area and mapping out sections of the stencil, using earlier photographs and the small sections of uncovered paintwork as a guide, creating meticulous hand-drawn scaled-down outlines of the various panels and borders and utilising computer imaging technology was undertaken. After several weeks this painstaking work enabled the team to interpolate and extrapolate the missing information.

“This detective work certainly drew on our expertise,” said Paul. “However, it ultimately led to the successful and, importantly, accurate re-instatement of the entire scheme which we hope will delight visitors to the hotel for many more years to come.”

The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel will maintain its elegance and charm by offering global travellers a gateway to London in the form of one of the city’s greatest landmarks. The opening of the hotel will also mark the completion of the regeneration of St Pancras International Station, now the home of Eurostar.

It will celebrate its grand opening 138 years to the day after the opening of the original hotel.

The restoration has been undertaken by Manhattan Loft Corporation in conjunction with London & Continental Railways.

For more images of the restoration visit http://www.cricksmith.co.uk/projects/about/st_pancras_chambers/
--Ends--