Planning for SHA 2013 in January continues here in Leicester. Conference registration opens at the beginning of October, and information about how you can help by volunteering at the conference will be available soon.

In the meantime – don’t forget to arrange your travel to Leicester! The conference team has put together this guide to travelling to the city and we have now arranged a special deal with East Midlands Trains, who operate trains between London St Pancras and Leicester. Advance return travel between the two cities will be available from £27 standard class, and £42 first class for travel during the conference; a significant saving on the cost of train tickets purchased at the station on the day. Train fares will increase from 1st January 2013, so make your booking before this date to get the lowest fares. You can find out more about how to take advantage of this deal by downloading this document.

An express train leaving London St Pancras for Leicester in 1957. Modern engines and rolling stock are used now; sorry about that.

London St Pancras is something of a visitor destination in itself. The station opened in 1868 as the southern terminus of the Midland Railway, which ran services between London, the East Midlands, and Yorkshire. The train shed was designed by the Midland Railway’s own engineer, William Barlow, and with an arch span of 240 feet, over 100 feet high at its apex, the train shed roof was the largest single-span roof in the world.

The station facade was completed with the construction of the gothic Midland Grand Hotel, which opened in 1873 and was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The hotel was a pioneering building at the time, ornately decorated and boasting hydraulic lifts, fireproof concrete floors, revolving doors and a fireplace in each of the 300 bedrooms.

The Midland Grand Hotel

By the 1930s, the hotel had become outdated and the building was used for railway company offices. After the Second World War, the station too was deemed to be outmoded, and during the 1960s it was proposed that the station should be closed, and demolished along with the hotel. This caused uproar among the growing conservationist movement; the neighbouring Euston Station had been demolished in 1961-2, amid much public outcry. The poet Sir John Betjeman spearheaded a campaign to protect the station, and in 1967 St Pancras station and the former hotel were listed Grade I, protecting the complex from demolition.

The statue of Sir John Betjeman and the restored train shed roof at St Pancras

In 1996 St Pancras was selected as the location for the permanent terminus for the Eurostar trains travelling through the Channel Tunnel to continental Europe, and a long programme of reconstruction and restoration work began; the station fully re-opened in 2007, and the restored Midland Grand Hotel followed in 2011.

So if your journey to Leicester involves taking a train from St Pancras, do stop to take a look around.

Image 1 by Ben Brooksbank via Wiki Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Image 2 via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Image 3 via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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