In and Around Euston Station

Central London, From London

Are train stations only ever associated with travel misery ? Not so I find, when I drop into [1] Euston Station. To my surprise, and delight, just in and around London’s first ever intercity terminus are plenty of stories that could keep the most disgruntled commuter entertained…….

Sign for the London & Birmingham Railway Company at the Doric Arch
Sign at the Doric Arch – The First Intercity Train Ran Between London and Birmingham
  • Start of Day: Euston Square Station or Euston Station, Zone One, London
  • Cost of Day Out: Free
  • History Content: High

[2] Euston Road‘s original name was “the New Road from Paddington to Islington”. Fortunately, it is renamed when the double platform Euston Station is opened in 1837. Today, the 15 platform station is London’s fifth busiest. And it’ll get even busier when it expands to 21 platforms on the completion of the controversial High Speed 2 train.

Statue of Robert Louis Stephenson at Euston Station
Statue of Robert Louis Stephenson at Euston, the Man Who Planned The Original Station

Controversy arises in the 1960s over the demolition of the station’s Great Hall (image here) and Arch. Despite strong criticsim from the architectural world, including words like “official apathy” and “philistines”, the station’s portico entrance facing Drummond Street and hall is knocked down. And in its place? The rather grim architecture I see today.

Euston Station's Waiting Lounge and Departure Boards
The Decidedly Plain Interior of Euston Station Today

Thanks to Dan Cruickshank’s 15 year search, much of the demolished Euston Arch is discovered in 1994, submerged at Prescott Channel, on the River Lea. The Yorkshire stones are still well preserved. And Londoners live in hope that one day, the ongoing campaign to reinstate the arch will deliver.

Motif of Euston Arch on The Victoria Line Platform at Euston Underground

The Euston Arch Inspires the Motif on [4] The Victoria Line Platform at Euston Underground

The station’s popular watering hole, [3] Euston Taps, is housed in the arch’s two ornate gatehouses. Standing in front of them, I ponder. Could the rebuilding of this arch, a symbol of the new world of train travel, allay the discontent of British train commuters? Possibly not. But it would certainly save the arch from a fate better than a bookend at the [4] Doric Arch.

Euston Arch Stone is a Bookend at the Doric Arch
An Original Piece of the Euston Arch At the Doric Arch Pub

The 1756 Act of Parliament which approved Euston Road stipulates that no buildings are to be constructed within fifty feet of the road. Which meant that Euston was originally a residential area of houses with long gardens stretching to the main road. Open squares, such as [5] Euston Square Gardens in front of the train station, would have also graced this area.

Euston Road After Its 1960s Expansion
The 1960s Expansion of Euston Road Swallows Gardens and Squares That Once Existed

At [6] 30 Euston Square is a rather impressive Greek revival building. The interior is totally unexpected. The lobby and cafe are tiled in beautiful green and cream Doulton Parian (named after Paros the Greek god). It was built for the Edinburgh, London and Glasgow insurance company. Today it belongs to the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The Logo Of the Original Owners Of 30 Euston Square Can Be Found in its Pretty Lobby

Not only is there a warm cafe in very pleasing surroundings, the building also holds exhibitions. When I visit, the free exhibition reflects individual stories of patients and the medicines they consume. It succeeds in making me aware of the quantity of drugs we take.

WOWI Exhibition at the Royal College of Practitioners
The Temporary WOWI Exhibition in the Lobby of 30 Euston Square – Dress made of The Patient’s Pills

On the other side of Euston Square, is an original 1902 LCC [7] Euston fire station built in a “lively interpretation of the Arts and Crafts movement”. The first fire brigades were privately owned by insurance companies set up in the aftermath of the 1666 Great Fire of London. However, as they would only extinguish fires in properties insured by them, the government eventually legislates to make it a public service.

The LCC Fire Station on Euston Road
The Masterpiece Of The Series Of Fire Stations Built By The LCC Still Stands On Euston Road

The building restrictions of the 1756 Act were to placate the Duke of Bedford. He feared that Euston Road would blight the value of his nearby property in Bloomsbury, especially as cattle would now be driven along this bypass to Smithfields market. Which meant that the old route of Oxford Street is now cattle-free, much to the delight I’m sure, of the Grosvenors who were developing Mayfair.

St Pancaras New Churchyard
Cattle on Euston Road Would Now Pass By S.t Pancras New Churchyard En Route to Smithfields Market

[8] St. Pancras New Churchyard, is at the junction of Euston Road and Upper Woburn Place. It’s a little piece of ancient Greece in London, as the 4 replica caryatids supporting the portico were inspired by the Erechteum from the Acropolis of Athens. The unlit torch or empty jug they carry is a symbol that they are the guardians of the dead.

Portico of St Pancras New Church on Euston Road
The Greek Inspired Portico of St. Pancras New Church and Modern Art Sculptures in the Church Yard

The church promotes itself as a place of worship, and as a space for art and live music. The long flat ceiling inside makes the space look long and deep. The Greek theme continues inside with cream doric columns and Greek temple like altar. An original wooden organ with leaf motifs stands by the altar. And the crypt, accessible from the back of the church, is its exhibition space.

Interior of St Pancras New Church Yard
The Unusual Interior of St Pancras New Church Yard

On Euston Road too, I find the [9] Wellcome Collection. This charitable foundation is set up in 1936 from the estate of the American pharmacist, Sir Henry Wellcome‌. His drugs company is now part of Glaxo Smith Kline. But the legacy of this obsessive collector remains for the public to enjoy.

My Favourite Item at the Wellcome Collection – Strings of Real Human Teeth Used As Signage For A Chinese Medical Doctor

Henry Wellcome’s collection of medical, ethnological and archaeological artefacts ranges from the familiar, like models of early prosthetics, to superstitious medical practices. With self service audio guides and information booklets, I am taken into a world of medical practices so different from the one I receive today.

The Wellcome Collection
Wellcome’s Collection Come From Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas

The Wellcome Foundation describes itself as a free destination for the incurably curious. And being curious, I could spend hours in here. And as a reader, I could also spend hours in here in its warm, comfortable reading room or it’s library.

The Reading Room at the Wellcome Collection
Plenty of Chairs and Floor Cushions For a Comfortable Read In Wellcome’s Reading Room

Feeling peckish, I wonder back to [10] Drummond Street. Drummond Street is truncated when the station is built over it in the 60s. Indian shops and restaurants move in to what is left of it. [11] The Plentiful Foods Indian Spice Store is true to its name. The neatly organised store has every Indian spice and dry ingredient I could wish for. And labels its fresh vegetables with its Urdu equivalent.

The Plentiful Foods Indian Spice Store
Drummond Street is a Handy Stopvoer to Stock Up on Indian Supplies

It’s gratifying to know that one can still have a good meal in central London for under £10. On Drummond Street, there are plenty of choices of cheap eateries. My favourite, introduced by a friend many moons ago, is [12] Diwana Bhel Poori House, a vegetarian Indian restaurant. It does an extensive, and popular, buffet lunch. And an excellent a la carte.

Buffet Lunch at Dhiwana Bhel Poori House
The “Eat As Much As You Can” Vegetarian Buffet Lunch at Diwani Bhel Poori‌ House is Good Value for Money

My final story of Euston Station is back at the [13] statue of Matthew Flinders. Any passing Aussie will know that he is the first circumnavigator of Australia in 1803. Whilst Flinders‘ gravestone is located and removed before Euston station is built over St James’ cemetery, his bones are assumed lost. Until the HS2 excavations dig them up in Jan 2019.

Statue of Matthew Flinders at Euston Station
Statue of Matthew Flinders at Euston Station

After almost circumnavigating Euston Station on foot, my story ends here, as I return to below the streets of London to go home.

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Some Useful Links and Information

  • Euston Taps (website) – claims to have the freshest beer known to humanity. It will certainly make you feel human as you wait for that late train.
  • The Doric Arch (website) – pleasant pub with a historic stone to whilst away any train delays.
  • Café Caritas at 30 Euston Square (website) -Open Weekdays till late.
  • Wellcome Collection (website) – Galleries are closed on Mondays. Library (which requires a day pass that can be requested at reception) is closed on Sunday. Reading Room is open to the public everyday. Open till 18:00. Late night Thursday. Free.
  • Plentiful Foods Indian Spice Ltd – open daily. A very well organised store selling everything you could possibly want for Indian cuisine, from spices, pulses and fresh vegetables.
  • Diwana Bhel Poori House ( London Cheap Eats Website) – excellent, excellent food, provided you can forsake your meat. Their lunch time buffet is popular.
  • Tube Map and City Mapper are free apps that provide London maps, route planner and train/ bus times from your nearest stop.
  • Transport for London is cashless. Only Oyster Cards, purchased at stations, or contactless cards, are acceptable.
My Walk In and Around Euston Station

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