Historic railway water tank is moved half a mile to save it from demolition

By Anna Whitney
Thursday 29 November 2001 01:00
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A 350-ton listed water tank in north London, built in 1872 to service steam locomotives but now threatened by the latest in high-speed trains, was yesterday transported nearly half a mile to a new location to ensure its survival.

St Pancras Waterpoint, a Grade-II listed building designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, had been faced with demolition to make way for the new Channel Tunnel rail link. But the 129-year old structure was taken on specialised transporter units to its new home on a viaduct overlooking the St Pancras yacht basin.

As the waterpoint is a unique building, with fine, detailed brick and stone features, it was decided that dismantling it brick by brick would damage it to an unacceptable degree. Instead it was moved in pieces. The building was cut horizontally at two levels and into three sections. The upper two sections were moved to the new site and placed on a replica of the lowermost part, which was impossible to move. The sections were lifted on to the transporters using one of the UK's biggest mobile cranes.

English Heritage intervened when the waterpoint was first threatened with demolition, and forged a binding agreement with the building's owners, London and Continental Railways, to enable it to be relocated.

Heritage of London Trust Operations was approached to undertake the project and the new site was found. At its new location, the waterpoint will function as a viewing tower, with information panels about the building and the surrounding area.

Diana Beattie, of the Heritage of London Trust, said: "The move has gone very well. There have been a huge number of people watching."

Sir George Gilbert Scott also designed London's Albert Memorial, St Pancras station and the Home Office, and was responsible for the former Midland Grand Hotel, next to St Pancras. Built in 1873, it was a hotel until the Second World War and was then used as offices. It is now a Grade I-listed building. The station includes a train shed that at one time was the greatest enclosed space in the world.

The relocation of St Pancras Waterpoint is part of the preparations for the new high-speed track, which will enable train passengers to journey from London to Paris in less then two and a half hours.

The 68-mile, £5.4bn Channel Tunnel rail link is being built by London and Continental Railways. When completed, King's Cross and St Pancras stations will be the largest transport hub in Europe.

The waterpoint was on land earmarked for part of a large complex of houses, hotels, shops and offices. It was hoped that the developments would help to rejuvenate the area, which has long been regarded as among the most seedy and dilapidated districts in the capital.

The Marriott chain has plans to refurbish the former Midland Grand Hotel in time for Eurostar's planned arrival in 2007. The cost of turning St Pancras Chambers, as the building at the front of the planned Eurostar terminus is now known, into a hotel and 60 flats, is estimated at £40m.

A consortium comprising BAA Lynton, Whitbread and Manhattan Loft Corporation won the public competition to redevelop the land.

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