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July 30, 2004

visit the switzerland of England

Last weekend I happened to be in London, and some friends (under the auspices of mapclub) went to visit St. Pancras Chambers. It's in a pretty sad state, due to civil service malaise and industry innovation. Others have chronicled the Chambers in pictures and words, but two things stood out for me.

The first were letters written from management in the Midlands to the stations, train staff and hotel catering department. They implored use of new ingredients, and deplored falling standards. I can only imagine what this daily/weekly flow of memoranda from faceless managers did to kitchen morale.

Here are some of the memos:


Thick Soup

I have lately been very disappointed with the quality of the thick soups supplied at our Stations and Hotels, and I shall be glad if you will pay special attention to this in future, taking care that the soups are not made too floury, and that very strong herbs and spice are not used too freely. Please see that the calves head and oxtail are well cooked and that a nice piece of the meat is given with each basin of calves head, and a nice succulent piece of Oxtail with this soup. I am sure if you pay a little more attention to the cooking of the soup you will improve the quality of the soup, and also please our customers.

I have also noticed lately that the Scotch Broth is often washy, and that the stock is not sufficiently good and the barley not cooked enough. I hope to see an improvement in these matters.


Midland Grand Hotel.
London. Oct 16th 1895

Potted Meat Sandwiches.

I think you ought to be able to sell a good number of potted meat sandwiches during the winter time,if they are made fresh for the customers. These sandwiches require to be made with fresh soft bread,well buttered,and it is essential that they should be sold while they are fresh. You will of course take care not to have more than one tip open at a time. If you have a neat card on the dish of sandwiches I think you should sell a lot of them.

From this time pleasse keep a record of what potted meat sandwiches you sell at your station,and send a return in each week to Derby. Acknowledge receipt.

Miss Wilson.
1st Class.


Mar.2nd 96

Maggi's Consommé

I am sending a small box of capsules of Maggi's Consommé which I personally think very highly of. I am anxious for you to give it to a few of your customers to give opinion about it. These capsules can be supplied at 3d each or 6d per basin which includes bread and the use of a napkin. Will you please make an experiment so as to get a reliable opinion for me as to whether the thing would be a success at our stations.

Miss Hartshorn.


Please note that as frozen salmon is dangerous food, it must on no account be purchased or supplied in our Hotels, Refreshment Rooms or Dining Cars.


There are more in my rather extensive photo gallery.

The second thing that caught my eye is the details of the St. Pancras redevelopment; part of this detailed maps of various cities with the development site outlined. As though King's Cross was walled; a medieval fieftown dropped into world cities.

One final thing - go visit the Midlands, the Switzerland of England.

St. Pancras Chambers is open for public viewing on tours at weekends, and the entrance hall and coffee lounge only from 9-5 weekdays.



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