Eagle and Tun

What Price For Progress

If we want new, Old has to give way – What price for progress?

Much has been said about the new rail line, HS2. It is a controversial project with many people in support and many against. So I ask – What price for progress?

For me, I don’t think it is needed. A new station will eventually be built just a few miles away from my abode, but it will be of little benefit to myself. Partly because the reduction in time onboard the train will be eaten up by the increased journey time at both ends. However, that is my personal view for what it is worth and not actually related to the blog!

We need to accept that some of the project at least will be built. My musings on here today are more about the cost of the project. 

When I say cost, I do not refer to money (it is blatantly obvious that no one knows how much it will cost). I refer to the other costs. The landscape, the noise and most of all, the loss of two great pubs (1 is reported as being a mistake!). 

We only have so much space in our cities, so whenever we want something new, something old usually has to give way. 

For HS2, much has been demolished.

In Birmingham, a pub called the Eagle and Tun has been demolished to make way for the new Curzon street station.

Whilst you woulnever call this an upmarket pub, it had a rich heritage.

Inside the Eagle and TunIt first welcomed drinkers during the reign of Queen Victoria and is famous for appearing on the cover of UB40’s ‘Best of’ album as well as being used in the video for the track Red Red Wine.

In august of 2019, Ed Sheeran also shot a music video in the pub.

The pub itself had real age and character about it. It closed in 2008 but was rescued by the last landlord and restored using his own money.

Red brick architecture with large windows outside. Inside there were original glazed tiles on the walls, traditional bench seating and a large bar.

Above the bar on shelves were dusty musical instruments.

I was lucky enough to visit the Eagle on Tun shortly before it closed its doors for good in early January 2020. Even in its death knell, the beer was well kept.

Bree Louise

At the other end of the line, the Bree Louise near Euston station was forced to close. The pub, named after the owners daughter who died at the age of 12, was a multi award winning boozer.

A firm favourite amongst locals and known as Euston’s best kept secret known for its great ale, lack of football, no fruit machines and no music. It was a real gem for real ale drinkers and craft lovers alike. It was a real London pub.

Whilst many pubs are closing, it is notable that such historic pubs serving great beer and with a rich history are often thriving.

There will be without doubt other business and architecture casualties in the building of this new rail line.

I think it is fair to say, that the arguments and the business case for such a rail line are dubious at best. The costs in financial terms are incredible and likely to rise. The benefits only for a few in order to shave a few minutes from their journey.

The real cost

The cost however to the country’s landscape, heritage and architecture is immense.

I am not certain why we feel the need to flatten such places and put up in their place glass monstrosities.

To elaborate further on the destruction and loss, my research tells me the following is a list of the countries losses –

  • 900 Homes
  • 1,000 businesses
  • 27 Community facilities
  • 60 Irreplaceable ancient woodlands
  • Estimated 2,380 jobs lost permanently (claimed that 2,340 will be created)

Additionally, HS2 state that

  • 58 million tons of landfill waste will be created
  • 9 rivers will need to be diverted

Will we have anything for visitors to see?

It makes me wonder what the future holds for the country. People travel from a-far to experience our heritage and culture. Let’s hope we can keep some for them to see.

So, What price for progress?


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StPancras Roof

St Pancras

As we rush around with our ever so busy lives, many are almost blind to some of their surroundings. St Pancras is a classic example.

Railway Stations

Some of the most overlooked buildings are railways stations. This is odd, as we visit them so frequently.

There are many fantastic examples to behold. Newcastle central with its curving roof, Glasgow central with its dark wooden interior. There are also many small stations that are loved and cared for by the local residents.

They are part of our rich heritage.

St Pancras

One of the stations that I visit regularly in normal times is London St  Pancras international. During my time, I have seen changes beyond anything you could ever have imagined at this station. Like so many, it has a rich history and at times was nearly lost.


Opened in 1868 the station is considered to be one of the wonders of Victorian engineering. As well as this, the hotel which fronts the station is a wonderous architectural building and instantly recognisable.

The station today, is a magnificent building that stands as a visitor attraction in its own right and is so much more than a train station. It was not always this way.

The station was built by the Midland Railway Company (MRC) to be the terminal station of the Midland Railway which connects the Midlands cities of Sheffield, Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and many others to the capital city.

St Pancras is the younger relative of London Kings Cross by just 15 years. It opened in 1868.

Designed and built by William Henry Barlow (Chief Engineer), Rowland Mason Ordish (Station Layout) and George Gilbert Scott (Architect for the hotel and station accommodation) the station had an unusual feature that until recently, few people new about.

Challenging construction

The station had to fit in a tight and complex space. In the days of its construction, railway lines could not enter the centre of London (which is why London has a circle of terminal stations around it) . There was also the Metropolitan railway below .  Other challenges included the Regents canal, the little known River fleet and not mention the gas works.

If you visit the station now, you will note that the Midland mainline platforms (1-4) and the Eurostar platforms are significantly above the street level. This was the level of the original station. The shops and café’s below, occupy space which previously had a very different use.

The Roof

One of the most striking and magnificent features of the station must surely be the roof of the main shed.

The roof is made up of 25 arched trusses each weighing 55 tons. At the time the station was constructed, these formed the largest single span roof in the world.


During the redevelopment, the station bed was cut to expose the area below. The station bed, was originally held in place by 688 cast iron columns so that the trains could pass over the regents canal and avoid an incline to the first station along the route; Kentish Town.

The area that was exposed and now forms the main concourse of the station beautifully highlights a number of these cast iron posts along with some ingenious modern engineering that allows for some movement and vibration of the main concrete slab.

This concourse area was primarily used as a barrel store used by the brewers from Burton on Trent. Indeed, the distance between the pillars was specifically chosen to match those of a number of beer barrels.

Local Materials

What many people do not realise, is that many of the materials used to construct the station were sourced from locations along the route. This was done to highlight the skills and products that were available in the areas served by the Midlands Railway route.

Much of the iron work was manufactured by the Butterley Company using minerals found in the Erewash valley. Many of the red bricks were supplied by a Nottingham brick company.

Inside the main shed, other than the stunning roof, the large clock is almost as recognisable as the station itself. However, this is not the original clock. The original was removed in 1968.


The St Pancras of the 80’s and 90’s was something of a depressing place. The building was stained from years of steam and diesel trains. The grime of the roof meant it was rarely a bright place. It was perhaps this appearance that led it to being used in the opening scenes of Porridge starring Ronnie Barker as Fletcher.

The stations future was in some serious doubt until the Government announced that St Pancras was the preferred terminal station for the channel tunnel.

Those who travelled through the station during the late 90’s and early 2000’s were to witness and amazing transformation. From a personal perspective, the landscape immediately around the station was transformed into a bewildering array of construction sites and concrete. It was amazing to see this slowly transform into what we have today. The old gas cylinders once synonymous with the final approach to a dark and dirty station have been transformed. Open public spaces and the features of the Regent canal all blend into a clean, modern area.

As the builders hoardings were slowly removed, we were introduced to the new St Pancras. A station truly fit for the international gateway that it is today. It is now most assuredly a fantastic place in which to arrive. No longer a station, but an attraction in its own right.


The station is now twinned with Grand Central station in New York which has an equally stunning architecture. They make a good pairing.

My plea.

This weeks plea to my audience is so very simple.

Take a few moments in your life to slow down a little. Look around. Lift your gaze from the mobile phone in your hand and appreciate your surroundings.

In the UK, we are blessed with such glorious architecture. It surrounds us for so much of the time. Please take a little time to appreciate it and the history that it represents.

St Pancras is a truly fantastic example of what the human race can achieve!


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Glorious architecture so often not noticed.

Odd though it may sound these days, I actually enjoy rail travel. There is something about the challenge of getting from A to B (often via C) using the train. As well as the challenge, I like to sit and relax, gaze out the window at the ever changing landscape, the motion of the train, the sounds, and of course, the people watching.

One aspect of rail travel that I have only become truly aware of recently is the stations. Whilst it is true that many stations could not be described as magnificent, many are run down, cold and miserable. However, increasingly stations are being restored to their former glory.

It is sad that many people do not notice the environments that they pass through during the daily grind of a commute. What joy are they missing? What history are they missing?

My favourite, must be the London terminal of the Midland Mainline; London StPancras International.

The transformation that I have seen in this station in the years that I have been using it has been nothing short of incredible. The old station was so dirty, dark and depressing. The restored station is bright, beautiful and inspiring. They have utilised all the history to its best effect and it is almost a pleasure to wait for a train here. We are fortunate indeed that it was saved and restored.

Another station, that I have totally missed until this week, is London Paddington. Again, the beautiful preservation of historic buildings works so well.

I implore you to take a few seconds of your day to pause and look around you. Be amazed at what you see. Take it in. Above all, enjoy it.