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The poet John Betjeman was instrumental in saving St Pancras Station from decommissioning during the 1960s. When London and Continental Railways was transforming the building for use as the Eurostar’s new terminus forty years later, the company sought a means of paying tribute to him.
Following a competition organised by arts agency Futurecity, a 2.1m high sculpture of the poet gazing up at the roof of the train shed was commissioned. This was accompanied with quotations from Betjeman’s poetry carved in slate and set into the floor of the concourse.
Betjeman is represented with coat tails billowing as if buffeted by the wind of a passing express train, holding onto his hat and looking up in awe at the great architectural spans above him. He holds a collection of books in one of his favourite hemp bags from Billingsgate fish market.
A quotation from his poem Cornish Cliffs inscribed in a circle below his feet hints at the sunlight streaming down through the blue-painted ribs of the station roof and at trains emerging from tunneled darkness:
And in the shadowless, unclouded glare
Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where
A misty sea-line meets the wash of air
The sculpture was unveiled on 12th November 2007 by Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Betjeman’s daughter, Candida Lycett-Green. In the years since it has become a celebrated London landmark and is regularly the site for poetry readings, weddings and other celebratory events.