14 November 2009

St Pancras Old Church Churchyard, London.

St Pancras Old Church dates from 11/12C and stands on oldest site of Christian worship in London (3C). Poor Pancras was the orphaned Christian son of a nobleman. He was brought up at the Court of the Emperor in Rome. At the age of 14, refusing to betray his Christian faith he was executed by decapitation on 12th May, 304 A.D. Inside there is a lot of ornamentation and an amazing 4C Altar Stone, reputed to have belonged to St Augustine. The surrounding Churchyard contains the tombs of architect Sir John Soane and Mary Wollstonecraft (although hers is just a monument now as her remains were reburied in Bournemouth.) Mary’s grave was an trysting (err hum) place for her daughter, also Mary, and her future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, when this was a rural churchyard beside the River Fleet! It’s a very pretty churchyard and I got the feeling that I was just standing on the tip of the iceberg with so many more thousands buried below. There has been reputed grave robbing in the late 1800s, and many were disinterred and reburied during the works to the St Pancras rail extension. The tightly packed graves around the Hardy tree are very moving, like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else. The Hardy Tree, the plaque on the tree explains that before turning to writing full time Thomas Hardy studied architecture in London from 1862-67 under Mr. Arthur Blomfield, an architect based in Covent Garden. During the 1860s the Midland Railway line was built over part of the original St. Pancras Churchyard. Blomfield was commissioned by the Bishop of London to supervise the proper exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs. He passed this unenviable task to his protégé Thomas Hardy in. c.l865. Hardy would have spent many hours in St. Pancras Churchyard overseeing the careful removal of bodies and tombs from the land on which the railway was being built. The headstones around the ash tree would have been placed here about that time. A few years before Hardy's involvement, Charles Dickens made reference to Old St. Pancras Churchyard in his Tale of Two Cities (1859), as the churchyard in which Roger Cly was buried and where Gerry Cruncher was known to 'fish' (a 19C term for body snatching.)

1 comment:

  1. I was digging through blog posts today and realized I somehow missed this post? Ahh the business of work no doubt. I really like the shot of the graves piled by the tree. I often feel like that at a cemetery. Like I'm walking over many more graves that are no longer marked...I try my best to not walk on graves but sometimes it's inevitable...


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