St Pancras Old Church is a hidden gem in the heart of London, steeped in history and surrounded by greenery. Located next to St Pancras International station, the church is nestled within the serene St Pancras Gardens, which also houses the Mausoleum of Sir John Soane.
With a rich and intriguing past, St Pancras Old Church is a must-visit for anyone interested in London’s history. From the famous faces buried in its grounds to the ancient trees that line its pathways, there’s plenty to discover and explore. Let’s delve into the fascinating history of this historic church and all that it has to offer.
- St Pancras Old Church is a hidden gem in London, located next to St Pancras International station and surrounded by the tranquil St Pancras Gardens.
- The church has a rich and intriguing history, with many famous faces buried in its grounds and ancient trees lining its pathways.
- Visitors to St Pancras Old Church can look forward to exploring its fascinating past and discovering all that it has to offer.
Why Visit St Pancras Old Church?
St Pancras Old Church is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, architecture, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat from the busy London streets. Here are some reasons why:
St Pancras Old Church is the final resting place of several notable figures, including Johann Christian Bach, the 18th child of Johann Sebastian Bach, and William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin. The graveyard also initially housed the remains of husband-and-wife writers Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. The Burdett Coutts Memorial to Lost Graves was built in 1877 to commemorate the gravestones that were cleared to make space for the northern half of St Pancras Gardens. The monument lists the names of the lost graves.
An Iconic Design
The current design of St Pancras Old Church incorporates much of the material from the original 13th-century building, with neo-Gothic elements in the arch designs and a classic round window above the main entrance. Unlike many London churches, it does not have a large tower rising high over the local landscape, although there is a clock tower around the same height as the main church. In the 19th century, treasures dating back as far as the 6th century were discovered, including a 6th-century altar stone.
The Hardy Tree
The Hardy Tree is a unique and intriguing feature of St Pancras Old Church. The tree was surrounded by old gravestones that radiated from the trunk, creating a striking visual effect. The history of the Hardy Tree is a grim one, as railway companies cut through the area, including the graveyard of Old St Pancras Church, leaving a trail of decaying corpses behind them. Thomas Hardy, who was an apprentice junior architect at the time, was tasked with cleaning up the graveyard and arranged the coffins in such a way that a tree grew through the middle, its roots tangled around the different gravestones. Despite the recent storm that caused the tree to fall, the remains of the Hardy Tree can still be seen in the middle of the garden.
Overall, St Pancras Old Church offers a fascinating glimpse into London’s past and is a peaceful oasis in the midst of a bustling city.
The History of St Pancras Old Church
Falling into Disrepair
St Pancras Old Church is believed to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in England, with its origins dating back to the 4th century AD. The church was first built in the 11th or 12th century AD, with remnants of the original structure still visible on the northern wall of the nave. The Domesday Book of 1085 records Walter, a Canon of St Paul’s, holding a hide at St Pancras, indicating the church’s long-standing relationship with St Paul’s Cathedral.
The church served the local community for over 350 years, surviving the reformation under Henry VIII. Despite Parliament ordering that the deserted Church of St Pancras be used as lodging for 50 soldiers in Cromwell’s army in 1642, it remained in use and was a favourite site of Elizabeth I, who allowed Latin mass in the church throughout her reign. However, the church began to fall into disrepair, with a survey in 1297 noting that the building’s roof urgently needed repair and animals befouling the churchyard.
John Norden, a topographer, noted in 1593 that the church was “utterly forsaken, old and weather-beaten,” while a survey taken in 1650 remarks that it was “remote from any houses in the said parish.” Legend has it that the vicar and parishioners regularly abandoned worship in the church to escape the rising waters of the River Fleet. As time passed, the church’s primary use was as a burial ground and for quick weddings. Writer Mary Wollstonecraft married William Godwin at the church in 1797 before being buried there after her death the same year.
Disuse and Rediscovery
By 1840, the church was effectively a ruin, having been usurped by St Pancras’ new church on Euston Road. With the industrial expansion of London building pace, the church underwent a total restoration in 1847 and 1848. Architect A.D. Gough sought to renovate the church in line with its original 12th-century foundations, adding a new tower on the south wall. During excavations, workers found a treasure trove of valuables dating back to the Elizabethan Age and before.
Further renovations took place in 1888 and 1925 to restore the plaster ceiling and remove the side galleries, while 1948 saw additional repairs following bomb damage from the Second World War. In June 1954, St Pancras Old Church was designated a grade II listed building. Nowadays, the church has a chaplaincy at St. Pancras Hospital.
St Pancras Old Church: Practical Information
St Pancras Old Church is a historic church located in London, England. It is the oldest church in the area and has been in existence since the 4th century. Here is some practical information for visitors to the church:
- Location: St Pancras Old Church is located on Pancras Road, London NW1 1UL, United Kingdom.
- Opening hours: The church is open to visitors from Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, and on Saturdays from 11am to 1pm. It is closed on Sundays.
- Admission: Admission to the church is free, but donations are welcome to help with the upkeep of the church.
- Accessibility: The church is wheelchair accessible and has a ramp for entry. However, the churchyard is not accessible due to uneven ground.
- Guided tours: Guided tours of the church are available for groups of 10 or more people. These must be booked in advance.
- Services: The church holds regular services on Sundays and Wednesdays. Visitors are welcome to attend these services.
- Photography: Photography is allowed inside the church, but flash photography is not permitted.
- Facilities: There are no public toilets or refreshment facilities available at the church. The nearest facilities are located at St Pancras International Station, which is a short walk away.
Visitors to St Pancras Old Church can expect to see a beautiful and historic building with a rich history and interesting features.