St Pancras Old Church
St Pancras Old Church is a Church of England parish church in central London. It is believed to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in England, and is dedicated to the Roman martyr Saint Pancras, although the building itself is largely Victorian. It is situated on Pancras Road in the London Borough of Camden; The surrounding area and its international railway station are named after the church and parish. It is not to be confused with St Pancras New Church about a kilometre away, on the Euston Road.

History
Documentary evidence for the early history of the church is scanty, but it is believed to have existed since A.D. 314. Remnants of medieval features and references in the Domesday Book suggest it pre-dates the Norman Conquest. It was known simply as St Pancras Church until - as a result of 18th and 19th century urban expansion - St Pancras New Church was built a little over half a mile away on the main Euston Road. Originally, the parish of St Pancras stretched from close to Oxford Street almost to Highgate. However, in the 14th century the population abandoned the site and moved to what is now Kentish Town. The reasons for this were probably the vulnerability of the plain around the church to flooding (the River Fleet, which is now underground, runs through it) and the availability of better wells at Kentish Town, where there is less clay in the soil. The old settlement was abandoned and the church fell into disrepair. It lost its status as the parish church when the New Church was consecrated in 1822, and it became a chapel of ease. Throughout the rapid urban expansion of the 19th century additional churches opened within the bounds of the original St Pancras parish at regular intervals, and by 1890 where there had once been only one, there were now 33 ecclesiastical parishes. By 1847 the Old Church was derelict, but as the local population grew it was decided to restore it. There are still traces of Norman masonry, but the building seen today is basically a Victorian structure. A replacement tower was built and the building was lengthened, though it remained quite small. There have been further restorations since, particularly in 1948 following Second World War bomb damage. The building was designated a grade II* listed building on 10 June 1954. The church has a chaplaincy to the nearby St Pancras Hospital and since 1 June 2003 has formed part of the Old St Pancras Team Ministry (which also includes St Michael's Church, Camden Town, St Mary's Church, Somers Town and St Paul's Church, Camden Square). On 11 December 2007 it marked the opening of the nearby St Pancras International station with a bilingual service and a twinning with the Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Paris, near the Gare du Nord, Paris.

The churchyard
The churchyard, which is the largest green space in the locality, is managed by the London Borough of Camden. It has some fine mature trees, and was restored in the first few years of the 21st century. The architect Sir John Soane designed a tomb for his wife and himself in the churchyard, which is now Grade I listed. This mausoleum provided the inspiration for the design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott of the iconic red telephone boxes. Notable people buried here include vampire writer and physician John Polidori, the composer Johann Christian Bach and the sculptor John Flaxman. It is also the burial place of William Franklin, the last colonial Governor of New Jersey and illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin. There is a memorial tomb for philosophers and writers Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, though the remains of the couple are now in Bournemouth. (In 2009, commemorations of the 250th anniversary of her birth were held by various groups, both inside the church and at the gravestone. ) In the 17th and 18th centuries, many foreign dignitaries and aristocrats"presumably not members of the Church of England"were buried here, outside the boundaries of the City of London and Westminster; they are commemorated on an elaborate memorial commissioned by Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts, the heiress and philanthropist. Other people associated with the churchyard include the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the future Mary Shelley, who planned their elopement over meetings at the grave of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. In the mid-19th century the writer Thomas Hardy, then a trainee architect, was involved in the controversial clearance of part of the churchyard to make way for the railway. Charles Dickens mentions it by name in A Tale of Two Cities , making it the location of body-snatching to provide corpses for dissection at medical schools, a common practice at the time. On 28 July 1968, The Beatles were photographed in the churchyard grounds, in a famous series of pictures designed to promote the single " Hey Jude" and the album The Beatles, better known as The White Album . A recent addition is a polished marble stone at the entrance to the church, a collaboration between and a gift from the poet Jeremy Clarke and the sculptor Emily Young. It is inscribed: "And I am here / in a place / beyond desire or fear", an extract from the long poem "Praise" by Clarke.

Building Activity

  • removed a media
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com