ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH

Say St Pancras to most Londoners and they will think of St Pancras station, gateway to Europe. In the Cultural Wednesday household it means St Pancras Old Church where Mr CW’s parents got married. Tucked away behind the more famous train station the old church of St Pancras is well worth exploring.

St Pancras Old Church

ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH LONDON

Why Old church?  Two reasons ….. first there is a newer St Pancras church on the other side of St Pancras station on the Euston Road.  Second St Pancras Old Church is thought to be the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in London.  Christians have been worshipping here since the fourth century AD.

Not that the building we see today dates back to the fourth century. Parts of the present day church, well a wall in the nave, dates back to the 11th or 12th century. The pretty bell tower and handsome stonework you see date back to extensive remodelling in 1847.

ST PANCRAS OLD CHURCH GRAVEYARD

Old graveyards in London are fascinating places, full of stories. St Pancras Old Church graveyards abounds with literary connections. Mary Wollstonecroft, author of The Vindicaton of the Rights of Woman and mother of Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) is buried here. Legend has it that is was here that Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley planned their elopement whilst visiting her mothers grave.

St Pancras Old Church

Charles Dickens mentions St Pancras Old Church graveyard in The Tale of Two Cities, it is named as the location where Jerry Cruncher brings his son to teach him bodysnatching. Whilst Mr Cruncher and son were fictitious bodysnatching was not.

A few years later it was modern technology that disturbed the rest of dead. The outer edges the graveyard lay in the way of the proposed path of the new railway lines. Architect, Arthur Bloomfield was hired to ensure that occupants of the graveyard were removed in suitably decorous manner. Mr Bloomfield delegated the task of sorting out the gravestones to his junior, Thomas Hardy, who is better known now as the author of The Mayor of Casterbridge and Far from the Madding Crowd. Hardy come up with the idea of arranging the displaced stones in concentric circles around a tree, known as ‘The Hardy Tree’.

St Pancras Old Church

Architect Sir John Soane is buried here, he designed his own rather fine tomb. I did a double take when I first saw it as I though it looked a little like London’s famous red telephone boxes. Turns out that this is where Sir Giles Gilbert Scott got the inspiration for his iconic telephone box design. Sir Giles was a trustee at the Sir John Soane museum and plainly a big fan.

St Pancras Old Church

WHO WAS ST PANCRAS?

Pancras was born in Roman occupied Turkey, when he was very young his parents died and he went to live with an uncle in Rome. In Rome he converted to Christianity but the Emperor Diocletian wasn’t so keen on Christians and embarked on the persecution of them. When he was 14 Pancras was rounded up and asked to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods, he declined. Diocletian was so impressed by his demeanour that he offered him wealth and power if he renounced his faith, still Pancras refused. Enraged Diocletian had him beheaded. His youth at the time of martyrdom led him becoming the patron saint of children.

The cult of St Pancras started when miraculous things started happening around his tomb. At the end of the 6th century Gregory, archbishop of Tours noted that anyone making a false oath around St Pancras tomb would become seized by a demon and die. From then on it was thought that if a witness was to make an oath on the saints bones what they said must be true. Bits of St Pancras body began spreading out across the Chirstian world. It is thought St Augustine bought relics of St Pancras to England.

The Venerable Bede mentions relics of Pancras. He recounts how Pope Vitalian wrote to King Oswiu of Northumberland in 660, or thereabouts, that he was sending relics of St Pancras another Roman saints to England. These were probably used to reconsecrate old Roman churches that had fallen out of use. Should you wish to celebrateSt Pancras day it is May 12th.

St Pancras Old Church

St Pancras Old Church is small but very beautiful and its churchyard more interesting than most.  Well worth a visit and a special place to remember my parents in law, Marian and Roy.

Old St Pancras Church London.

MummyTravels

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37 Comments

  1. July 9, 2017 / 12:07 am

    What a beautiful old church and a lovely reason to visit

  2. July 9, 2017 / 12:10 am

    I never realised there was a church behind St Pancras station and what a pretty church it is too. Will have to go and explore next time I’m in the area 🙂

  3. July 9, 2017 / 12:11 am

    I love visiting old places!
    Looks like a lovely place for your in-laws to be and for you to visit them at

  4. July 9, 2017 / 12:20 am

    What a lovely old church! I must have walked close by it dozens of times without ever realising it was there.

  5. Neesie23
    July 9, 2017 / 12:33 am

    Fantastic photos! That’s such a beautiful church and would be a very special place to get married.
    I’m someone who loves to visit graveyards (which sometimes gets the odd comment) but I think they are fascinating places full of history and stories to tell. I think it’s lovely that you chose to visit for the anniversary. Thanks for sharing 😀

  6. July 9, 2017 / 12:58 am

    I’ve been to St Pancras hundreds of times but never noticed this church. It’s a wonderful find & looks very peaceful despite being so close to the station.
    I love reading about new finds in London. It’s beautiful and I’m sure a very fitting place for your inlaws to get married
    xx
    #SundayPhoto

  7. July 9, 2017 / 5:44 am

    Hi Catherine, old English churches do ooze character and it’s lovely that you have a place you can remember your In-Laws too. I remember reading Lark Rise To Candleford and Far from the Maddening Crowd at school, I don’t ever remember being taught the Thomas Hardy was also an architect! Just goes to show we are never too old to learn something new!

    xx

  8. annette @afrenchcollection
    July 9, 2017 / 7:20 am

    What a lovely idea to trace family history by visiting this church #MySundayPhoto

  9. July 9, 2017 / 8:45 am

    What a lovely church (and post in general). I had no idea that Hardy did that. Love your new blog look too.

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 9, 2017 / 8:47 am

      Thank you! It still needs tinkering around the edges but I’m very excited, lots of new widgets to play with

  10. July 9, 2017 / 10:09 am

    As ridiculous as it might seem it never occurred to me that there was even one St Pancras church let alone 2! what an amazing little piece of literary history, linked to Hardy and Wollstonecraft. I can’t believe it’s in central London, it looks so rural. #mysundayphoto

  11. July 9, 2017 / 1:21 pm

    Wow what a stunning church and a beautiful altar too. I’m trying to imagine a young couple taking their vows there. It’s our wedding anniversary on the 4th July too 🙂

  12. July 9, 2017 / 3:33 pm

    What a great way to remember Marian and Roy. I’ve been to St Pancras several times and never knew of the existence of the old church. London really does have so many hidden gems!

  13. July 9, 2017 / 7:28 pm

    I love exploring grave yards and touches – so peaceful when there is no people around 😉 x #mysundayphoto

  14. July 10, 2017 / 9:57 am

    Fascinating blog post, Catherine. I had no idea the church was there. Love the Thomas Hardy connection. Will definitely have to visit next time I get to London.

  15. July 11, 2017 / 7:32 am

    What a lovely way to remember your parents! Looks like a much more adorable church they got married in than my parents! I still remember that god awful browny-orange carptet…. haha #CityTripping Stumbled

    PS. Your new blog look is fantastic!!

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 11, 2017 / 7:36 am

      Thank you! We were stunned by just how rural the church felt given that it is slap bang in the centre of London

  16. July 11, 2017 / 9:07 am

    What a beautiful church! I also love ancestry travel! #citytripping

  17. July 11, 2017 / 9:04 pm

    I didn’t realise Thomas Hardy was an architect. Churches teach us so much more than just religion. I’ll have to pop in next time I’m near St Pancras.
    #citytripping

  18. July 12, 2017 / 5:10 pm

    I love how many layers of history there always are in London – to have so many links to different historical names in one relatively small church. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  19. July 13, 2017 / 4:06 pm

    Lovely! I had no idea this was there! I guess like many people I just head into St. Pancras and go on my way… next time I’m allowing time to see this! #citytripping

  20. January 3, 2019 / 5:40 pm

    Well, here I am again, reading this lovely post, and realizing that once again I went into St. Pancras, and forgot about this church. I am going to pin this to my London board so I hopefully will NOT forget next time I find myself in town… #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      January 3, 2019 / 5:41 pm

      All spruced up for SEO and with added facts this time!

      • January 3, 2019 / 5:57 pm

        I liked it! Wish I could get better at SEO, but admit it eludes me…

  21. January 3, 2019 / 8:15 pm

    This is a fascinating post. I MUST visit. I completely get what you mean about Sir John Soane tomb looking like a phone box. #Farawayfiles

  22. January 4, 2019 / 8:48 pm

    I work in London and I am always looking for new things to see and do so I am glad I have discovered your blog as it looks like you have quite a few ideas that I can use on my commute and lunch break. Thank you #farawayflies

    • Catherine
      Author
      January 4, 2019 / 8:49 pm

      Thank you that’s made my evening!

  23. January 5, 2019 / 12:40 pm

    This is one of my favorite things to do – combine my love for visiting old churches but also have some ancestry research too.

    • Catherine
      Author
      January 6, 2019 / 5:02 pm

      I love visiting places that have connections to my forebears, always sends shivers down my spine!

  24. Alison
    January 13, 2019 / 1:11 pm

    So much history and what an incredible cemetery. As an Australian living in Europe I am in awe of sites like this, with tangible tales. Sure, Australia has many sacred Indigenous sites, but so much of Australia’s ancient history is transient and oral history passed down through generations.

  25. January 14, 2019 / 2:14 pm

    I didn’t know there was a church behind St Pancras station!! Such a great church and altar” .Will have to go and explore next time I’m near!

  26. January 19, 2019 / 1:55 pm

    I had no idea this was the oldest church in London. Loved the post!

  27. February 3, 2019 / 10:15 am

    Wonderful post, Catherine. I’ll be dropping the Telephone Box / Tomb Fact Bomb at every available opporunity.

    • Catherine
      Author
      February 3, 2019 / 11:55 am

      One of my favourite factoids!

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