|St Pancras Old Church|
St Pancras Old Church
|Denomination||Church of England|
|Previous denomination||Roman Catholic|
|Parish||Old St Pancras|
St Pancras Old Church is a Church of England parish church in Somers Town, Central London. It is dedicated to the Roman martyr Saint Pancras, and is believed by many to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in England. The church is situated on Pancras Road in the London Borough of Camden, with the surrounding area and its international railway station taking its name. St Pancras Old Church, which was largely rebuilt in the Victorian era, should not be confused with St Pancras New Church (1819–1822) about 860 metres (940 yd) away, on Euston Road.
A parish church in the Church of England is the church which acts as the religious centre for the people within the smallest and most basic Church of England administrative region, the parish – since the 19th century called the ecclesiastical parish to avoid confusion with the civil parish which many towns and villages have.
Somers Town is an inner-city district in North West London. It has been strongly influenced by the three mainline north London railway termini: Euston (1838), St Pancras (1868) and King's Cross (1852), together with the Midland Railway Somers Town Goods Depot (1887) next to St Pancras, where the British Library now stands.
Central London is the innermost part of London, in England, spanning several boroughs. Over time, a number of definitions have been used to define the scope of Central London for statistics, urban planning and local government. Its characteristics are understood to include a high density built environment, high land values, an elevated daytime population and a concentration of regionally, nationally and internationally significant organisations and facilities.
Originally, the parish of St Pancras stretched from close to Oxford Street almost to Highgate. In the early Middle Ages there was a centre of population in the vicinity of what is now known as the old church. 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.
St Pancras is an area of Central and North West London. For many centuries the name was used for various officially designated areas, but it is now used mainly for the railway station and for upmarket venues in the immediate locality, having been largely superseded by other place names including Kings Cross and Somers Town.
Oxford Street is a major road in the City of Westminster in the West End of London, running from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch via Oxford Circus. It is Europe's busiest shopping street, with around half a million daily visitors, and as of 2012 had approximately 300 shops. It is designated as part of the A40, a major road between London and Fishguard, though it is not signed as such, and traffic is regularly restricted to buses and taxis.
Highgate is a suburban area of north London at the north-eastern corner of Hampstead Heath, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north north-west of Charing Cross.
The church subsequently fell into disrepair. Towards the end of the 18th century, services were only held in the church on one Sunday each month; on other weeks, the same congregation would use a chapel in Kentish Town.18th and early 19th century urban expansion led to the construction of the capacious St Pancras New Church on what was then the "New Road" (Euston Road, about a km away). The old building lost its status as the parish church when the New Church was consecrated in 1822, and became a chapel of ease.
St Pancras Church is a Greek Revival church in Bloomsbury/St Pancras, London, built in 1819–22 to the designs of William and Henry William Inwood. It was historically often referred to as St Pancras New Church, in order to distinguish it from St Pancras Old Church, which stands some way to the north.
The Euston Road is a road in Central London that runs from Marylebone Road to King's Cross. It is part of the London Inner Ring Road and forms part of the London congestion charge zone boundary.
A parish church in Christianity is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish. In many parts of the world, especially in rural areas, the parish church may play a significant role in community activities, often allowing its premises to be used for non-religious community events. The church building reflects this status, and there is considerable variety in the size and style of parish churches. Many villages in Europe have churches that date back to the Middle Ages, but all periods of architecture are represented.
Evidence for the early history of the church is scanty. It is considered by some to have existed since AD 314,although there is no archaeological or documentary evidence to support this. The claim is discussed below under Legendary origins.
Phil Emery and Pat Miller discuss the issue in 'Archaeological findings at the site of the St Pancras Burial Ground and its vicinity'.
The 1847 reconstruction of the medieval church revealed Roman tiles in the fabric of its tower and an inscribed altar stone dated to AD 625, which might suggest an early 7th-century foundation. The original cemetery around the church appears to have been sub-circular like many late Saxon cemeteries.
Remnants of medieval features and references in the Domesday Book suggest it pre-dates the Norman Conquest.
Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the "Great Survey" of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states:
Then, at the midwinter , was the king in Gloucester with his council .... After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out "How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire."
According to a Victorian architect, Robert Lewis Roumieu, involved in the works:
Robert Lewis Roumieu otherwise R.L. Roumieu, was a 19th-century English architect whose designs include Milner Square in Islington and an idiosyncratic vinegar warehouse at 33–35 Eastcheap in the City of London. A pupil of Benjamin Dean Wyatt, he worked in partnership with Alexander Dick Gough between 1836 and 1848.
The old church was principally late Tudor. When it was pulled down to be rebuilt, several small Norman columns, pilaster piers and other remains of a Norman edifice were found among the materials used in the wall, leaving no doubt but that the original church had been a Norman structure which had been at some time completely rebuilt and part used as building material in the reconstruction.
After the Reformation the isolation and decay of the church made it a tempting resort for Catholics: indeed, it was said that the last bell which tolled for the Mass in England was at St Pancras.St Pancras (and to a lesser degree Paddington Church) were the only places in London where Roman Catholics were permitted to be buried Among the several Catholics buried in the churchyard was Johann Christian Bach, youngest son of Johann Sebastian. His name was unfortunately misspelled in the burial register as John Cristian Back.
As it stood in the early 19th century, the church consisted of an unaisled nave, a chancel without a chancel arch and a western tower. The south porch had served as a vestry since the 18th century.
By 1847 the Old Church was derelict, but in view of the growth of population in the southern part of the parish, it was decided to restore it. (Victorian restoration of churches is not what we understand today by the phrase building restoration.) The architect of the alterations was Alexander Dick Gough. The old tower was removed, allowing the nave to be extended westwards, and a new tower was built on the south side. The south porch was removed, and a new vestry was added on the north side. The whole exterior of the church was refaced or reworked.The enlargement and the addition of galleries increased the capacity of the church from about 120 to 500.
There were further restorations in 1888 by Arthur Blomfield with the reredos by C E Buckeridge; in 1925 when the plaster ceiling and the side galleries were removed,and 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. In 2013 an official appeals project was launched to raise the funds necessary to preserve the church and grounds.
As early as 1593 the cartographer John Norden had commented in his Speculum Britanniae that the dilapidated St Pancras church looked older than St Paul's Cathedral.By the 18th century there seems to have been a local belief that St Pancras was of very great age, perhaps the oldest church in England. The contemporary London historian William Maitland dismissed this as a "vulgar Tradition", and suggested that there was confusion with the ancient church with the same dedication in the grounds of St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury, which was said to have been converted from a pagan temple by St Augustine of Canterbury in 598.
In 1870 local historian Samuel Palmer reported "This old and venerable church is said to be the first Christian place of worship in the county of Middlesex in the eighth or ninth century."Later attempts to prove an early date for the foundation of the church include the claim by J. Carter Rendell (vicar 1912–26) that a medieval altar slab marked with five consecration crosses, found during the 19th-century building works, could be dated to the 6th century.
An earlier vicar is said to have claimed to have seen in the Vatican Library a manuscript mentioning that St Pancras church was built in the 9th century, and another to have seen a similar document placing the foundation in the 4th century.
Information panels outside the church today state that it "stands on one of Europe’s most ancient sites of Christian worship, possibly dating back to the early 4th century" and has been a "site of prayer and meditation since 314 AD". The case for these claims seems first to have been argued by local historian Charles Lee in 1955, who wrote:
There can be little doubt that a Roman encampment was situated opposite the site of St Pancras Church about this period, and that the church is on the site of a Roman Compitum, which served as a centre of public worship and public meeting... It seems probable that the Roman Compitum at St Pancras was adapted to Christian worship shortly after the restoration of religious freedom in 313 (taking its name from the recently-martyred Pancras).
Lee's "Roman encampment" was "Caesar’s Camp at Pancras called the Brill", identified by the antiquary William Stukeley in the 1750s.However, even Stukeley's contemporaries could see no trace of this camp, and considered that Stukeley had let his imagination run away with him. Gillian Tindall has suggested that the lumps and bumps in the fields to the west of the church that Stukeley interpreted as a Roman camp were actually traces of the original medieval village of St. Pancras, before the centre of the settlement moved north to the area now known as Kentish Town.
Lee's use of the word compitum, properly a Roman temple or shrine situated at a crossroads, indicates his indebtedness to the work of Montagu Sharpe (1856–1942), a Middlesex magistrate, former chairman of the Middlesex County Council and amateur historian and archaeologist.Sharpe had proposed, in a book first published in 1919, that the area of the county of Middlesex had in Roman times been subject to the form of land division known as centuriation, marked out by roads in a regular grid pattern covering the whole county. Sharpe noted, when plotting his gridlines, that a number of ancient parish churches appeared to be on or close to intersections, or at least on road alignments. He concluded that these churches must therefore stand on the sites of pagan compita, and represent the deliberate conversion of pagan temples to Christian use by early missionaries to the Middle Saxons in the 7th century. And St Pancras Old Church is one of those marked on Sharpe's map.
The above makes it clear that there is no reliable evidence for an early date for St Pancras, and that the claims are all based on unsupported speculation, with no archaeological or documentary evidence to back the speculation up.
The church contains the grave of Samuel Cooper (or Cowper), the miniaturist, against its east wall.
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 graveyard served not only as a burial place for the parishioners but also for Roman Catholics from all around London.They included many French refugees (émigrés), especially priests, who had fled the Revolution, one of them the transgender spy Chevalier d'Éon. Notable people buried in the churchyard include the notorious colonial administrator Joseph Wall who was executed for cruelty in 1802, vampire writer and physician John Polidori, the composers Carl Friedrich Abel and Johann Christian Bach, the eighteenth son of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the sculptor John Flaxman. William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin, and last colonial Governor of New Jersey was interred here in 1814. There is a spousal memorial tomb for philosophers and writers Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, though their remains are now in Bournemouth. In 2009, commemorations of the 250th anniversary of Wollstonecraft's 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 were buried in the graveyard; they are commemorated on the Burdett-Coutts Memorial Sundial, an elaborate memorial commissioned by the philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts.
The architect 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 Giles Gilbert Scott of the iconic red telephone boxes.
Other people associated with the churchyard include the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the future Mary Shelley, who planned their 1814 elopement over meetings at the grave of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, mentioned above. Charles Dickens mentions it by name in his 1859 novel 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. Burials in the churchyard eventually ceased under the Extramural Interment Act in 1854, and St Pancras and Islington Cemetery was opened in East Finchley.In the mid-1860s, the young Thomas Hardy, was in charge of the excavation of part of the graveyard, in the course of the construction of the Midland Railway's London terminus. More burials were removed in 2002.
The churchyard was reopened in June 1877 as St Pancras Gardens, following the movement to allow conversion of disused burial grounds into public gardens. Angela Burdett-Coutts, an important local benefactress, laid the foundation stone of the memorial sundial she had presented.
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.
This impressive monument was erected in 1877 when the northern half of the churchyard was formalised as a public park, clearing most of the smaller gravestones. It lists stones lost to this and earlier clearances for the railways.
see "St Pancras Old Church Churchyard". Find a Grave. Retrieved 19 December 2016. and Lysons 2016
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 White Album .A memorial bench bears a plaque commemorating the group's "Mad Day Out".
The video for Lene Lovich's 1979 hit "Bird Song" was filmed in the church and churchyard.
In 2013, British R&B singer Sam Smith performed two concerts at the church. The live version of "I've Told You Now" was included on deluxe editions of their album In the Lonely Hour .
On 24 September 2014, singer Claudia Brücken, best known for her work with German electronic group Propaganda, performed a solo show at the church.
St Pancras Old Church is frequently mentioned in the "Bryant and May" detective series by author Christopher Fowler.
St Pancras was a civil parish and metropolitan borough in London, England. It was an ancient parish in the county of Middlesex, governed by an administrative vestry. The parish was included in the area of responsibility of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855 and became part of the County of London in 1889. The parish of St Pancras became a metropolitan borough in 1900, following the London Government Act 1899, with the parish vestry replaced by a borough council. In 1965 the borough was abolished and its former area became part of the London Borough of Camden in Greater London.
Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts, born Angela Georgina Burdett, was a nineteenth-century philanthropist, the daughter of Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Baronet and Sophia, formerly Coutts, daughter of banker Thomas Coutts. In 1837 she became one of the wealthiest women in England when she inherited her grandfather's fortune of around £1.8 million following the death of her stepgrandmother, Harriot Mellon. She joined the surnames of her father and grandfather, by royal licence, to become Burdett-Coutts. Edward VII is reported to have described her as, "[a]fter my mother, the most remarkable woman in the kingdom."
Sir Francis Burdett, 5th Baronet was an English reformist politician, the son of Francis Burdett and his wife Eleanor, daughter of William Jones of Ramsbury manor, Wiltshire, and grandson of Sir Robert Burdett, Bart. From 1820 until his death he lived at 25 St James's Place.
All Saints Cathedral, Camden Street, London originally All Saints Church, Camden Town, St Pancras, Middlesex is a church in the Camden Town area of London, England. It was built for the Church of England, but it is now a Greek Orthodox church known as the Greek Orthodox Cathedral Church of All Saints. It stands where Camden Street and Pratt Street meet.
Arthur Richard Dillon, French archbishop, was the son of Arthur Dillon (1670-1733), one of the Irish Wild Geese who became a general in the French service.
John Walker was an English stage actor, philologist and lexicographer.
St Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley, North London while situated in the London Borough of Barnet is actually two cemeteries, owned by two other London Boroughs, Camden and Islington. The fence along the boundary which runs west to east between the two parts of the cemetery has been removed, although the line of it is still marked.
All Hallows, Honey Lane was parish church in the City of London, England. Of medieval origin, it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and not rebuilt; the site became part of Honey Lane Market, which was in turn cleared to make way for the City of London School in the 19th century.
A Tapsel gate is a type of wooden gate, unique to the English county of Sussex, which has a central pivot upon which it can rotate through 90° in either direction before coming to a stop at two fixed points. It was named after a Sussex family of bell-founders, one of whom invented it in the late 18th century. Only six examples survive, all within a 10-mile (16 km) radius of Lewes, the county town of Sussex. Tapsel gates have the dual advantage of keeping cattle out of churchyards and allowing the efficient passage of coffins carried to and from the church during burials. The name sometimes is used more generally to describe swivelling gates of a similar design elsewhere.
Honouring individuals with burials and memorials in Westminster Abbey has a long tradition.
The London Borough of Camden is a borough in north-west London, and forms part of Inner London. Historically in Middlesex, some southern areas of the borough, such as Holborn, are sometimes described as part of the West End of London.
The Church of St John sub Castro is an Anglican church in Lewes, the county town of East Sussex, England. It was built in 1839 on the site of an 11th-century Saxon church, and has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building. In the churchyard is a memorial to Finnish prisoners from the Crimean War who died while confined in Lewes Naval Prison; the memorial is also listed Grade II. The church continues to be active as a parish church in the diocese of Chichester.
Stephen Paxton was an 18th-century cellist and composer.
St Luke's Kentish Town is an active Church of England parish church on Oseney Crescent in Kentish Town, North London, closed from 1991 to 2011 and now hosting a Holy Trinity Brompton church plant. The church has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building,
The Burdett Coutts Memorial Sundial is a structure built in Old St Pancras churchyard in 1877–79, at the behest of Baroness Burdett-Coutts. The former churchyard included the burial ground for St Giles-in-the-Fields, where many Catholics and French émigrés were buried. The graveyard closed to burials in 1850, but some graves were disturbed by a cutting of the Midland Railway in 1865 as part of the works to construct its terminus at St Pancras railway station. The churchyard was acquired by the parish authorities in 1875 and reopened as a public park in June 1877. The high Victorian Gothic memorial was built from 1877 and unveiled in 1879. The obelisk acts as a memorial to people buried near the church whose graves were disturbed; the names of over 70 of them are listed on the memorial, including the Chevalier d'Éon, Sir John Soane, John Flaxman, Sir John Gurney, and James Leoni.
Ancient drains that lie beneath the church are collapsing. As a result they are destabilising the structure of the church.
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