An illustration of St Pancras Old Church, a Romanesque piece of architecture, which is said to have existed since 4th Century AD. The church is situated near King's Cross in Central London Click the image to enlarge

O passenger, pray list and catch
Our sighs and piteous groans,
Half stifled in this jumbled patch
Of wrenched memorial stones!

— Thomas Hardy, the first verse of The Levelled Churchyard about his experience of uprooting graves at St. Pancras

Learn more about St Pancras Old Church below...

History

Dedicated to Saint Pancras, a Roman martyr and a patron saint of children, some say that the church dates back to the 4th Century AD and is believed to be one of the oldest Christian worship sites in England; however there are no archaeological remains or documents to suggest that the site existed back then.

The building has been modified and restored a number of times so that little or any of the original church can be seen and so it's uncertain as to when exactly the church was built, although with some medieval features and correspondence from R.L Roumieu in 1871 mentioning ‘...other remains of a Norman edifice were found among the materials used in the wall, leaving no doubt but that original church had been a Norman structure...’, it's very likely that the church originated before or a little after the Norman Conquest.

At the beginning of the 19th Century, the building deteriorated after a new parish church of St Pancras was built closer to the city and the old one held the role of a Chapel of Ease. In 1847–48 R.L. Roumieu and A.D. Gough restored and extended the church, and further work was carried out when part of the graveyard had to be cleared to accommodate the new railway tracks coming into Midland Railway's London terminus — a job that author Thomas Hardy took on when he was an apprentice architect.

The Church has also been a backdrop for many musicians — most notably the Beatles who had one of their last publicity shoots there on 28th July 1968 to promote their single Hey Jude, and more recently Sam Smith, the British singer, who performed two concerts there in 2013.

Did you know?

The tomb of Sir John Soane and his wife, one of London's most famous architects and mostly known for the Bank of England building, sits in the courtyard of St Pancras Old Church and is one of only two Grade I listed tombs in the country. The design resembles London's infamous red telephone boxes — and is said to have been an inspiration to their designer, Giles Gilbert Scott, who invented them 100 years after Soane's death.

The architecture

Before the restoration and extension in 1847–8, the church had an unaisled nave, a chancel without an arch, and a west tower. When the alterations began, the west tower was removed and a new tower was built on the south side with a new vestry to the north and the nave extended westwards.

The tower which still stands today, has a half-timbered belfry (where the bells are housed) with louvred panels at the top, and has a clock which is placed within a round-arched recess with two arches and a larger round-arched window below.

In 1871 and 1888, A.W. Blomfield carried out further restorations on the Church in Romanesque or ‘Norman’ style, something which you instantly notice when you approach the main entrance of the building. The porch is beautifully decorated with carved moulding in typical Romanesque style of semi-rounded arches, cable pattern, and chevrons; the windows above are round-arched with hoodmoulds extending into labelstops; and sit below a circular shaped window with tracery decoration.

UCL has a great interactive map of the gardens around the church, where you can see the layout of the features and the gravestones.

See images of St Pancras Old Church