Tag Archives: John Soane

Hardy Tree, St Pancras Old Churchyard

4 Sep

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St Pancras Old Church squats on an island of pre-industrial London, cut off from its parish by riptides of commercial road traffic gushing into the Euston Road and trains thrusting piledrivers northward¬†from the great stations of the ‘Cross.

I visited yesterday to find Soane’s tomb, bouncing up the Midland Road past the British Library, thirsty, hot and not a little irritated by the lack of pedestrian crossings. A plod up the steps into the churchyard and suddenly the temperature changes- it’s entirely, improbably disconnected from the sweltering roar of Somer’s Town at rush hour, the other end of Autumn from the rest of the city.

“Spooky” doesn’t come close to describing it; my immediate impression was of Gothic Horror made material.¬†This proved altogether more literal than I could have known- John Polidori is buried here and Dickens wrote about it as the preserve of grave robbers and body snatchers. By comparison to St Pancras, Highgate Cemetery feels like a corporate hospitality area at the Millennium Dome.

Soane located and logged, I turned around to face a stone cross of preposterous girth, behind which stood a tree that appeared to be sprouting tombstones from its roots; not so much a monster as a miscarriage of teeth and hair.

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Thomas Hardy worked here as an architect’s apprentice in the 1860s, exhuming corpses and shifting tombs Westward to make way for the construction of the Midland Railway. Myth dictates that the extraordinary, nightmarish outcrop around the tree is his handiwork.

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