St Pancras, London
British Library, station and Euston Road in 2009
St Pancras shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Holborn and St Pancras|
|London Assembly||Barnet and Camden|
St Pancras is an area of London. For many centuries the name was used for various officially-designated areas, but it is now used mainly for the railway station and only rarely for the locality, having been largely superseded by several other names for overlapping districts.
St Pancras was originally a medieval parish, which ran from close to what is now Oxford Street north as far as Highgate, and from what is now Regent's Park in the west to the road now known as York Way in the east, boundaries which take in much of the current London Borough of Camden, including the central part of it. However, as the choice of name for the borough suggests, St Pancras has lost its status as the central settlement in the area. The district now encompassed by the term St Pancras is not easy to define, and usage of St Pancras as a place name is fairly limited.
The original focus of St Pancras was St Pancras Old Church, which is in the southern half of the parish, and is believed by many to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in Great Britain. However, in the 14th century the population abandoned the site and moved to Kentish Town, probably due to flooding by the River Fleet, which is now underground, and the availability of better wells at Kentish Town. The old settlement was abandoned and the church became derelict by 1847.
In the 1790s Earl Camden began to develop some fields to the north and west of the Old Church as Camden Town, which has become a better known place name than St Pancras. In the mid 19th century two major railway stations were built to the south of the Old Church, one of them called St Pancras and the other King's Cross. A residential district was built to the south and east of the church, but it is usually known as Somers Town. The term St Pancras is sometimes applied to the immediate vicinity of St Pancras Station, but King's Cross is the usual name for the area around the two mainline stations as a whole.
In 1822 the new church of St Pancras on Euston Road was dedicated as the parish church, and by the end of the century the ancient parish had been divided into 37 parishes, including one for the rebuilt Old St Pancras Church. There are currently 17 Church of England parishes completely contained within the boundaries of the ancient parish, all of whom benefit from the distributions from the St Pancras Lands Trust, and most of which are in South Camden Deanery in the Edmonton Area of the Diocese of London. The present Vicar, the Revd Anne Stevens, is the first woman vicar of St Pancras, and the first woman Church of England vicar in the very conservative Deanery of South Camden. St Pancras Parish Church is Grade 1 listed, and famous for its Greek revival style and the annual London Festival of Contemporary Church Music.
The parish of St Pancras was administered by a vestry until the Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras was established in 1900. In 1965 the former area of the borough was combined with that of two others to form the London Borough of Camden.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, St Pancras was famous for its cemeteries: as well as the graveyard of Old St Pancras Church, it also contained the cemeteries of St James's Church, Piccadilly (currently under threat from the High Speed Two Rail proposals), St Giles in the Fields, St Andrew, Holborn, St. George's Church, Bloomsbury, and St George the Martyr, Holborn. These were all closed under the Extramural Interment Act in 1854; the parish was required to purchase land some distance away, and chose East Finchley for its new St Pancras Cemetery.
The disused graveyard at St Pancras Old Church was left alone for over thirty years, until the building of the Midland Railway required the removal of many of the graves. Thomas Hardy, then a junior architect and later a novelist and poet, was involved in this work. Particularly, he placed a number of gravestones around a tree, now known as "the Hardy Tree". The cemetery was disturbed again in 2002-03 by the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, but much more care was given to the removal of remains than in the 19th century.
The name St Pancras survives in the name of the local parliamentary constituency, Holborn and St. Pancras. One of the political wards in Camden is called St Pancras and Somers Town; however, ward boundaries are chosen to divide a borough into roughly equal slices with little regard to historical boundaries or day-to-day usage. Besides Somers Town and the area around St Pancras Old Church, the ward includes much of Camden Town and the former Kings Cross Goods Yard, which is being redeveloped as a mixed-use district under the name Kings Cross Central.
Old St Pancras Church and its graveyard have links to Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and the Wollstonecraft circle. Immediately to the north of the churchyard is St Pancras Hospital, formerly the London Hospital for Tropical Diseases. St Pancras is one of the best-known railway stations in England. It has been extended and is now the terminus for the Eurostar services through the Channel Tunnel.
- Nearest places
- Camden Town and Primrose Hill Past by John Richardson (1991) ISBN 0-948667-12-5
- "GENUKI: St Pancras History". Homepages.gold.ac.uk. 2003-10-09. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
- "The Hardy Tree, St Pancras Churchyard, London". Victorianweb.org. 2006-04-17. Retrieved 2011-12-10.