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St Pancras Old Church

Another one well worth a look, St Pancras Old Church and Churchyard.

It’s only a 10-minute walk away from the newly developed area of Coal's Drop Yard near Kings Cross and home to some knockout monuments, mausoleums and other cool stuff.

First off - John Soane's mausoleum. Soane was an architect whose best known work was the Bank of England, but he also designed loads of other public buildings and created his own museum up at Lincoln's Inn Fields in Holborn.

The mausoleum was the inspiration for the red ‘K2’ telephone boxes that you see all over England. Take a look at the picture below and you can see what I mean.

Another belter of a monument is a Gothic extravaganza, the Burdett-Coutts Memorial Sundial. This ornate memorial obelisk was created to remember important people that had been buried near the church and whose tombs had been disturbed when the railway companies encroached upon the land in the 1860s as they expanded.

It is estimated that approx. 90 000 people have been buried here since the 1600s and the cavalier, reckless way bodies were removed by the developers caused a national scandal at the time.

To sort this scandal, the English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy, at the time an unknown young author, was tasked with supervising the proper exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs. As part of this, he placed hundreds of headstones around a weeping ash in the churchyard and over time, the roots have grown around them. It is now known as the Hardy Tree and there has even been a book written about it, The Hardy Tree by Iphgenia Baal.

Other famous people buried here include Mary Wollstonecraft, the unconventional feminist philosopher whose daughter went was Mary Shelley who went onto write Frankenstein - bet they'd be great dinner party guests! Also Johann Christian Bach aka known as 'the English Bach', and son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach, German composer and musician of the Baroque period.

That's not all, there are also associations with Charles Dickens who mentions it by name A Tale of Two Cities. In fact, his old schoolmaster William Jones who provided the inspiration for the fierce headmaster of Salem House in David Copperfield is in there too.

And bringing it relatively more up to date, the Beatles had one of their last publicity shoots in the churchyard. One of the most famous images from the day is taken by the gates to St Pancras, where crowds gathered to greet the arrival of the fab four. Unbeknown to them, the Beatles had crept into the crowd, joining them in awaiting the famous visitors. There is also a plaque mounted on the bench by the Bach plaque where the four of them sat.

But above all else, it is another of those lovely green spaces you find dotted around London, a great contrast to the nearby Coals' Drop Yard, fantastic in its own very different way.

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