Old and New London: Volume 5. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
"The rev'rend spire of ancient Pancras view,
To ancient Pancras pay the rev'rence due;
Christ's sacred altar there first Britain saw,
And gazed, and worshipp'd with an holy awe,
Whilst pitying Heaven diffused a saving ray,
And heathen darkness changed to Christian day"—Anon.
Biographical Sketch of St. Pancras—Churches bearing his Name—Corruption of the Name—The Neighbourhood of St. Pancras in Former Times—Population of the Parish—Ancient Manors—Desolate Condition of the Locality in the Sixteenth Century—Notices of the Manors in Domesday Book and Early Surveys—The Fleet River and its Occasional Floods—The "Elephant and Castle" Tavern—The Workhouse—The Vestry—Old St. Pancras Church and its Antiquarian Associations—Celebrated Persons interred in the Churchyard—Ned Ward's Will—Father O'Leary—Chatterton's Visit to the Churchyard—Mary Wollstoncraft Godwin—Roman Catholic Burials—St. Giles's Burial. ground and the Midland Railway—Wholesale Desecration of the Graveyards—The "Adam and Eve" Tavern and Tea-gardens—St. Pancras Wells—Antiquities of the Parish—Extensive Demolition of Houses for the Midland Railway.
Before venturing to set foot in either of the "shy" localities to which we have referred at the close of the previous chapter, it would, perhaps, be as well to say something about the parish of St. Pancras generally—the mother parish, of which Camden, Kentish, Agar, and Somers Towns may be said to be, in a certain sense, the offspring, or, at all events, members. It is pleasant, at length, after so many chapters descriptive of a district which is thoroughly modern, to find ourselves at a spot which actually has its annals, and in which the biographical element blends itself with the topographical. One can scarcely help feeling weary after reading accounts of parishes and vicinities which have about them nothing of past interest beyond tea-gardens and road-side inns; and therefore we welcome our return at St. Pancras into a region of history, where the memorials of past celebrities abound. In fact, it must be owned that the whole of the district through which we have travelled since we quitted Kensington, and crossed the Uxbridge Road, is extremely void of interest, as, indeed, is nearly the whole of the north-western district of London, a geographical entity which we owe to Sir Rowland Hill and the authorities of the General Post-Office.
St. Pancras, after whom this district is named, was a young Phrygian nobleman who suffered martyrdom at Rome under the Emperor Diocletian for his adherence to the Christian faith; he became a favourite saint in England. The Priory of Lewes, in Sussex, was dedicated to his honour; and besides the church around which this particular district grew up, there are at least eight other churches in England dedicated to this saint, and several in Italy—one in Rome, of which we read that mass is said in it constantly for the repose of the souls of the bodies buried here. The parish of St. Pancras contains two churches dedicated to the saint—the new parish church, of which we shall speak when we come to Euston Square; and the ancient or Old St. Pancras, in St. Pancras Road. Of the other churches in England dedicated to this saint, we may mention one in the City—St. Pancras, Soper Lane, now incorporated with St. Mary-le-Bow; Pancransweek, Devon; Widdecome-in-the-Moor, Devon; Exeter; Chichester; Coldred, in Kent; Alton Pancras, Dorset; Arlington, Sussex; and Wroot, in Lincolnshire.
In consequence of the early age at which he
suffered for the faith, St. Pancras was subsequently
regarded as the patron saint of children. "There
was then," as Chambers remarks in his "Book of
Days," "a certain fitness in dedicating to him the
first church in a country which owed its conversion
to three children"—alluding, of course, to the fair
children whom Gregory saw in the streets of
Rome, the sight of whom had moved the Pope to
send St. Augustine hither. "But there was also
another and closer link which connected the first
church built in England by St. Augustine with
St. Pancras, for," adds Mr. Chambers, "the muchloved monastery on the Cœlian Mount, which
Gregory had founded, and of which Augustine was
prior, had been erected on the very estate which
had belonged anciently to the family of Pancras."
The festival of St. Pancras is kept, in the Roman
Catholic Church, on the 12th of May, under which
day his biography will be found in the "Lives of
the Saints," by Alban Butler, who tells us that he
suffered martyrdom at the early age of fourteen,
at Rome, in the year 304. After being beheaded
for the faith, he was buried in the cemetery of
Calepodius, which subsequently took his name.
His relics are spoken of by Gregory the Great.
St. Gregory of Tours calls him the Avenger of
Perjuries, and tells us that God openly punished
false oaths made before his relics. The church at
Rome dedicated to the saint, of which we have
spoken above, stands on the spot where he is
said to have suffered; in this church his body is
still kept. "England and Italy, France and Spain
abound," adds Alban Butler, "in churches bearing
his name, in most of which relics of the saint were
kept and shown in the ages before the Reformation.
The first church consecrated by St. Augustine at
Canterbury is said by Mr. Baring Gould, in his
"Lives of the Saints," to have been dedicated to
St. Pancras. In art, St. Pancras is always represented as a boy, with a sword uplifted in one
hand and a palm-branch in the other; and it may
be added that the seal of the parish represents the
saint with similar emblems. There is a magnificent brass of Prior Nelond, at Cowfold, in Sussex,
where St. Pancras is represented with a youthful
countenance, holding a book and a palm-branch,
and treading on a strange figure, supposed to be
intended to symbolise his triumphs over the archenemy of mankind, in allusion to the etymology
of the saint's name. The saint figures in Alfred
Tennyson's poem of "Harold," where William
Duke of Normandy exclaims—
"Lay thou thy hand upon this golden pall;
Behold the jewel of St. Pancratius
Woven into the gold. Swear thou on this."
That the name, like most others in bygone days, did not escape corruption, may be seen from the way in which it is written, even towards the close of the last century. In Goldsmith's "Citizen of the World" (published in 1794), is a semihumorous description of a journey hither, by way of Islington, in which the author thus speaks of the name of the place:—"From hence [i.e., from Islington] I parted with reluctance to Pancras, as it is written, or Pancridge, as it is pronounced; but which should be both pronounced and written Pangrace. This emendation I will venture meo arbitrio: [Pau], in the Greek language, signifies all; which, added to the English word grace, maketh all grace, or Pangrace: and, indeed, this is a very proper appellation to a place of so much sanctity, as Pangrace is universally esteemed. However this be, if you except the parish church and its fine bells, there is little in Pangrace worth the attention of the curious observer." We fear that the derivation proposed for Pancras must be regarded as utterly' absurd.
Many of our readers will remember, and others will thank us for reminding them, that the scene of a great part of the Tale of a Tub, by Swift, is laid in the fields about "Pankridge." Totten Court is there represented as a country mansion isolated from all other buildings; it is pretended that a robbery is committed "in the ways over the country," between Kentish Town and Hampstead Heath, and the warrant for the apprehension of the robber is issued by a "Marribone" justice of the peace.
Again, we find the name spelt as above by
George Wither, in his "Britain's Remembrancer"
"Those who did never travel till of late
Half way to Pankridge from the city gate."
In proof of the rural character of the district some three centuries ago, it may be well to quote the words of the actor Nash, in his greetings to Kemp in the time of Elizabeth: "As many allhailes to thy person as there be haicockes in July at Pancredge" (sic).
Even so lately as the commencement of the reign of George III., fields, with uninterrupted views of the country, led from Bagnigge Wells northwards towards St. Pancras, where another well and public tea-gardens invited strollers within its sanitary premises. It seems strange to learn that the way between this place and London was particularly unsafe to pedestrians after dark, and that robberies between this spot and Gray's Inn Lane, and also between the latter and the "Jew's Harp" Tavern, of which we have spoken in a previous chapter, were common in the last century.
St. Pancras is often said to be the most populous parish in the metropolis, if taken in its full extent as including "a third of the hamlet of Highgate, with the other hamlets of Battle Bridge, Camden Town, Kentish Town, Somers Town, all Tottenham Court Road, and the streets east and north of Cleveland Street and Rathbone Place," besides—if we may trust Lysons—part of a house in Queen Square. Mr. John Timbs, in his "Curiosities of London," speaks of St. Pancras as "the largest parish in Middlesex," being no less than "eighteen miles in circumference;" and he also says it is the most populous parish in the metropolis. Mr. Palmer, however, in his history of the parish, published in 1870, says that "its population is estimated, at the present day, at a little over a quarter of a million, its number being only exceeded of all the metropolitan parishes by the neighbouring one of Marylebone." He adds that it is computed to contain 2,700 square acres of land, and that its circuit is twenty-one miles. From the "Diary" of the vestry for the year 1876–7 we learn that the area of the parish is 2,672 statute acres. The total number of rated householders in 1871 was 23,739, and the ratable annual value of property £1,162,375. There are 278 Parliamentary and municipal boroughs in England and Wales, exclusive of the metropolis, and only five of these—viz., Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, and Sheffield—contain a larger population; and there are twenty-two counties with a less population in each than St. Pancras.
There are four ancient prebendal manors in the parish, namely, Pancras; Cantlowes, or Kentish Town; Tothill, or Tottenham Court; and Ruggemure, or Rugmere. The holder of the prebendal stall of St. Pancras in St. Paul's Cathedral was also, ex officio, the "Confessarius" of the Bishop of London. Among those who have held this post may be enumerated the learned Dr. Lancelot Andrews, afterwards Bishop of Winchester—of whom we shall have more to say when we come to his tomb in St. Saviour's, Southwark; Dr. Sherlock, and Archdeacon Paley; and in more modern times, Canon Dale.
The church had attached to it about seventy acres of land, which were let in 1641 for £10, and nearly two hundred years later, being leased to a Mr. William Agar, formed the site of Agar Town, as mentioned in the previous chapter. Norden thought the church "not to yield in antiquitie to Paules in London:" in his "Speculum Britanniæ" he describes it as "all alone, utterly forsaken, old, and weather-beaten."
Brewer, in his "London and Middlesex," says: "When a visitation of the church of Pancras was made in the year 1251, there were only forty houses in the parish." The desolate situation of the village, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, is emphatically described by Norden in his work above mentioned. After noticing the solitary condition of the church, he says: "Yet about the structure have bin manie buildings, now decaied, leaving poore Pancrast without companie or comfort." In some manuscript additions to his work, the same writer has the following observations:—"Although this place be, as it were, forsaken of all, and true men seldom frequent the same, but upon deveyne occasions, yet it is visayed by thieves, who assemble not there to pray, but to waite for prayer; and many fall into their handes, clothed, that are glad when they are escaped naked. Walk not there too late."
As lately as the year 1745, there were only two or three houses near the church, and twenty years later the population of the parish was under six hundred. At the first census taken in the present century it had risen to more than 35,000, and in 1861 it stood at very little under 200,000. There has, however, been a decrease since that time on account of the extensive clearances made for the terminus of the Midland Railway, of which we shall speak presently.
Pancras is mentioned in "Domesday Book," where it is stated that "the land of this manor is of one caracute, and employs one plough. On the estate are twenty-four men, who pay a rent of thirty shillings per annum." The next notice which we find of this manor is its sale, on the demise of Lady Ferrers, in 1375, to Sir Robert Knowles; and in 1381 of its reversion, which belonged to the Crown, to the prior of the house of Carthusian Monks of the Holy Salutation. After the dissolution of the monasteries it came into the possession of Lord Somers, in the hands of whose descendants the principal portion of it—Somers Town—now remains.
Of the manor of Cantelows, or Kennestoune (now, as we have already seen, called Kentish Town), it is recorded in the above-mentioned survey that it is held by the Canons of St. Paul's, and that it comprises four miles of land. The entry states that "there is plenty of timber in the hedgerows, good pasture for cattle, a running brook, and two 20d. rents. Four villeins, together with seven bordars, hold this land under the Canons of St. Paul's at forty shillings a year rent. In King Edward's time it was raised to sixty shillings."
In the reign of Henry IV., Henry Bruges, Garter King-at-Arms, had a mansion in this manor, where on one occasion he entertained the German Emperor, Sigismund, during his visit to this country. The building, which stood near the old Episcopal Chapel, was said to have been erected by the two brothers, Walter and Thomas de Cantelupe, during the reign of King John. According to a survey made during the Commonwealth, this manor contained 210 acres of land. The manor-house was then sold to one Richard Hill, a merchant of London, and the manor to Richard Utber, a draper. At the Restoration they were ejected, and the original lessees reinstated; but again in 1670 the manor changed hands, the father of Alderman Sir Jeffreys Jeffreys (uncle of the notorious Judge Jeffreys) becoming proprietor. By the intermarriage of Earl Camden with a member of that family, it is now the property of that nobleman's descendants. The estate is held subject to a reserved rent of £20, paid annually to the Prebendary of St. Paul's. Formerly the monks of Waltham Abbey held an estate in this manor, called by them Cane Lond, now Caen Wood, valued at thirteen pounds. It is said by antiquaries to be the remains of the ancient forest of Middlesex. Of this part of the manor we shall have to speak when we come to Hampstead.
The manor of Tottenham Court, or Totten Hall—in "Domesday" Tothele, where it is valued at £5 a year—was kept in the prebendary's hands till the fourteenth century; but in 1343 John de Caleton was the lessee, and, after the lease had come to the Crown, it was granted in 1661 in satisfaction of a debt, and became the property, shortly after, of the ducal family of Fitzroy, one of whose scions, Lord Southampton, is the present possessor.
The manor of Ruggemere is mentioned in the survey of the parish taken in 1251, as shown in the records of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. "Its exact situation," says Mr. Palmer, "is not now known. Very possibly," he continues, "at the breaking up of the monasteries it reverted to the Crown, and was granted by bluff Harry to some Court favourite. The property of the Bedford family was acquired in a great measure from that monarch's hands. It is, therefore, very probable that the manor of Ruggemere consisted of all that land lying at the south-east of the parish, no portion of that district lying in either of the other manors."
The village church stood pretty nearly in the centre of the parish, which, with the lands about Somers Town, included the estates of the Skinners' Company, of the Duke of Bedford, and of Mr. "Councillor" Agar. The land which the parish comprises forms part of what is called the London Basin, the deposits of which are aqueous, and belong to the Eocene period.
In a previous chapter we have spoken of the Fleet River, which used to flow through this parish. Hone, in his "Table Book," 1827, thus describes it as winding its sluggish course through Camden Town and St. Pancras in its way to King's Cross:—"The River Fleet at its source in a field on the land side of the Hampstead Ponds is merely a sedgy ditchling, scarcely half a step across, and winds its way along, with little increase of depth, by the road from the 'Mother Red Cap' to Kentish Town, beneath which road it passes through the pastures to Camden Town; in one of these pastures the canal running through the tunnel at Pentonville to the City Road is conveyed over it by an arch. From this place its width increases till it reaches towards the west side of the road leading from Pancras workhouse to Kentish Town. In the rear of the houses on that side of the road it becomes a brook, washing the edge of the garden in front of the premises late the stereotype foundry and printing-office of Mr. Andrew Wilson, which stand back from the road; and, cascading down behind the lower road-side houses, it reaches the 'Elephant and Castle,' in front of which it tunnels to Battle Bridge."
Tradition would carry the navigation of the Fleet River far higher up than Holborn Bridge, which has been stated in a previous part (fn. 1) of this work as the utmost limit to which it was navigable, since it relates, say the Brothers Percy, in their "London," that "an anchor was found in this brook at Pancras wash, where the road branches off to Somers Town." But they do not give a date or other particulars. Down to a very late date, even to the year in which the Metropolitan Railway was constructed, the Fleet River was subject to floods on the occasion of a sudden downfall of rain, when the Hampstead and Highgate ponds would overflow.
One of the most considerable overflows occurred in January, 1809. "At this period, when the snow was lying very deep," says a local chronicler, "a rapid thaw came on, and the arches not affording a sufficient passage for the increased current, the whole space between Pancras Church, Somers Town, and the bottom of the hill at Pentonville, was in a short time covered with water. The flood rose to a height of three feet from the middle of the highway; the lower rooms of all the houses within that space were completely inundated, and the inhabitants suffered considerable damage in their goods and furniture, which many of them had not time to remove. Two cart-horses were drowned, and for several days persons were obliged to be conveyed to and from their houses, and receive their provisions, &c., in at their windows by means of carts."
Again, in 1818, there was a very alarming flood at Battle Bridge, which lies at the southern end of Pancras Road, of which the following account appears in the newspapers of that date:—"In consequence of the quantity of rain that fell on Friday night, the river Fleet overflowed near Battle Bridge, where the water was soon several feet high, and ran into the lower apartments of every house from the 'Northumberland Arms' tea-gardens to the Small-pox Hospital, Somers Town, being a distance of about a mile. The torrent then forced its way into Field Street and Lyon Place, which are inhabited by poor people, and entered the kitchens, carrying with it everything that came within its reach. In the confusion, many persons in attempting to get through the water fell into the Fleet, but were most providentially saved. In the house of a person named Creek, the water forced itself into a room inhabited by a poor man and his family, and before they could be alarmed, their bed was floating about in near seven feet of water. They were, by the prompt conduct of the neighbours and night officers, got out safe. Damage to the extent of several thousand pounds was occasioned by the catastrophe."
Much, however, as we may lament the metamorphosis of a clear running stream into a filthy sewer, the Fleet brook did the Londoner good service. It afforded the best of natural drainage for a large extent north of the metropolis, and its level was so situated as to render it capable of carrying off the contents of a vast number of side drains which ran into it. "There still remain, however," writes Mr. Palmer, "a few yards visible in the parish where the brook runs in its native state. At the back of the Grove, in the Kentish Town Road, is a rill of water, one of the little arms of the Fleet, which is yet clear and untainted. Another arm is at the bottom of the field at the back of the 'Bull and Last' Inn, over which is a little wooden bridge leading to the cemetery."
The "Elephant and Castle," above referred to, is one of the oldest taverns in the parish of St. Pancras. It is situated in King's Road, near the workhouse, and is said to have derived its name from the discovery of the remains of an elephant which was made in its vicinity more than a century ago. King's Road lies at the back of the Veterinary College, and unites with the St. Pancras Road at the southern end of Great College Street. At the junction of these roads are the Workhouse and the Vestry Hall. The former building was erected in 1809, at a cost of about £30,000. It has, however, since then been very much enlarged, and is now more than double its original size. It often contains 1,200 inmates, a number equal to the population of many large rural villages. It has not, however, always been well officered. For instance, in 1874, a Parliamentary return stated that out of 407 children admitted into the workhouse during the previous twelvemonth eighty-nine had died, showing a death-rate of 215 per 1,000 per annum!
The St. Pancras Guardians have wisely severed their pauper children from the associations of the workhouse by establishing their schools in the country at Hanwell. In connection with the workhouse a large infirmary has been erected on Highgate Hill, whither the sick inmates have been removed from the old and ill-ventilated quarters.
The Vestry of St. Pancras formerly had no settled place of meeting, but met at various taverns in the parish. The present Vestry Hall was erected in 1847. The architect was Mr. Bond, the then surveyor of the parish, and Mr. Cooper the builder. Mr. Palmer, in his work already referred to, mentions a tradition that the architect, in making the plans for the building, omitted the stairs by which the first-floor was to be reached, and that he afterwards made up the defect by placing the present ugly steps outside.
On the north-east side of Pancras Road, near the Vestry Hall, is the old church of St. Pancras. This ancient and diminutive edifice was, with the exception of a chapel of ease at Kentish Town, now St. John the Baptist's, the only ecclesiastical building the parish could boast of till the middle of the last century. It is not known with certainty when the present structure was erected, but its date is fixed about the year 1350; there was, however, a building upon the same spot long before that date; for in the records belonging to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's, in which there is noticed a visitation made to this church in the year 1251, it states that "it had a very small tower, a little belfry, a good stone font for baptisms, and a small marble stone to carry the pax."
Norden, whose remarks on the condition of the church in the reign of Queen Elizabeth we have quoted above, states that "folks from the hamlet of Kennistonne now and then visit it, but not often, having a chapele of their own. When, however, they have a corpse to be interred, they are forced to leave the same within this forsyken church or churchyard, where it resteth as secure against the day of resurrection as if it laie in stately St. Paule's." Norden's account implies that where the church is situated was then one of the least frequented and desolate spots in the vicinity of the metropolis.
A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, for July,
1749, in the lines quoted as a motto to this
chapter, states that—
"Christ's sacred altar here first Britain saw."
Other antiquaries inform us that the original establishment of a church on this site was in early Saxon times; and Maximilian Misson, in writing of St. John Lateran at Rome, says, "This is the head and mother of all Christian churches, if you except that of St. Pancras under Highgate, near London."
In the last century Divine service was performed in St. Pancras Church only on the first Sunday in every month, and at all other times in the chapel of ease at Kentish Town, it being thought that the few people who lived near the church could go up to London to pray, while that at Kentish Town was more suited for the country folk, and this custom continued down to within the present century. The earliest date that we meet with in the registry of marriages and baptisms is 1660, and in that of burials 1668. The earlier registers have long since perished.
In the table of benefactions to the parish it is stated that certain lands, fee-simple, copyhold of inheritance, held of the manors of Tottenhall Court and of Cantelows, "were given by some person or persons unknown, for and to the use and benefit of this parish, for the needful and necessary repair of the parish church and the chapel, as the said parish in vestry should from time to time direct; and that these lands were, by custom of the said manors, and for the form of law, to be held in the names of eight trustees who were elected by the inhabitants of the said parish in vestry assembled."
There are four parcels of land, the rents and profits of which have been immemorially applied towards the repair of the parish church and the chapel at Kentish Town. By reason of this application a church-rate in former times was considered unnecessary, and whenever the disbursements of the churchwardens exceeded their receipts, the parishioners always preferred to reimburse them out of the poor-rate rather than make a churchrate.
From the survey of church livings taken by order of Parliament in 1650, it appears that these lands were disposed of as follows, by Sir Robert Payne, Knight, Peter Benson, and others, feoffees in trust, by licence granted them from the lord of the manors of Tottenhall and Cantlows Court:—"To wit, in consideration of fifty-four pounds to them in hand, paid by Mr. Richard Gwalter, they did, by lease dated the 1st June, 9th Charles I. (A.D. 1633), demise unto the said Richard Gwalter four acres of the said land for twenty-one years, at twopence a year rent. And in consideration of £27 in hand, paid by the said Richard Gwalter, they did, by another lease, dated 2nd August in the year aforesaid, demise unto the said Richard Gwalter two acres of the said land for the term aforesaid for the like rent. There was also (A.D. 1650), a lease dated 20th June, 9th Charles I., unto Thomas Ive (deceased), of seventeen acres of the said land for twenty-one years at £17 a year rent; the remainder of which was assigned unto Peter Benson, and was then in his possession."
The money received by way of premium on the granting of the before-mentioned leases to Richard Gwalter in the year 1633, was expended in the rebuilding of Kentish Town Chapel, of which we have spoken in the preceding chapter. The site seems to have been originally the property of Sir William Hewitt, who was a landowner in this parish in the reign of Charles I. It appears by a statement of Randolph Yearwood, vicar of St. Pancras, dated 1673, that the parish did not buy the site, nor take a lease of it, but that they paid a noble per annum to the Hewitts to be permitted to have the use of it.
In 1656, Colonel Gower, Mr. George Pryer, and Major John Bill were feoffees of the revenue belonging to the parish church of St. Pancras. The land belonging to the rectory was subsequently leased by various persons, when, in 1794, it was vested in a Mr. Swinnerton, of the "White Hart" Inn, Colebrook, and then passed into the hands of Mr. Agar, who, as we have already stated, gave a notoriety to the spot by granting short building leases, which created Agar Town and its miserable surroundings, till the whole was cleared by the Midland Railway Company, who are now the owners of a large part of this once prebendal manor.
The family of Eve or Ive, mentioned above, is
of great antiquity in the parish of St. Pancras. In
1457 Henry VI. granted permission to Thomas
Ive to enclose a portion of the highway adjoining
to his mansion at Kentish Town. In 1483 Richard
Ive was appointed Clerk of the Crown in Chancery
in as full a manner as John de Tamworth and
Geoffrey Martyn in the time of Edward III., and
Thomas Ive in the time of Edward IV. enjoyed
the same office. In the old parish church is an
altar-tomb of Purbeck marble with a canopy, being
an elliptical arch ornamented with quatrefoils,
which in better days had small brasses at the back,
with three figures or groups, with labels from each,
and the figure of the Trinity, and three shields of
arms above them. This monument was to the
memory of Robert Eve, and Lawrentia his sister,
son and daughter of Francis and Thomas Eve,
Clerk of the Crown, in the reign of Edward IV.
Weever, in his work on "Funeral Monuments,"
informs us that when he saw it the "portraitures"
and the following words remained:—
"Holy Trinitie, one God, have mercy on us.
Hic jacent Robertus Eve et Lawrentia soror eius, filia Francisci Eve filii
Thome Eve clerici corone cancellarie Anglie . . . . .
Quorum . . . . . ."
When Mr. J. T. Smith, as a boy, made an expedition to this church as one of a sketching party, in 1777, he describes it as quite a rural place, in some parts entirely covered with docks and nettles, enclosed only by a low hand-rail, and commanding extensive views of open country in every direction, not only to Hampstead, Highgate, and Islington, but also to Holborn and St. Giles's, almost the only building which met the eye in that direction being Whitefield's Chapel in Tottenham Court Road, and old Montagu House.
The first mention, apparently, that has been found to be made of the church of St. Pancras occurs in the year 1183, but it does not appear whether it then was or was not a recent erection. William de Belmeis, who had been possessed of the prebend of Pancras, within which the church stood, had conveyed the tithes thereof to the canons of St. Paul's; which conveyance was, in that year, confirmed by Gilbert, Bishop of London. The church tithes, &c., were, not long after, granted by the dean and chapter to the hospital within their cathedral, founded by Henry de Northampton, they reserving to themselves one mark per annum. In 1327 the rectory was valued at thirteen marks per annum. In 1441 the advowson, tenths, rents, and profits of the church were demised to Walter Sherington, canon residentiary, for ten marks per annum; and in like manner the rectory continued to be from time to time leased, chiefly to canons of the church. At the suppression, the dean and chapter became re-possessed of the rectory, which has from that period been demised in the manner customary with church property, subject to a reserved rent of £13 6s. 8d.
The old church formerly consisted of a nave and chancel, built of stones and flint, and a low tower with a bell-shaped roof. It has been several times repaired, and the most recent of the restorations has taken away—externally, at least—all traces of its antiquity. In 1847–8 it was enlarged by taking the space occupied by the old square tower into the body of the church, and a spire was placed on the south side. The west end, which was lengthened, has an enriched Norman porch, and a wheel window in the gable above, which, together with the chancel windows, are filled with stained glass. The old monuments have been restored and placed as nearly as possible in their original positions. On the north wall, opposite the baptistery, is the early Tudor marble Purbeck memorial which Weever, in his "Funeral Monuments," ascribes to the ancient family of Gray, of Gray's Inn. The recesses for brasses are there, but neither arms nor date are remaining. A marble tablet, with palette and pencils, the memorial of Samuel Cooper, a celebrated miniature-painter, who died in 1672, is placed on the south-east interior wall. The church still consists only of a nave and chancel, without side aisles. Heavy beams support the roof, and upon those over the chancel and the western gallery are written in illuminated scrolls various sentences from Scripture, such as "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;" "He that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out," &c. There is a very elegant stained-glass window over the altar, and on either side of the nave are pointed windows of plain glass. The walls are exceedingly thick, and will, no doubt, last for ages. A narrow strip of oaken gallery runs above the nave, affording accommodation for only two rows of seats. It is approached by a single circular staircase in the southern tower, and its diminutive size is in keeping with the other parts of the building.
We may state here that, after his execution at Tyburn, the body of Lawrence Earl Ferrers was taken down and carried to this church, where it was laid under the belfry tower in a grave fourteen feet deep, no doubt for fear lest the popular indignation should violate his place of burial.
During the removal of parts of the church, while the additions and alterations were being made, several relics of antiquity connected with the old structure were discovered. Among others were the following:—An Early-English piscina and some sedilia, found on the removal of some heavy wainscoting on the south side of the chancel, the mouldings of the sedilia retaining vestiges of red colouring, with which they had formerly been tinted. A Norman altar-stone, in which appeared the usual decoration, namely, five crosses, typical of the five wounds of our Lord. The key-stone of the south porch, containing the letters H.R.T.P.C. incised, arranged one within the members of the other, after the manner of a monogram; these letters are apparently contemporary with the Norman moulding beneath. Part of a series of niches in chiselled brick was likewise discovered. These had been concealed by a sufficient coating of plaster, but were discovered in the first instance on the removal of some of the stonework in the exterior of the chancel. That operation being suspended, and the interior plastering being removed, the upper niche was discovered perfect, with mouldings and spandrils sharply chiselled in brick, but the impost being of stone, coloured so as to resemble the former. The back of the niche was in plaster likewise tinted and lined so as to correspond with the brick. Below this had been a double niche divided by a mullion, the principal part of which, however, was destroyed by the above-mentioned removal of the materials from without. These decorations were on the south side of the east window in the chancel, and had probably contained effigies. There was no corresponding appearance on the north side.
A curious view of the old church, somewhat idealised, representing it as a cruciform structure with a central bell-turret or companile, was published in 1800, by Messrs. Laurie and Whittle, of Fleet Street; but if it represents any real structure, it must be that of a much earlier date. In this print there are near it three rural and isolated cottages, and a few young elm or plane trees complete the scene.
There is a tradition that this church was the last in or about London in which mass was said at the time of the Reformation, and that this was the cause of the singular fondness which the old Roman Catholic families had for burying their dead in the adjoining churchyard, where the cross and every variety of Catholic inscriptions may be seen on the tombs. It is, however, mentioned in "Windham's Diary," that while Dr. Johnson was airing one day with Dr. Brocklesby, in passing and returning by St. Pancras Church, he fell into prayer, and mentioned, upon Dr. Brocklesby inquiring why the Catholics selected that spot for their burial place, that some Catholics in Queen Elizabeth's time had been burnt there. This would, of course, give additional interest to the sacred spot.
In this churchyard were buried, amongst many others, Abraham Woodhead, a Roman Catholic controversialist, who died in 1678; Obadiah Walker, writer against Luther, 1699; John Ernest Grabe, editor of the Alexandrian Septuagint, 1711; Jeremy Collier, nonjuring bishop, and castigator of the stage, 1726; Edward Walpole, translator of Sannazarius, 1740; James Leoni, architect, 1746; Simon Francis Ravenet, engraver, and Peter Van Bleeck, portrait-painter, 1764; Abraham Langford, auctioneer and dramatist, 1774; Stephen Paxton, musician, 1787; Timothy Cunningham, author of the "Law Dictionary," 1789; Michael John Baptist, Baron de Wenzel, oculist, 1790; Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, author of "Rights of Women," 1797, with a square monumental pillar with a willow-tree on each side; the Bishop of St. Pol de Leon, 1806; John Walker, author of the "Pronouncing Dictionary," 1807; Tiberius Cavallo, the Neapolitan philosopher, 1809; the Chevalier d'Eon, political writer, 1810; J. P. Malcolm, historian of London, 1815; the Rev. William Tooke, translator of Lucian, 1820; and Governor Wall.
Among the eccentric characters who lie buried here is William Woollett, the landscape and historical engraver, known by his masterly plates of Wilson's pictures and his battle-pieces; his portrait, by Stuart, is in the National Gallery. He lived in Green Street, Leicester Square; and whenever he had finished an engraving, he commemorated the event by firing a cannon on the roof of his house. He died in 1785, and sixty years after his death his gravestone was restored by the Graphic Society.
Another eccentric individual whose ashes repose
beneath the shade of Old St. Pancras Church, is the
celebrated "Ned" Ward, the author of the "London
Spy," and other well-known works. He was buried
here in 1731. The following lines were written by
him shortly before his death:—
MY LAST WILL.
"In the name of God, the King of kings,
Whose glory fills the mighty space;
Creator of all worldly things,
And giver of both time and place:
To Him I do resign my breath
And that immortal soul He gave me,
Sincerely hoping after death
The merits of His Son will save me.
Oh, bury not my peaceful corpse
In Cripplegate, where discord dwells,
And wrangling parties jangle worse
Than alley scolds or Sunday's bells.
To good St. Pancras' holy ground
I dedicate my lifeless clay
Till the last trumpet's joyful sound
Shall raise me to eternal day.
No costly funeral prepare,
'Twixt sun and sun I only crave
A hearse and one black coach, to bear
My wife and children to my grave.
My wife I do appoint the sole
Executrix of this my Will,
And set my hand unto the scrole,
In hopes the same she will fulfil.
"Made under a dangerous illness, and signed this 24th of June, 1731.
Here, too, is buried Pasquale de Paoli, the hero of Corsica, who died April 5th, 1807, at the age of eighty-two. The early part of his life he devoted to the cause of liberty, which he nobly maintained against Genoese and French tyranny, and was hailed as the "Father of his country." Being obliged to withdraw from Corsica by the superior force of his enemies, he was received under the protection of George III., and found a hearty and cordial welcome from the citizens of London. A bust, with an inscription to his memory, is erected in the south aisle of Westminster Abbey.
The best known to fame of the many Roman Catholic priests, not mentioned above, who have been interred here, was "Father O'Leary," the eloquent preacher, and "amiable friar of the Order of St. Francis," who died in 1802. His tomb was restored by subscription among the poor Irish in 1842–3. Many amusing anecdotes are related concerning this witty divine:—"I wish, Reverend Father," once said Curran to Father O'Leary, "that you were St. Peter, and had the keys of heaven, because then you could let me in." "By my honour and conscience," replied O'Leary, "it would be better for you that I had the keys of the other place, for then I could let you out." Again, a Protestant gentleman told him that whilst willing to accept the rest of the Roman Catholic creed, he could not believe in purgatory. "Ah, my good friend," replied the priest, "you may go further and fare worse!"
Here, in 1811, was buried Sidhy Effendi, the Turkish minister to this country. A newspaper of the time thus describes his interment:—"On arriving at the ground, the body was taken out of a white deal shell which contained it, and, according to the Mahometan custom, was wrapped in rich robes and thrown into the grave; immediately afterwards a large stone, nearly the size of the body, was laid upon it; and after some other Mahometan ceremonies had been gone through, the attendants left the ground. The procession on its way to the churchyard galloped nearly all the way. The grave was dug in an obscure corner of the churchyard."
Besides the graves of famous men in Old St. Pancras churchyard, this old-fashioned nook has other and interesting memories associated with it. A curious story is told which connects the unhappy and highly gifted Chatterton with this place. One day, whilst looking over the epitaphs in this churchyard, he was so deep sunk in thought as he walked on, and not perceiving a grave just dug, he tumbled into it. His friend observing his situation, ran to his assistance, and, as he helped him out, told him, in a jocular manner, he was happy in assisting at the resurrection of Genius. Poor Chatterton smiled, and taking his companion by the arm, replied, "My dear friend, I feel the sting of a speedy dissolution; I have been at war with the grave for some time, and find it is not so easy to vanquish it as I imagined—we can find an asylum to hide from every creditor but that!" His friend endeavoured to divert his thoughts from the gloomy reflection; but what will not melancholy and adversity combined subjugate? In three days after the neglected and disconsolate youth put an end to his miseries by poison. (fn. 2)
A more affecting incident, perhaps, might have
been witnessed here, when Shelley, the poet, met
Mary, the daughter of William Godwin, and in hot
and choking words told her the story of his wrongs
and wretchedness. This girl, afterwards the wife
of the poet, has been thus described by Mrs.
Cowden Clarke: "Very, very fair was this lady,
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, with her well-shaped
golden-haired head almost always a little bent and
drooping, her marble-white shoulders and arms
statuesquely visible in the perfectly plain black
velvet dress, which the customs of that time
allowed to be cut low, and which her own taste
adopted; her thoughtful, earnest eyes, her short
upper lip and intellectually curved mouth, with a
certain close-compressed and decisive expression
while she listened, and a relaxation into fuller
redness and mobility when speaking; her exquisitely-formed, white, dimpled, small hands, with
rosy palms, and plumply commencing fingers, that
tapered into tips as delicate and slender as those
in a Vandyke portrait, all remain palpably present
to memory. Another peculiarity in Mrs. Shelley's
hand was its singular flexibility, which permitted
her bending the fingers back so as almost to
approach the portion of her arm above her wrist.
She once did this smilingly and repeatedly, to amuse
the girl who was noting its whiteness and pliancy,
and who now, as an old woman, records its remarkable beauty." Many are the verses written by
Shelley to Mary Godwin, the dedication to "The
Revolt of Islam" being among the most impassioned; but the following will suffice as a
They say that thou'wert lovely from thy birth,
Of glorious parents, thou aspiring child.
I wonder not—for one they left the earth
Whose life was like a setting planet mild,
Which clothed thee in the radiance undefiled
Of its departing glory; still her fame
Shines on thee, thro' the tempests dark and wild
Which shake these latter days; and thou canst claim
The shelter, from thy sire, of an immortal name.
* * * * * *
"Truth's deathless voice pauses among mankind;
If there must be no response to my cry,
If men must rise and stamp with fury blind
On his pure name who loves them, thou and I,
Sweet friend! can look from our tranquillity,
Like lamps into the world's tempestuous night;
Two tranquil stars, while clouds are passing by
Which wrap them from the foundering seaman's sight,
That burn from year to year with unextinguished light."
Mrs. Shelley's passion for her husband was exalted and beautiful:—"'Gentle, brave, and generous,' he described the poet in 'Alastor;' such he was himself, beyond any man I have ever known. To these admirable qualities was added his genius. He had but one defect, which was his leaving his life incomplete by an early death. Oh, that the serener hopes of maturity, the happier contentment of mid life, had descended on his dear head."
Among the quaint epitaphs in this old churchyard, we may be pardoned for printing the following, as it is now nearly illegible:—
"Underneath this stone doth lye
The body of Mr. Humpherie
Jones, who was of late
By Trade a plateWorker in Barbicanne;
Well known to be a good manne
By all his Friends and Neighbours too,
And paid every bodie their due.
He died in the year 1737,
August 10th, aged 80; his soule, we hope, 's in
A good epigram, by an unknown hand, thus commemorates this depository of the dead:—
"Through Pancras Churchyard as two tailors were walking,
Of trade, news, and politics earnestly talking,
Says one, 'These fine rains, Thomas,' looking around,
'Will bring things all charmingly out of the ground.'
'Marry, Heaven forbid,' said the other, 'for here
I buried two wives without shedding a tear.'"
In 1803 a large portion of the ground adjoining the old churchyard was appropriated as a cemetery for the parish of St. Giles's-in-the-Fields; and in it was buried, among other celebrities, the eminent architect, Sir John Soane, and also his wife and son, whose death, in all probability, caused Sir John to make the country his heir, and to found, as a public institution, the museum which bears his name in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and which we have already described.
In 1862 the Midland Railway Company, wishing to connect their line of railway in Bedfordshire with the metropolis, obtained an Act of Parliament, entitled the "St. Giles's-in-the-Fields Glebe Act." It was so called because this new line, in its course through the north-western part of London, would cross a portion of the above-mentioned burial-ground, which immediately adjoins the more famous one of St. Pancras. In one section of the above Act it is stated that "the rector and his successors, at his or their expense, shall maintain the disused burial-ground in decent order as an open space for ever, and subject to the same rights and liabilities in all respects as if it were a churchyard; and make the necessary repair of the walls and other fences of the disused burial-ground; and he or they respectively shall be the person or persons from time to time legally chargeable for the costs and expenses of and incident to any such maintenance and repair, any Act or Acts of Parliament to the contrary notwithstanding, provided that the rector and his successors, from time to time, respectively shall not interfere with, or wilfully permit injury to be done to, any vault, grave, tablet, monument, or tombstone, either in the disused burial-ground, or in or under the chapel."
In the following year the same railway company obtained further powers from the Legislature (who offered little or no opposition) to take a corner of the St. Pancras Churchyard for part of their main line, ostensibly for the purpose of erecting a pier for the viaduct which crosses the entire yard, and which, from being constructed on arches, would be the means of allowing trains to be constantly flying past the very windows of the church, and at the same time to be rumbling over the tombs of the hallowed dead. The only reason for taking this corner was because it was supposed by the engineer of the railway company "not to have been used for interment, there being no tombstone or any superficial indication of the fact." This, it was maintained, would appear as if the railway company had not made those minute inquiries into the matter which they should have done, when they urged such a reason as an excuse for their acts; as if otherwise they could not have failed to have learned from the parish authorities that the whole extent of both the churchyard and burial-ground were filled with dead bodies, including this very corner, upon which, at that time, the sexton's house stood.
In 1864, not content with the powers they had obtained in 1862 and 1863, the railway company asked for fresh powers—namely, to take the old church and the whole of the graveyard attached thereto as being part of the land required, in order to effect a junction between the main line and the Metropolitan Railway at the King's Cross Station; but this modest request was refused, and no further power was conceded to the company than to cross the entire breadth of the St. Pancras burial-ground by a tunnel. The roof of this tunnel was not to come within twelve feet of the present surface of the burial-ground, although it is stated that "the ground is so crowded with dead that hundreds of bodies are buried to a depth of twenty-four feet in the older part of the ground." It may be stated here that, in 1848, when the church was being altered, it was found necessary to take in a piece of the churchyard to admit of the enlargement of the building; and while making the excavations which were necessary, it was discovered that at depths varying from eight to twelve feet the clay was laden with fætid decomposition and filthy water from the surrounding ground, and that masses of coffins were packed one upon the other in rows, with scarcely any intervening ground.
In 1866 the railway company commenced their operations against the St. Giles's burial-ground; but immediately upon the discovery, through the works of the contractor, that bodies were buried there, application was made to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, as also to the solicitors and engineer of the company; and an undertaking was obtained that the works should be stopped, and the exposed places decently covered, until an order could be obtained for the proper removal of the remains. Upon this discovery becoming known, a loud outburst of indignation was raised by the parishioners, especially those living in the immediate neighbourhood, and who, consequently, were most affected thereby. They very justly considered that a "horrible desecration of the dead" had taken place, and such as ought not to be tolerated, or even justified, by any Act of Parliament. They accordingly decided that the matter should be made as public as possible, and that it should be brought prominently to the notice of the authorities in view to putting a stop to the proceedings of the railway company.
In the House of Commons the attention of the Government was twice called by a member to the proceedings of the railway company; and the consequent inquiry into the facts of the case would, it was fondly hoped, protect this sacred spot from profanation. But alas! that hope was a vain one. The company in their turn appeared to have given up the making of the tunnel; and their engineer proposed to the church trustees that they should be allowed to carry their works through the burialground by an open cutting to the surface, instead of by a tunnel, as provided under their Act of Parliament. The trustees, however, resolved that they could not consent to any departure from the strict terms of that Act; and that if this reliance proved insufficient, the vestry confided in the Burial Act and the common law to protect the churchyard from profanation.
The new Cemetery of St. Pancras, eighty-seven acres in extent, was opened in 1854. It is situated on the Horse Shoe Farm, at Finchley, about four miles from London, and two miles from the northern boundary of the parish. It was the first extra-mural parish burial-ground made for the metropolis.
Close by the old church of St. Pancras it would
appear that there was formerly another "Adam
and Eve" tavern—a rival, possibly, to that which
we have already noticed at the corner of the
Hampstead and Euston Roads. The site of the
old "Adam and Eve" tea-gardens, in St. Pancras
Road, is now occupied by Eve Terrace, and a
portion of the burial-ground for St. Giles's-in-theFields, of which we have spoken already. The
tavern originally had attached to it some extensive
pleasure-grounds, which were the common resort of
holiday-folk and pleasure-seekers. The following
advertisements appear in the newspapers at the
commencement of this century:—
ADAM AND EVE TAVERN, ADJOINING ST. PANCRAS CHURCHYARD.
G. Swinnerton, jun., and Co., proprietors, have greatly improved the same by laying out the gardens in an elegant manner, improving the walks with arbours, flowers, shrubs, &c., and the long room (capable of dining any company) with paintings, &c. The delightfulness of its situation, and the enchanting prospects, may justly be esteemed the most agreeable retreat in the vicinity of the metropolis. They therefore solicit the favour of annual dinners, &c., and will exert their best endeavours to render every part of the entertainment as satisfactory as possible. The proprietors have likewise, at a great expense, fitted out a squadron of frigates, which, from a love to their country, they wish they could render capable of acting against the natural enemies of Great Britain, which must give additional pleasure to every wellwisher to his country. They therefore hope for the company of all those who have the welfare of their country at heart, and those in particular who are of a mechanical turn as in the above the possibility of a retrograde motion is fully evinced.
The Gardens at the Adam and Eve, St. Pancras Church, are opened for this season, which are genteel and rural. Coffee, tea, and hot loaves every day; where likewise cows are kept for making syllabubs: neat wines and all sorts of fine ales. Near which gardens is a field pleasantly situated for trap-ball playing. Mr. Lambert returns those gentlemen thanks who favoured him with their bean-feasts last season, and hopes for the continuance of their future favours, which will ever be most gratefully acknowledged by, gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant, Geo. Lambert.
Apropos of this place of rural retirement for the citizen of years long gone by, as a place to which he could escape from the din and turmoil of the great Babel of London, we may be pardoned for quoting the words of the facetious Tom Brown, in his "London Walks:"—"It was the wont of the good citizens," he says, "to rise betimes on Sunday mornings, and, with their wives and children under their arms, sally forth to brush the cobwebs from their brains, and the smoke from their lungs, by a trip into the country. Having no cheap excursions by boat and rail to relieve the groaning of the metropolis for twelve hours of a few of its labouring thousands, the immediate neighbourhood of London naturally became the breathing space and pleasure-ground of the lieges to whom time and shillings were equally valuable. Then it was that Sadler's and Bagnigge Wells, the Conduit, Marylebone Gardens, the Gun (at Pimlico), Copenhagen House, Jack Straw's Castle, the Spaniards and Highbury Barn, first opened their hospitable portals, and offered to the dusty, thirsty, hungry, and perspiring pleasure-seeker rest and refreshment—shilling ordinaries—to which, by the way, a known good appetite would not be admitted under eighteenpence. Bowling-greens, where the players, preferring elegance, appeared in their shirtsleeves and shaven heads, their wigs and longskirted coats being picturesquely distributed on the adjacent hedges, under the guard of their threecornered hats and Malacca canes. Hollands, punch, claret, drawn from the wood at three-andsixpence a quart; skittles and quoits, accompanied, of course, with pipes and tobacco, offered their fascinations to the male customers; while the ladies and juveniles were beguiled with cakes and ale, tea and shrimps, strawberries and cream, syllabubs and junkets, swings and mazes, lovers' walks and woodbine bowers."
St. Pancras had formerly its mineral springs,
which were much resorted to. Near the churchyard, in the yard of a house, is, or was till recently,
the once celebrated St. Pancras Wells, or Spa, the
waters of which are said to have been of a slightly
cathartic nature. The gardens of the Spa were
very extensive, and laid out with long straight
walks, which were used as a promenade by the
visitors. In the bills issued by the proprietors
it was stated that the quality of its waters was
"surprisingly successful in curing the most obstinate cases of scurvy, king's evil, leprosy, and all
other breakings out of the skin." The following
advertisement, dated 13th February, 1729, thus
alludes to the Spa:—
To be Lett, at Pancras, a large House, commonly called Pancridge Wells, with a Garden, Stable, and other conveniences. Inquire, &c.
St. Pancras Wells Waters are in the greatest perfection, and highly recommended by the most eminent physicians in the kingdom. To prevent mistakes, St. Pancras Wells is on that side the churchyard towards London; the house and gardens of which are as genteel and rural as any round this metropolis; the best of tea, coffee, and hot loaves, every day, may always be depended on, with neat wines, curious punch, Dorchester, Marlborough, and Ringwood beers; Burton, Yorkshire, and other fine ales, and cyder; and also cows kept to accommodate ladies and gentlemen with new milk and cream, and syllabubs in the greatest perfection. The proprietor returns his unfeigned thanks to those societies of gentlemen who have honoured him with their country feasts, and humbly hopes a continuance of their favours, which will greatly oblige their most obedient servant, John Armstrong.
Apart from its tea-gardens and mineral springs, St. Pancras has in its time possessed a building devoted to the Muses, for we learn that at a private amateur theatre in Pancras Street, Mr. J. R. Planché made some of his earliest appearances on a stage.
The "village" of St. Pancras, too, has not been without its oddities; for such, we presume, must have been one Harry Dimsdale, or, as he was called, Sir Harry, the mock "Mayor of Garratt," who was a well-known character, some years since, at all the public-houses in the parish. According to Mr. Palmer, in his "History of St. Pancras," "he was a poor diminutive creature, deformed, and half an idiot. He was by profession a muffinseller. The watermen at the hackney-coach stands throughout the parish used to torment him sadly; almost every day poor Harry was persecuted, and frequently so roughly used by them that he often shed tears. Death released poor Harry from his persecutors in the year 1811." There are several portraits of him in existence.
Inter alia, St. Pancras has the honour of having
given birth to the imaginary "Emmanuel Jennings,"
who figures in the "Rejected Addresses" in the
imitation of Crabbe—
"In Holywell Street, St. Pancras, he was bred,
Facing the pump, and near the 'Granby's Head.'"
Before proceeding to describe Somers Town in detail, we may state that the vivid imagination of Dr. Stukeley, whose utter untrustworthiness as an antiquary is shown by the late Mr. B. B. Woodward in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1866, not only discovered the remains of a veritable Roman camp here (called the Brill), but drew it out on paper, in the most minute and elaborate detail, showing the several gates, and the tents of the general and the quarter-master, and even the stables of the horse soldiers. Dr. Stukeley affirmed that the old church of St. Pancras covered part of the encampment, the outline and plan of which he gave in the "Itinerarium Curiosum," as far back as 1758; but notwithstanding that his opinion has been strongly condemned by more trustworthy antiquaries and topographers, the supposition of Dr. Stukeley may derive some confirmation from the fact that in 1842 a stone was found at King's Cross or Battle Bridge, bearing on it the words LEG. XX. (Legio Vicesima), one of those Roman legions which we know from Tacitus to have formed part of the army under Suetonius. It may further be mentioned that the spot known for so many centuries as Battle Bridge, and the traditional scene of a fierce battle between the Britons and the Romans, corresponds very closely to the description of the battle-field as still extant in the pages of the 14th book of the "Annals" of Tacitus. We learn from a writer in Notes and Queries (No. 230), that during the Civil War a fortification was erected at the Brill Farm, near Old St. Pancras Church, where, some hundred and twenty years later, Somers Town was built. A view of it, published in 1642, is engraved on page 330.
We may add, in concluding this chapter, that the desecration of the St. Pancras churchyard, of which we have spoken above, was as nothing compared to the demolition of the hundreds of houses of the poorer working classes in Agar Town and Somers Town, occasioned by the extension of the Midland Railway. The extent of this clean sweep was, and is still, comparatively unknown, and has caused a very considerable portion of St. Pancras parish to be effaced from the map of London. Perhaps no part of London or its neighbourhood has undergone such rapid and extensive transformation. It will, perhaps, be said that in the long run the vicinity has benefited in every way; but it is to be feared that in the process of improvement the weakest have been thrust rather rudely to the wall.