Survey of London: Volume 24, the Parish of St Pancras Part 4: King's Cross Neighbourhood. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1952.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
CHAPTER 1: XCI ST. PANCRAS CHURCH
The first attempt to obtain a new church for the rapidly growing parish of St. Pancras was made in 1812, when the vicar, Dr. Middleton, and some others formulated a proposal. At that time the management of the parish business was vested in a body of 103 directors who, with the exception of the vicar and two nominees of the lord of the manor, held their appointments for life. Opposition from a section of this body quashed the proposal. In July, 1815, however, the matter was again raised, and at a meeting of nearly 200 householders, a committee was formed with instructions to proceed to obtain an Act of Parliament for building a new church and a new parochial chapel.
An Act (fn. 1) was thereupon passed, on 31st May, 1816, and its execution vested in the Dean of St. Paul's, the vicar and churchwardens and others named in the Act, among whose general qualifications was their being in possession of a real or personal estate of the value of £4,000. From the first, the new church was envisaged as one for the well-to-do classes, and the trustees were empowered to raise £40,000, to levy rates (not exceeding 4d. in the £, to appoint architects and other officers, make contracts, purchase ground not exceeding 3 acres, to fix burial fees and to let pews. The church was to be called the Parish Church of St. Pancras and to be vested with the rights of the old church which was to take the name of Parish Chapel. The additional chapel provided for in the Act was to be called Camden Chapel and was not to be begun until after the completion of the church. A proportion of free seats was to be provided, both in church and chapel, amounting to not less than one-third of the whole seating.
On 6th April, 1821, a further Act (fn. 2) was obtained, altering and enlarging the powers of the first, authorizing the borrowing of a further £40,000, and providing for the purchase of ground for two new chapels instead of one. Since the passing of the first Act, the Commissioners for Building Additional Churches had come into being (1818) and they had agreed to defray the cost of building both parish chapels. By this time the new church was in course of construction.
The site for the new parish church was acquired from the trustees of Lord Southampton for £6,695 early in 1818. In April, 1818, designs were advertised for and premiums offered for the three best. On 21st May thirty designs were submitted and premiums awarded as follows: Messrs. W. & H. W. Inwood, £100; F. O. Bedford, £50; Thomas Rickman, £30. On 6th June, Messrs. Inwood were appointed architects.
William Inwood (c. 1771–1843) was a local man, his father having been bailiff to Lord Mansfield at Kenwood. His son, Henry William Inwood (1794–1843) is said to have been in Athens in 1819. (fn. 3) If that is correct, the design of the church must have been submitted either in his absence or before his departure, so that its conception as a near imitation of the Erechtheum will have been independent of the younger Inwood's first-hand knowledge of that building. Accurate representations of the Erechtheum were, of course, available in the work of Stuart and Revett. H. W. Inwood designed, with his father, three other churches in the parish (All Saints, St. Mary the Virgin, and St. Peter). He was drowned on a journey to Spain in 1843, when the ship in which he sailed was lost with all aboard.
The architects' estimates were approved on 3rd May, 1819, the principal contractor being Isaac Seabrook. There were separate contracts with Messrs. Brown & Young for the scagliola columns at the east end and with Messrs. C. and H. Rossi for terra-cotta ornamental work. The total of the contracts amounted to £50,809 6s. 2d. The ultimate cost of the church, with all fittings, communion plate, etc., was £76,679 7s. 8d. (fn. 4) It was thus the most costly church erected in London since the completion of St. Paul's Cathedral.
The building was begun on 1st May, 1819, the first stone being laid by the Duke of York on 1st July. The walls up to the roof had been built by 1820, and the whole structure was complete in April, 1822. The consecration by the Bishop of London took place on 7th May of that year, the sermon being preached by the vicar, Dr. James Moore.
Since its completion, the church has undergone little change apart from two important re-decorations of the interior. In 1880, Messrs. Crace (fn. 5) painted the walls "Pompeian" red, bright red above the galleries, darker below. They bronzed the gallery columns, relieving the ornaments with gilding. In the apse they added "a series of wide horizontal bands of fine Greek ornament, on gold ground," and painted the plinth below the columns in rich maroon and gold, framing the existing white marble tablets of the Decalogue, Prayer, and Creed. Messrs. Crace also decorated the ceiling. The three eastern windows had already been fitted with stained glass during the vicariate (1860–1869) of the Rev. W. W. Champneys. All the north and south windows were re-glazed by Clayton & Bell. The architect in charge of all this work was a Mr. Salter, who in the 1890's designed the choir fittings. (fn. 4)
The organ, by Messrs. Gray & Davison, was originally built for the New Music Hall at Birmingham. The pulpit and reading desk are made of wood from the "Fairlop Oak" in Hainault Forest, blown down in 1820.
The church consists of a large nave, covered by a flat ceiling with an uninterrupted span of 60 feet, and galleries supported on cast-iron columns; at the east end there is an apse and at the angles two quasi-detached structures containing vestries above and entrances to the catacombs below; at the west end is an octagonal vestibule flanked by the two gallery staircases, with a tower rising above the vestibule and a hexastyle portico the full width of the west wall. The exterior is faced throughout with Portland stone, except certain enrichments and the caryatid figures of the vestries which are in terra-cotta. The roof is covered with lead.
Although the church is best known as a close imitation of the Erechtheum at Athens and (as regards the tower) of the Tower of the Winds in the same city, the general conception derives from Gibbs' church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The relation of tower and portico and the introduction of columns in antis in the north and south walls are clearly derived from that church. The east end, however, owes to the Erechtheum the curious placing of the two caryatid porticoes, while the introduction of an apse is an innovation departing from both models.
Within the main portico are three fully enriched doorways, (fn. 6) that in the centre leading into the octagonal vestibule, the domed ceiling of which is supported by dwarf Doric columns, in imitation of the Tower of the Winds. The upper part of the tower consists of three stages, all octagonal and deriving their details mostly from the same Athenian structure, though the arrangement of plinths and the overall scheme of proportions are, naturally, peculiar to the church and of considerable originality and merit. It may be observed, incidentally, that this was not the first occasion on which an English tower had derived from this Athenian prototype and that Hawksmoor certainly, and Wren probably, had had Vitruvius' (somewhat inadequate) description in mind when designing their church towers. The fanciful reconstructions of the Tower of the Winds in early editions of Vitruvius were not without their influence on Wren when he designed, for instance, the steeple of St. Bride's, Fleet Street.
In the interior of the church, the main architectural feature is the apse, designed in the form of one-half of a circular temple, with six columns of the Erechtheum order raised on a marble-faced plinth. The columns are constructed of timber and finished in scagliola to imitate verde antique marble.
Of the two lateral buildings at the east end, that on the north was designed for the celebration of marriages, christenings, and other ceremonies. It has a finely-designed oval ceiling supported by four columns in the angles of the room. The windows contain ground glass of a kind with which the whole church was originally glazed. The corresponding building on the south, now the choir vestry, was intended as a robing room for the clergy and is plainer in character.
Externally, both these structures are identical and designed in imitation of the famous caryatid portico of the Erechtheum. The caryatids, modelled by J. C. F. Rossi, R.A., (fn. 7) are adapted from those at Athens but carry water ewers and inverted torches to symbolize their function as presiding over the entries to burial vaults. They are of terra-cotta, formed in pieces and cemented together round pillars of cast iron which take the weight of the entablature.
Church Plate. The pieces of plate dating from 1822, the year when the church was opened, were presented by the Duke of York; they consist. of two cups, three patens, two flagons, three alms-dishes and two spoons, all silver-gilt. Two cups of larger size from the original service were converted by Hunt & Roskell into four silver-gilt cups in 1853. There is also a silver cup with a pair of silver patens (as covers) made by Keith & Co.
The church possesses a silver pyx of classical design, of circular shape surmounted by a cross on a Corinthian column, modelled from the finial of the church tower; a silver ciborium presented in 1946 in memory of Samuel Beighton; a wafer-box of hand-beaten silver in memory of Percy Henry Chambers, churchwarden, who died 1946, and a silver-gilt knife with a steel blade.
Preserved with the plate are four churchwarden's staves, dated 1774 (2), 1812, and 1826. They have statuettes of St. Pancras in brass and are mounted on bamboo poles. One is inscribed "Kempe Brydges, William Mitchell, churchwardens . . . 1774," and another: "1812 . . . John Christmas, Charles Sewell, churchwardens." There is also a verger's wand of silver, the cross on which was made in 1822.
Vicars. The list of vicars is given in Appendix I to the first volume of the Survey of St. Pancras (Survey of London, XIX, p. 125). The last vicar named is the Rt. Rev. Horace Crotty, who was instituted in 1936, and was succeeded by—
1. The Revd. JAMES MOORE, LL.D., 1846. For 32 years vicar of the parish. Tablet erected by his widow. "The whole church, which was erected through his exertions, and beneath which his remains have been deposited, is his best and noblest monument."
Shield of arms: quarterly, 1 & 4, azure on a chevron or between three hearts, or, three escallops ( ), a crescent for difference, 2 & 3 gules, a fess ermine between three talbots' heads erased, impaling ( ) three boars' heads muzzled ( ).
11. JOHN BEARDSLY BRSMWELL COBB, 1832, "upwards of forty years in the Treasury and Bullion Office under the Honble. the East India Company"; and his wife ELIZABETH, 1856, and their eldest daughter Harriet, 1819.
16. Tablet removed from All Saints' Church, Gordon Square, "upon the union of that benefice with St. Pancras" in 1909. The Revd. HENRY HUGHES, M.A., 1852, "the founder and first minister of this Church" (All Saints).
17. SARAH SYDENHAM, 1844, "relict of the late Humphrey Sydenham Esqre. whom she survived 37 years and 4 months." She died in her 92nd year. The tablet was erected by her surviving daughters Catharine Hilton and Sarah Clarke.
21. Captain DANIEL STEPHENSON, 1846, an elder brother of Trinity House, and ELIZABETH RUTHERFORD STEPHENSON, (no date) his wife, second daughter of John Sims of Walthamstow. (She was interred in the catacombs, Highgate Cemetery.)
23. MARY FRANCES WESTOBY, 1842, wife of William A. S. Westoby of Lincoln's Inn; and her father EDWARD HOLMES BALDOCK, 1845, of Hyde Park Place and Buxted, Sussex, and her mother MARY BALDOCK, 1861, and only brother EDWARD HOLMES BALDOCK, 1875, of 8 Grosvenor Place. (The last two were interred at Buxted.)
24. WILLIAM KITCHINER, M.D., 1827. He "was deeply conversant with medical science which his fortune rendered it unnecessary for him to pursue as a profession; an accomplished musical theorist and composer; an improver of the telescope." (Erected by his son William Brown Kitchiner.) Dr. Kitchiner lived at 43 Warren Street (see Survey of London, XXI, p. 65) where he was famous for his culinary skill. For further information see his notice in Dict. Nat. Biog. (He was interred at St. Clement Danes.)
27. HARDIN BURNLEY, 1823, of Brunswick Square; his daughters Ann Eliza, 1803, and CATHERINE MAITLAND, 1804 (interred at St. Michael, Bridgetown, Barbadoes), and his wife CATHERINE, 1827. Shield of arms: ermine, a ship in full sail ( ) on a chief engrailed ( ) a cornucopia ( ) between two bees ( ). (Carved by Henry Westmacott.)
40. JOHN MORICE, F.S.A., 1844, of Upper Gower Street and West Wickham (Kent)— also THOMAS EDWARD BIRCH, 1826, and his sisters CAROLINE FRANCES BIRCH, 1829, and ELIZABETH MARY MORICE, 1831, children of Jonathan Birch of Upper Gower Street and Pudlicote (Oxon.) and his wife Mary Elizabeth, only sister of John Morice.
45. DANIEL BEALE, 1842, of Fitzroy Square and of Edmonton (Middx.) formerly of Canton and Macao, "a most zealous promoter of the building of this Church and one of the original trustees." Also his wife ELIZABETH BARBOT, 1830.
49. ELIZABETH FANNY MCCAUL, 1894, wife of John Clarke Crosthwaite Mccaul and daughter of John Curteis of Tenterden, Kent. Also her son JOHN CURTEIS McCAUL, 1895, who died at Melbourne, Australia. (Brass.)
There are, in addition to the above, brass tablets to fourteen parishioners and another to four, all of whom died in the South African War. Also a brass tablet commemorating the completion of the peal of eight bells in 1882, and one recording their restoration by Alexander George Napier, churchwarden, in memory of his wife Lilian Ruth (d.1926).