St. Pancras Soper Lane 145/0: The parish church of St. Pancras Soper Lane

Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane. Originally published by Centre for Metropolitan History, London, 1987.

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D J Keene, Vanessa Harding, 'St. Pancras Soper Lane 145/0: The parish church of St. Pancras Soper Lane', in Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane( London, 1987), British History Online [accessed 20 July 2024].

D J Keene, Vanessa Harding, 'St. Pancras Soper Lane 145/0: The parish church of St. Pancras Soper Lane', in Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane( London, 1987), British History Online, accessed July 20, 2024,

D J Keene, Vanessa Harding. "St. Pancras Soper Lane 145/0: The parish church of St. Pancras Soper Lane". Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane. (London, 1987), , British History Online. Web. 20 July 2024.

In this section

Early history and valuations

The church of St. Pancras probably existed by the late 11th century. It is referred to in a list of lands belonging to Christ Church Cathedral Priory, Canterbury, datable to 1098 x 1108. The list reads: 'the church of St. Benedict or Pancras, which Lifric the priest gave on being made a monk in the church of Canterbury. This pays an ounce of gold at Pentecost.' Who Lifric was, other than presumably the priest and proprietor of the church, and when and where he gave it to the priory, is not known. (fn. 1) The alternative dedications suggest that there may have been a confusion between this church and the nearby church later known as St. Benet Sherehog which lay just 50 yards (46 m.) to the E., but in which Canterbury Cathedral is not known ever to have had an interest. Alternatively, the dedication of the church in question may have been changed, possibly in honour of the ancient church of St. Pancras outside the walls of Canterbury. By 1086, however, there existed a church dedicated to St. Pancras some two miles (3.2 km.) to the N.W. of London, (fn. 2) so that the cult of that saint could already have been established in the city before Canterbury Cathedral Priory acquired its interest there. The church outside London belonged to the canons of St. Paul's, and there is no known connection between it and the city church.

The church lay on the N. side of a small east-west street known as Pancras Lane or St. Pancras Lane in the Middle Ages and later, but also, in the 17th century, as Needlers Lane. The main N.-S. axis of the parish in the medieval and early modern period was Soper Lane, enlarged into Queen Street after the Great Fire. Soper Lane, however, is referred to as 'the new street' in a charter dating from before c. 1218 x c. 1222, and unlike its western neighbours Bow Lane and Bread Street did not continue south of Watling Street. If Soper Lane was a new or newly-widened street in the early 13th century this may have changed the focus of the parish from an earlier but now obscure arrangement. Soper Lane existed by the time the parish boundary acquired its final form, and St. Pancras parish included properties fronting Cheapside as well as on Soper Lane and St. Pancras Lane. Gropecunt Lane ran from the W. end of the church to Cheapside, and Popkirtle Lane through, or by the side of, 18, from St. Pancras Lane to Cheapside; both of these were extremely narrow. Properties in Bordhaw Lane (105/3-4) backed on to the N. wall of the church or churchyard but lay in another parish, that of St. Mary Colechurch. (fn. 3)

The church was confirmed, among others, to Canterbury Cathedral Priory in papal bulls of the later 12th and early 13th centuries, and in the late 12th century it paid 7s. yearly to the priory at Pentecost. By c. 1220, however, the rent days for the Canterbury rents in London had been altered in order to conform with London custom, and the 7s. was due at the feast of St. John the Baptist. (fn. 4)

The churches in the list of 1098 x 1108 formed part of what became the archeipiscopal peculiar of the Deanery of Arches, centring on the church of St. Mary le Bow. The priors of Christ Church presented priests to the archbishop for institution to St. Pancras. In 1365, however, the priory granted the advowson to the archbishop, reserving only the pension of 7s. From that time on presentations were made by the archbishop, or by the Crown during vacancies of the see. (fn. 5) The 7s. pension continued to be paid to the priory, and after the Reformation to the cathedral chapter. (fn. 6) In 1535 the rectory was valued at £13. 6s. 3d. yearly, less 7s. to the priory and 7s. 7 1/2d. to the archdeacon. In 1640 the valuation was the same, but the tithe valuation of 1638 recorded that tithes of £36. 17s. 4d. were then paid. The total income of the rectory in 1638 was given as £53. 6s. 4d., out of which deductions amounting to £2. 1s. were paid. (fn. 7)

Chantry and other endowments

For a small church and parish St. Pancras was well endowed with chantry and other gifts. In 1316 Laurence de Thorle left his shop in Soper Lane (145/32) to be sold, the profits to be used to support a chantry for the souls of himself, Alice de Hallyngberi, and others. By his will of 1340, proved 1341, John de Knopwed left his shop in the parish (145/28-9) to his wife Rose for life, charged with a chantry for himself and his parents, and subsequently for sale. (fn. 8) The earliest recorded permanent endowment of the church with lands was by John de Causton (1353) and William de Causton (1354). Both chantries were subsequently augmented and there may at times have been some confusion between them. (fn. 9)

John de Causton left property in the parishes of St. Pancras and St. Antonin (145/11-12) charged with the cost of a chaplain celebrating in the church of St. Pancras in the chapel of St. Mary, for the souls of himself, his parents, his wives, and others. The chaplain was to receive 10 marks (£6. 6s. 8d.) and other small sums were to go to the rector, clerks, and others. Presentation to the chantry, after the first two occasions, was to be made by the rector and parishioners. By the early 16th century the properties on which these costs were charged had come into the possession of the parish, but were said to be 'fallen into ruin and decay so that soon their issues would not be sufficient to perform the charges in the testament'. The parish agreed with William Burwell that in return for sums lent and given to the church he should be accounted co-founder of the chantry with John Causton and have a lease of several properties belonging to the church. In 1522 Burwell sold all his rights and claims in the chantry to Simon Rice, who entered a similar agreement with the parish. In the chantry certificate of 1548 this was listed as 'Augmentation of John Causton's priest: tenements given by Simon Ryce, £13.' There is no separate entry for John de Causton's original endowment. (fn. 10)

In 1354 William de Causton left money for 3 chaplains celebrating in the church of St. Pancras for the souls of himself, his wife, his parents, and Edith Palmere, comprising 10 marks (£6. 6s. 8d.) charged on his properties in the parish (145/9B, a plot in 10, 14-15) and quit-rents totalling £14. 6s. from several other parishes. After William's death his executors Simon and Richard Worsted and John Bernes granted property in the parishes of St. Benet Woodwharf and St. Michael Paternoster to the rector and churchwardens of St. Pancras, perhaps instead of some of the quit-rents mentioned in William's will. In 1376 John Biernes augmented de Causton's bequest with rents charged on his tenement near St. Paul's Wharf. John Everard, in 1426, left a quit-rent once held by William de Causton, from properties in various parishes, to the church of St. Pancras to maintain two chantries for the souls of himself and de Causton. By the 16th century William de Causton's chantry had two properties in St. Benet Paul's Wharf and St. Michael Paternoster, from which rents of £2. 10s. and £1 were received, and quit-rents totalling £2. 12s. 10 3/4d. from properties in the parishes of St. Pancras (10s. 2 3/4d.: see 145/24B); St. Dunstan in the West (13s. 4d.); St. Magnus (16s.); and from a property belonging to the parish of St. James Garlickhithe (13s. 4d.). The other quit-rents had perhaps become irrecoverable. In the chantry certificate of 1548 these were recorded as 'The lamps: tenements given by Simon the Worsted and others, £3. 10s.' and 'Priest: £2. 12s. 10 3/4d. rents given by Simon Causton'. (fn. 11)

In 1379 John de Haddelegh, Richard Odyham, and John Dane, acquired a licence to grant to the church of St. Pancras a plot of land measuring some 20 ft. E.-W. (6.10 m.) by 50 ft. N.-S. (15.24 m.), for use as a cemetery. This was part of 145/17, close to the church, and when he died in 1410 Haddele left his tenement, the remaining part of 17, to the rector and churchwardens, to support the church clock (orlogium). (fn. 12) He also left them a quit-rent of £1 from a tenement in the Vintry, to keep his obit; this rent was subsequently paid by the Merchant Taylors' Company, who acquired the property from which it was due. Burials presumably began in the new churchyard soon after. The tenement or house was by the early 16th century known as the Clock House. It was recovered by the parish after the suppression of the chantries and continued to be held and let by them thereafter. (fn. 13)

Bequests of quit-rents for obits and masses were made to the parish by Robert and Elizabeth Burley in 1400 (6s. 8d. quit-rent from the Saracen's Head in the parish of St. Mildred Poultry (132/16), and by John Lagage in 1433 (13s. 4d. from his tenement, 145/16). (fn. 14) In 1520 Margaret Reynold left an annuity or quit-rent of £8. 13s. 4d. to be paid by the Mercers' Company (to whom she had been a benefactor) to found a chantry and obit in St. Pancras church, supervised and attended by the company. She also left £60 for making the north wall of the church, and money for the distribution of bread, ale, and doles to poor householders of the parish. The property on the corner of Soper Lane and St. Pancras Lane (145/19) appears to have belonged to the parish from before 1338, and was not lost at the dissolution of the chantries. Its donor is not known, nor the purposes for which it was held, but presumably it was not a superstitious or chantry endowment. (fn. 15)

The site and structure (fig. 1)

The church was burnt in the Great Fire and not rebuilt (the parish being united with that of St. Mary le Bow), but the site remained open and was used as a burial ground. The surface was apparently levelled up, but the foundations of the walls remained largely intact until the burials were removed in 1963. Excavations then revealed a simple masonry building with a nave 19 ft. 4 in. (5.9 m.) wide and an apsidal chancel at the E. end (Fig. 1). Only the E. part of the nave was excavated so its length was not ascertained. The structure was largely of ragstone and yellow mortar; the N. wall was externally faced with squared blocks above a plinth, and the length that survived was not pierced by doors or windows. The date of the structure was not surmised by the excavators, but it seems probable that this was the original, perhaps 11th century, church. The excavated structure occupied the S.W. part of an irregular quadrilateral which represents the church site at the time of the Great Fire. The ground to the N. and E. of the original church was probably churchyard. This area was bounded by Gropecunt Lane to the W., 145/39 and 105/3 and 4 to the N., and 145/16 to the E. None of the adjacent tenements had doors opening into it. An apparent irregularity in the boundary with 145/39 (see reconstruction plans) may represent encroachment, or simply an inaccurate survey of 145/39 in the 16th century. (fn. 16)

It is not clear from the archaeological record when burial began in the church or churchyard. Burials were certainly being made in the church by the mid 14th century (see below), and the provision of a new cemetery on the W. side of Gropecunt Lane in 1379 (see 17) suggests that at that time there was little room for interments immediately next to the church. There are few surviving wills or registered wills for parishioners of St. Pancras (Deanery of Arches will registers only survive from 1620) and it is difficult to know where they chose to be buried. John Lagage, a benefactor, asked to be buried in the church in 1432, and in the 17th century burial in the church was popular. (fn. 17)

Later medieval and early modern references to the church and its parts suggest a larger and more complex structure than that excavated, and it is probable that later disturbance of the site, through burials and clearing, had removed or rendered unreadable the traces of such a structure. The floor of the later church may have been at a higher level than the walls and foundations excavated. The date at which such an enlargement of the church took place is not known: it could have happened in several stages. In 1271-2 105/4 was said to abut S. on the church of St. Pancras, and by 1303 145/16 abutted W. on it, but it is not clear if these references really mean the church or just a wall enclosing church, yard, and other buildings. (fn. 18)

Most documentary references to the church structure date from the mid 14th century or later. In 1353 John de Causton requested burial in the 'northern chapel of St. Mary', and there were altars, possibly in side-chapels, dedicated to St. Stephen and St. James. William de Causton's 'chantry of St. Anne' may also have had an altar. Adam de Branktree, rector in 1354, seems to have been active in promoting his church. He obtained an order from the pope to the chancellor of the diocese of London to enforce restitution of dues, rents, and property belonging to the church and wrongfully detained. It may have been at his request that in 1354 and 1355 indulgences were granted to tithe-payers and those making offerings at St. Pancras. In 1361 the archbishop of Canterbury granted one to all visiting the church on its feast day, and in 1374 granted another to contributors to the maintenance of a bell (campana), vulgarly called le clok, in the belltower of the church, and to those who prayed for the soul of Adam, rector of the church, founder or donor of the bell. These references suggest there may have been work on the church at this time, and the creation of a new churchyard in 1379 (see 17) may indicate that most of the former churchyard N. and E. of the church had by now been built over. Stow records an impressive number of monuments, by his time defaced or gone, to wealthy citizens buried in the church. The sequence began about 1370, and it may be that at this time there was a new, or renewed, interest among the wealthier parishioners in being buried at their church, as well as a more general investment in the church fabric. (fn. 19)

The church apparently had a clock by the mid 14th century. In 1368 Henry Deynes left money to the maintenance of the clock (ad custodiam horologii) of St. Pancras. In his will of 1405 John Hadley left 17A to maintain the church clock (orlogium); this property was by the early 16th century known as the Clock House. In 1426 Alan Everard left 3s. 4d. rent to maintain the clock (horilogium). Stow makes no reference to a clock but implies that the church bells had recently been sold. (fn. 20)

The clock was probably located in the bell tower and may be shown in what could be a representation of the church of St. Pancras in the mid 16th-century 'copperplate' map of London. There were two churches on the N. side of St. Pancras Lane, which is depicted on the map, doubtless in a partially conventionalized form. The map, however, shows only one church, which has been identified as that of St. Benet Sherehog. But the church of St. Pancras had the longer frontage to the lane, and it may be that the cartographer, who had room to show only one church in the space available, was depicting the church of St. Pancras. His drawing shows a battlemented nave and chancel with three windows next to the street. At the W. end of the church, apparently next to the street, was a tower with a circular feature, possibly a clock, on its S. face towards the top. There was a gabled porch projecting into the street at the bottom of the tower. (fn. 21) This drawing, and the excavated remains, are the basis of the plan shown in Fig. 1.

The belltower was presumably the same as the 'steple' referred to in 1556. In that year the churchwardens leased a shed adjoining to the east side of the steeple to Geoffrey Walkeden, owner of 145/39 which adjoined the church site to the N. This implies that the steeple projected N. of the main body of the church. If this was so, it is difficult to see how the steeple could also have adjoined the street as seems to be the case with the church shown on the mid 16th-century map. The cartographer's drawing may have been imprecise, or he may even have combined elements from both churches in St. Pancras Lane in a representation of a single structure. Various parts of the church are mentioned in burial registers of the 16th and 17th centuries, including the choir, the chancel, 'Our ladye chapell', the north aisle (where the font was located), and the great or south aisle, probably the nave of the original church. The belfry is also mentioned, and in 1635 and 1636 a gallery. 'St. Pancras chapell' was mentioned in 1635 and 1638, but it is not clear if this was a separate chapel or a different way of referring to the church. Churchwardens' accounts begin in the early 17th century, and record work on the steeple and the 'Queenes Tombe' in 1617-18, and fairly extensive repairs in 1621-2. The 'Queenes Tombe' was evidently the impressive and costly monument to Queen Elizabeth I given to the church by Thomas Chapman in 1617. Chapman, along with Sir Thomas Bennet, alderman (cf. 145/9-10A), and Lady Anne Soame (cf. 145/13), was one of the contributors to the cost of repairing and beautifying the church in 1621. Chapman's son of the same name (see 145/18) built a very fair porch at his own cost, and by his will of 1626 left money for sermons and a dinner, for 2 lanterns (one by the church and the other at the corner of Soper Lane and St. Pancras Lane), and for cleaning the church. Repairs to the S. wall and the gift of a fine communion table, both at the cost of William Doricke, citizen and grocer (probably the William Darracke who lived in 145/1Aiv between 1627 and 1660), are also recorded. Further repairs, chiefly plastering and painting, costing over £40, were made in 1635-6. In 1641 internal decorations 'being superstitious and Jesuiticall' were destroyed. The church clock is referred to in 1659. (fn. 22)

Registers of burials survive from 1538, at some periods the locations of burials are given. In the 1550s and 1560s it appears that most burials were in the churchyard; those few in the church were mostly men of higher status, a sheriff, a gentleman, several members of Livery Companies. Between c. 1597 and 1612 there were more burials in the church, and their locations were given with some precision, sometimes including measurements, and there were burials on top of existing ones. The locations of burials in the churchyard were also specified at this time. By c. 1612 this precision was abandoned, and possibly some further accommodation for burials had been managed. There are references to a vault or parish vault from this time, but burial in the church and yard continued. By the 1620s and 1630s burials in the church included children, servants, and plague victims. Few burials outside the parish were recorded. The last burial before the Great Fire was on 23 July 1666. (fn. 23)

The church was destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt, the parish being united with that of St. Mary le Bow. A triangular area at the N.W. corner of the site was laid into the lane (Gropecunt Lane, no longer widely known by that name), and the rest of the site cleared of rubbish. This became a churchyard for the use of the united parish; the first burial recorded there in the St. Pancras register was on 4 April 1668. In 1728 a plan and regulations for burials there were drawn up. At this time there was a charnel full of coffins and bones near the S.W. corner of the site, measuring some 9 ft. by 12 ft. (2.74 m. by 3.66 m.) and about 10 ft. (3.05 m.) deep, and several structures, probably vaults, in the N.E. corner. Thenceforth graves were to be dug and recorded according to a three-dimensional coordinate grid system. Interments were discontinued by an Order in Council of 1853, and the burials were removed in 1963. The other churchyard (see 17B) was probably not used for burials after the Fire. (fn. 24)

It is not known where the rector lived, though it seems probable that there was some accommodation for him on the church site. In 1606 the burial register refers to the 'parsons house' in the churchyard to the W. of Gropecunt Lane (17B) but its exact location is uncertain. (fn. 25)


  • 1. BL, MS Cotton Faust. B. vi, f. 100, printed and discussed in B.W. Kissan, 'An early list of London properties', Trans LMAS n.s. 8 (1938), 57-69. The payment in gold is commented on by P. Nightingale, 'The London Pepperers' Guild and some twelfth-century English trading links with Spain', BIHR 58 (1985).
  • 2. VCH Middlesex i, p. 122; ECSP, p. xxiv, nos. 68-73.
  • 3. See parish plan; ECSP, no. 117; see other gazetteer entries for this parish.
  • 4. Canterbury, Reg K, f. 69; ibid. Reg J, p. 339.
  • 5. CUL, MS Ee 5.31, ff. 80v, 206; Canterbury, Reg L, f. 80v; ibid. Reg H, f. 40; Cal Pat R 1364-7, p. 115; ibid. 1413-16, pp. 8, 384; ibid. 1558-60, pp. 125, 269.
  • 6. Canterbury, Bedels Rolls London, 16-17 Edw II; Lambeth, ED. 608; Canterbury, Misc A/cs 19 (Beadles' a/cs 1599-1624), pp. 107, 181, 211, 234-5.
  • 7. Valor i, p. 370 (recorded as All Saints in Soper Lane, but clearly St. Pancras is meant); CUL, MS Dd 1.31; Inhabitants in 1638, p. 173.
  • 8. HR 45(39); HR 68(98).
  • 9. HR 81(71); HR 82(73).
  • 10. HR 81(71); GL, MS 2050, ff. 20-6; Chant C, no. 28.
  • 11. HR 82(73), 103(95), 155(80); GL, MS 2050, ff. 33-37v, 51-76; Chant C, nos. 16, 24, 28, 94; PRO, SC6/Edw 6/293 et seqq.; PRO, SP14/106, p. 12; PRO, SC11/957; cf. Cal Pat R 1547-8, p. 312.
  • 12. PRO, C143/394/27; Cal Pat R 1377-81, p. 391; HR 147(43); PRO, C137/78/28.
  • 13. HR 147(43); Chant C, no. 211; Cal Pat R 1549-51, pp. 387-401; see 145/17.
  • 14. HR 133(8), 161(33); GL, MS 5020, ff. 8, 38v-41v; Chant C, no. 28; PRO, SC6/Edw 6/293 et seqq.
  • 15. GL, MS 5020, ff. 27v-29; Chant C, nos. 28, 194.
  • 16. P.R.V. Marsden, 'Archaeological Finds in the city of London 1963-4', Trans LMAS 21, pt. 3 (1967), pp. 207, 218; Museum of London, Department of Urban Archaeology, Post-Roman Gazetteer no. 1041; see GL, MS 7350.
  • 17. HR 81(71), 103(95), 161(33)
  • 18. As n. 16; MC, Reg of Writings i, ff. 13v-14; LBA, 169 (f. 79r-v); HR 31(64).
  • 19. HR 81(71); Cal Pat R 1374-7, p. 46; ibid. 1385-9, p. 380; ibid. 1388-92, p. 160; GL, MS 5020, ff. 82-84v; PRO, C143/394/27; Strype's Stow, book iii, p. 29.
  • 20. HR 96(146), 147(43), 155(80); GL, MS 5020, ff. 20-4; Stow i, 261.
  • 21. A. Procktor and R. Taylor, The A to Z of Elizabethan London (LTS publication no. 122, 1979), pp. 24, 31.
  • 22. GL, MS 5020, ff. 94-98v, 112v-113; GL, MS 5015; Cal S P Dom 1635-6, p. 66; GL, MS 5018/1; Newcourt, Repertorium i, 517-18; Strype's Stow, book iii, p. 29; GL, MS 5019/1, pp. 76, 197.
  • 23. GL, MS 5015.
  • 24. GL: MS 5018/1; MS 5019/1,p. 255; MS 7350; MS 5020, f. 108, and loose plan of no. 13 Pancras Lane (145/17A-B) in 1811.
  • 25. GL, MS 5015 (18 Aug. 1606); see 17B.