The Hardy Tree – St Pancras Old Church

February 24, 2019 — 36 Comments

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This weekend the weather has been unseasonably warm with clear blue skies over London and I decided to take a break from my practice schedule to spend some time with my parents who were down in London for the weekend.

When working alone you have to find ways to focus and keep motivated and one of my coaches suggested reading some poetry for inspiration, it was suggested that I take a look at Thomas Hardy as one such writer.  I read through some of his pieces and this one, in particular, struck a chord with me.

Regret Not Me

By Thomas Hardy

Regret not me;
Beneath the sunny tree
I lie uncaring, slumbering peacefully.

Swift as the light
I flew my faery flight;
Ecstatically I moved and feared no night.

I did not know
That heydays fade and go,
But deemed that what was would be always so.

I skipped at morn
Between the yellowing corn,
Thinking it good and glorious to be born.

I ran at eves
Among the piled-up sheaves,
Dreaming, ‘I grieve not, therefore nothing’s grieves.’

Now soon will come
The apple, pear, and plum,
And hinds will sing, and autumn insects hum.

Again you will fare
To cider-makings rare,
And junketings; but I shall not be there.

Yet gaily sing
Until the pewter ring
Those songs we sang when we went gipsying.

And lightly dance
Some triple-timed romance
In coupled figures, and forget mischance;

And mourn not me
Beneath the yellowing tree;
For I shall mind not, slumbering peacefully.

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So today, along with my parents, we set off to find The Hardy Tree, this is living, evolving memorial, created by Thomas Hardy following the building of St Pancras station in the 1860s. Hardy at the time was employed by the firm of architects charged with exhuming the bodies on the site and moving them to another place of rest so that the station could be completed.

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Having finished this task Hardy had hundreds of headstones that were now disconnected from their owners and he decided to create a memorial to commemorate them. He arranged the headstones in a circular pattern around the base of an ash tree in the grounds surrounding St Pancras Old Church which was to be left undisturbed by the construction work. The memorial stands to this day and has become an ever-changing memorial as the living tree and its roots have grown and become entwined with the headstones. It was quite moving to see this memorial amongst the hustle and bustle of this busy area of London.

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Whilst visiting the site we were quite taken by the church and Dad decided to go inside and ask about its history. Apparently, it is believed to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in London dating back to around 313 to 314 AD.  The location on a small hill is thought to have once been used by the Romans during their occupation as an encampment following which the location became a place of worship.  It is amazing to think that over the centuries this site will have been the center of hope for so many people who came here to give praise and find peace. I do enjoy finding these little gems scattered so randomly amongst the modern architecture that has become synonymous with a busy metropolis such as London.

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St Pancras Old Church, London, 1721.

I was also amazed to see the redevelopment in the area where they have made flats out of old gas storage towers, we had a gas storage tower in Winsford in Cheshire, the town I grew up in but it was dismantled and a college now stands in the space. I’d have never have thought an ugly structure could be turned into reinvigorated living space. With shops built on the old cold dumps and the canals cleaned up with walkways that we enjoyed exploring the area seems to be getting its heart and soul back.

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36 responses to The Hardy Tree – St Pancras Old Church

  1. 

    That is a gorgeous weather. I can feel it. I am glad you described how the head stones were arranged that way. I was really curious when I first reading before reaching the later part. I like though but kept thinking how could they arrange bodies underneath that so close together as such.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:12 pm

      I wondered the same thing. Apparently Hardy didn’t like this task being allocated to him and it is said he wrote ‘The Levelled Churchyard’ inspired by this job: Of wrenched memorial stones! We late-lamented, resting here: Are mixed to human jam: And each to each exclaims in fear: ‘I know not which I am!’ 150 years later, another big exhumation is being discussed to make way for a modern railway project called HS2 30,000 graves would need to be moved, that would need a lot of trees! I wonder how the bodies were reburied too.

      Best wishes for your thoughts
      Charlotte

  2. 

    Wow, very interesting. I have walk near Saint Pancrace station, but I don’t know about the church and the tree. Now, I will have a look for a next trip in London. Take care of you, my “hello” to your familly, wish you the best Charlotte

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:12 pm

      It’s lovely what they are doing to this area now, there is a little quaint shopping complex with play areas for children, lots of café’s and open spaces attracting Londoners and visitors alike on such a sunny day.

      My best wishes
      Charlotte

  3. 

    Thank you for the tour to the Hardy Tree. Lovely poem as well.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:12 pm

      My parents listened to my practice and to new arias I’m learning and made my breakfast before we set off to explore, we all enjoyed visiting and learning about the tales of body-snatchers and expanding railways taking over the land.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  4. 

    I love St Pancras Old Church and it features on my new Cemeteries of London tour. Incidentally did you visit Words on Water on the canal near the old gas storage area with the new flats and shops? Well worth a visit… yeah I do a canal tour too 🙂

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:13 pm

      I saw a barge with a barber in it, we joked with my Dad that he should try it, but I didn’t see the Word on the Water barge it must have been the opposite walk than the track we chose ☹.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  5. 

    We have had solid rain for 2 weeks, now. Sunday we had the sun come out in this afternoon. Your photos are wonderful!! Hope that you had fun with your parents. St. Pancras Station was where Bletchley was filmed. Hope that you have a great week! Darlene

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:13 pm

      Nothing worse than rain that won’t go away. I didn’t know about Bletchley but I did see the film. We had a lovely weekend the weather was delightful the whole visit so they had a nice day out in Greenwich when they visited my brother on Saturday.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  6. 

    Lovely poem and tour of London sites. Fascinating about the Hardy Tree. I love your coat! Looks great on you! Hugs xx Thanks for sharing.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:14 pm

      Thank you, Janice, when we used to walk near where I grew up there was so little to walk to and visit it really is like another world in London, each direction something new to discover. Thank you I love this coat too it’s an old favourite.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  7. 

    Interesting Stories. Thank you for Sharing.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks Eric, I thought it was more interesting than ‘I spent over 40 hours in the practice room this week doing coloratura runs (which means adding colour and trills to arias)’ hehe. Actually, I’ve been having a lot of fun this past couple of weeks putting the work in.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  8. 

    Love the poem and great photos too.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:15 pm

      I was told the tree is a weeping ash. It’s a shame it wasn’t in full leaf I’ll have to go back to photograph it again in the Summer. The poem really jumped off the page to me.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  9. 

    What a fascinating story. And it makes poetry so much more appreciable when one knows the backstory!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      My Mum and I had walked away from the church to look up where the Canal side cafés were and Dad went into the Church he said the people there were most welcoming and gave him booklets and encouraged him to rest a while.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  10. 

    Wow! I didn’t realise such a peaceful place could be found in London. A lovely post with great pictures and a beautiful poem. Thank you Charlotte 😘

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      This is a new area of London I’ve been exploring, lots to see and do. You must persuade Terry to take you to London on the train for a visit.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  11. 

    You’ve done it again, Charlotte. Although I worked for a decade in London I didn’t know about the church or the memorial. Thank you so much for enlightening me. I didn’t know the poem either. It’s wonderful.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      Brilliant, I’m happy I came across the poem and the Hardy Tree very serendipitous in the same weekend my parents were visiting.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  12. 

    Charlotte, a very informative post . Lovely photo’s too.
    I’m glad the weather was nice for you all,
    The flats in the gas storage towers are interesting, would be nice to go inside , for a look.. xx

  13. 

    Love this post, Charlotte – a wonderful combination of poetry and history – plus pictures of a lovely sunny day featuring my favorite opera singer!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:17 pm

      Thank you, my lovely friend Noelle, Charles Dickens mentioned St Pancras Churchyard in his Tale of Two Cities where Gerry Cruncher was known for tomb robbery and body snatching! There must be an opera in these tales.

      My best wishes
      Charlotte

  14. 

    This is a wonderful post. Love the history, pictures, sentiment AND your lovely coat.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:17 pm

      Thank you, Annette, I’ve been spending a lot of time this month practising by myself and by nature I’m quite social, so it was good to get out and go to a place full of people and interesting things to see and do. It is a very comfy coat I’ve had my wear out of it too.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  15. 

    As a lover of history, I really loved this interesting post and photographs! While we have many beautiful historic places and cities over here, including Savannah and Charleston, none of them have the incredibly old sites as you do, across the pond! Thank you!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather February 26, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      So much to see and do in this area of London. I walked past what I thought was just a field the other day and there was a camel. I did a double take thinking I was seeing things, but it was in fact a far paddock for the zoo that I wasn’t aware was there. At first, I thought it was a lama so I think it is time I revisited the zoo to reacquaint myself with animals hehe.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  16. 

    Such glorious sunshine. Thanks for sharing your photos. Always a pleasant read too.

  17. 

    Oh yes! What a wonderful post. I adore, hunger for history, and this post with poetry has fed me. Your parents sound wonderful, not just in this post, but everytime you speak of them.
    I wish spring was more upon us here in Toronto, Canada, but alas, it is snowing today.

    Finally, I have done some (unexpected) sketches of gowns for you. I have put them in our page, with notes, etc.. If you have lost the code, I can send it, again.
    Very excited for you to see what I was inspired to do! -Resa ❦

  18. 

    Interesting post about the gravestones and the church. Thanks for sharing Hardy’s poem. Will look up more of his works.

  19. 

    I love Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd so reading this poem and about his tree is fascinating. Lovely post x

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