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Old St. Pancras Church


I often talk about Sir John Soane, Regency era architect, on London Bicycle Tours when I point out the extraordinary museum that was originally his home on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields. But Soane also designed something that may have inadvertently inspired Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's red telephone box design, and it was for this reason that I visited the St Pancras Old Church. Parts of the Church pre-date the Norman Conquest, and it may be one of the earliest places of Christian worship in England. After the St. Pancras New Church was opened in 1822 this one was rarely used and fell into decay as the surrounding neighbourhood rapidly industrialised. In the second half of the 1800s, many small burial grounds were converted into gardens and parks for the benefit of city dwellers and this was one of the first.


In 1863 the Midland Railway Company sliced into both the burial grounds and churchyard while building railway lines from the nearby St. Pancras Station. They dug up the graves at night hidden from public view by screens, which caused an uproar. Many of the grave markers and tombs were moved and placed in mounds along the walls or around trees. The Hardy Tree (pictured below) is named for Thomas Hardy, the writer, who was tasked as a young architectural student with supervising the grave removal process. Some of the largest mausoleums, including the Grade I-listed one that Sir John Soane designed for his wife Eliza, in which he was also buried upon his death in 1837, were spared.


This proved to be rather fortuitous, as, in 1924, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott possibly based his K2 phone box design on the tomb Soane had created for his wife upon her death in 1815. You can recognise the shape and domed top of the iconic phone box in the tomb pictured in the photo above. Later models such as the K3 and K6, also created by Scott, followed a similar style with minor design modifications: http://www.the-telephone-box.co.uk/story/


There are other little gems to be found in the gardens such as the lovely bright blue drinking fountain from 1877, so it's definitely worth a wander!


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