Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL.]. London. Photograph and text 2006by by
The plaque accompanying the tree explains that "before turning to writing full time," Thomas Hardy "studied architecture in London from 1862-67 under Mr. Arlhur Blomfield, an architect based in Covent Garden. During the 1860s the Midland Railwayline was being built over part of the original St. Pancras Churchyard. Blomfield was commissioned by the Bishop of London to supervise the proper exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs. He passed this unenviable task to his protegé Thomas Hardy in. c.l865. Hardy would have spent many hours in St. Pancras Churchyard . . . overseeing the careful removal of bodies and tombs from the land on which the railway was being built. The headstones around this ashtree (Fraxinus excelsior) would have been placed here about that time. Note how the tree has since grown in amongst the stones.
A few years before Hardy's involvement here, Charles Dickens made reference to Old St. Pancras Churchyard in his Tale of Two Cities(1859), as the churchyard in which Roger Cly was buried and where Gerry Cruncher was known to 'fish' (a 19C term for tomb robbery and body snatching).
Last modified 17 April 2006