Thomas Hardy Tree

On the cover of the August–September 2019 Forum, we had a nice poem by the novelist, Thomas Hardy, written in 1899, and submitted by Roger Stanyon.

Before he gained fame, Hardy worked in London from 1850 to 1856, articled to a company of architects. As a junior at that time, he ended up with the jobs no-one else wanted. One such job in 1855 was to clear a part of St. Pancras Old Church cemetery, to make room for the ever expanding railway network.

Bodies were exhumed and re-buried elsewhere but what to do with the hundreds of gravestones? It may have been a temporary measure, but the gravestones were neatly stacked around an ash tree in the cemetery, and there they remain to this day!

In the intervening 164 years, the tree has grown considerably, and now envelops many of the gravestones. The site is enclosed in a metal fence, with an explanatory notice, and is among one of many listed London trees.

It is called ‘The Hardy Tree’, and if you have an hour or so to kill waiting for a train from either of the nearby Kings Cross or St. Pancras railway stations, it is well worth seeking out. At the same time you can admire the superb redevelopment of 67 acres of land behind the two stations, now containing open spaces, cafes, restaurants, stretches of canal, and the UK HQ of Google.

Lots of pictures on the internet!

David Yeadon.

My favourite Thomas Hardy book? Toss up between The Mayor of Casterbridge and Far from the Madding Crowd.