Going with the flow along the canal

Yesterday H and I took a bus to Angel and walked around the little market there before walking along the canal all the way to Camden. This was really cool, finding the nature in London, we saw a little tiny duckling with his parents (or her parents, who knows) and a tame squirrel, the whole area was rather abundant in greenery, patches of honey suckle (which didn't smell unfortunately) and lots of hawthorn.

We happened upon an old church at St Pancras, which is believed to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in England, and is dedicated to the Roman martyr Saint Pancras, although the building itself is largely Victorian. dating back to the 4th century, the actual church, or parts of it, dates from the 11th century. It was rather strange as we had passed it on the bus to Angel and had both commented on how inviting it looked and then when we were walking along the canal we had to come off the main path due to building works and found ourselves at the church. We were only in there for a few minutes before it was closing, long enough to feel the incredible energy of the place in the walls and say a prayer.

However I am not sure it was the church that was drawing us or perhaps the churchyard grounds where we immediately noticed the memorial to Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts (24 April 1814 – 30 December 1906), who was a noted nineteenth century philanthropist. H was familiar with her name but it was all new to me. Apparently in 1837 she became the wealthiest woman in England when she inherited her grandfather's fortune of nearly three million pounds sterling via his wife Harriot Mellon, joining, by Royal Licence, the surnames of her father and grandfather to become Burdett-Coutts. King Edward VII is reported to have described her, "After my mother (Queen Victoria), the most remarkable woman in the kingdom".

I have to say that the grounds were pretty special, lots of mature trees and old burial sites and this really calming energy. However it was not until I did some further investigation that I discovered it is actually a really special place. The churchyard is apparently the largest green space in the locality. Here, the architect Sir John Soane designed a tomb for his wife and himself in the churchyard, which is now Grade I listed. Apparently, the design of his mausoleum provided the inspiration for the design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott of the iconic red telephone boxes.

Notable people buried here include vampire writer and physician John Polidori, the composer Johann Christian Bach and the sculptor John Flaxman. It is also the burial place of William Franklin, the last colonial Governor of New Jersey and illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin. There is a memorial tomb for philosophers and writers Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. In the 17th and 18th centuries, many foreign dignitaries and aristocrats—presumably not members of the Church of England—were buried here, outside the boundaries of the City of London and Westminster; they are commemorated on an elaborate memorial.

The Hardy Tree, growing between gravestones moved while Thomas Hardy was working here. Other people associated with the churchyard include the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the future Mary Shelley, who planned their elopement over meetings at the grave of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. In the mid-19th century the writer Thomas Hardy, then a trainee architect, was involved in the controversial clearance of part of the churchyard to make way for the railway. Charles Dickens mentions it by name in A Tale of Two Cities, making it the location of body-snatching to provide corpses for dissection at medical schools, a common practice at the time.

In 1968, The Beatles were photographed in the churchyard grounds, in a famous series of pictures designed to promote the single "Hey Jude" and the album The Beatles, better known as The White Album.

A recent addition is a polished marble stone at the entrance to the church, a collaboration between and a gift from the poet Jeremy Clarke and the sculptor Emily Young. It is inscribed: "And I am here / in a place / beyond desire or fear", an extract from the long poem "Praise" by Clarke.

Hmm, I could try and read into us happening upon this place but am happy to accept that it was just one of those things...certainly a lot of creativity associated with it however.

Camden was crazy, too many people after our gentle stroll along the side of the canal so we walked up to the lovely Primrose Hill and re-charged with a salad while sitting outside a cafe and watching the world go by. We then walked back to H's place through Kentish town and worked out we had walked for almost 4 hours and were therefore in need of a sit down and early night. Just as well, H, kept tripping up all the time, I figure that while she was grounding me, I was ungrounding her, poor H, was very funny, we laughed lots.

What an interesting, go with flow, relaxed and easy going day. Thanks H.
Ross DespresComment