Saturday, February 12, 2011

under slate-gray Victorian sky, here you'll find my heart and I

I haven't been feeling my best these last few days, emotionally or physically. I still managed to get some nice walks in, despite the lack of sleep and the moping. I seriously have been mopey, like wandering in the rain listening to Morrissey kind of mopey. It's ok, you can laugh at me. I know I'm dramatic.  I almost feel compelled to walk now, especially knowing how hard my sister is working to get ready for our long hike this summer.  I feel my best when I'm walking, even if it is gloomy walking in the rain, it feels better than sitting at home feeling gloomy.

London is the best place for gloomy walks, too.  Yesterday I walked north, not knowing what I'd expect to find.  The area, Camden and St. Pancras, is relatively new compared to the places I had been walking in the City earlier this week.  The buildings are all newer, and the oldest ones I saw where Victorian.  I walked past this great, very old, mortuary: Leverton & Sons, since 1782, it said on the window.  That's right when burying people became a viable business.  A lot of people began to be buried outside of church yards in the late 18th century because of overcrowding.  There's a Georgian cemetery by my house that I've blogged about before that was the first cemetery in London not in a church yard.  It took a lot of years for people to get used to the idea since their ancestors had been buried next to, or under, a church for the last thousand years.  Also, the Victorians really loved a show when it came to funerals, so these "funeral directors" were quite important and ended up making a lot of money.

Speaking of cemeteries and church yards, I discovered the loveliest little church on my walk.  It's the Old St. Pancras church and has been there since around 300 AD, or at least some form of the building.  It was set quite far outside the city in a lovely little field next to the River Fleet, which the Victorians filled up and made into a road.  Those Victorians really drive me crazy.  They had their meddling little fingers in everything.

Anyway, the most interesting part of the church was the cemetery and the most interesting part of the cemetery is what they call the Hardy Tree.  The novelist and poet Thomas Hardy didn't become a writer until late in his life, and when he was a young man he worked for an architectural firm.  They were putting in the railway that would lead to St. Pancras train station, and needed to go through part of the St. Pancras church yard, so Hardy was given the task of exhuming and reburying all of the bodies in the church yard.  This was a lot of bodies.  I don't think people realize how full church yards got.  They would literally be overfilled with bodies, there were more people than dirt, and this is why they started trying to promote cemeteries outside the city in the last 18th century.  There just wasn't enough space.  So, Hardy was in charge of moving all these bodies, and then he had all of the head stones to contend with, which because of the lovely English weather had been corroded beyond recognition.  There was no point in trying to keep them with the bodies, so he stacked them around this tree.

You can see the Old St. Pancras church behind the Hardy Tree.  It's tiny.  I just loved this little area, and I was surprised at how large the church yard still is. You can definitely imagine what it would have been like out in a field by a rushing river.  Just beautiful, and the perfect gloomy walk.

btw, the title of my post comes from the deliciously melancholic song called "Come Back to Camden" which I just love listening to when walking through Camden.  You must watch this video.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to buy an ipod so next time this happens and we walk through Hyde Park we'll both just be incredibly angsty/trendy listening to our tunes and sighing.