Thursday, 11 October 2012
Old St Pancras Church House, Crowndale Road NW1
The church itself is right next to the station, so it was rather isolated from the community after the railway took over much of the land for marshalling yards in the later Victorian period. This must have been part of the motivation for building this charming mission hall to the north of the church in 1896 to the designs of C.R. Baker King.
The figure of the saint over the door was carved by Harry Hems (1842-1916), an eccentric and excitable sculptor who had made his home in Exeter after winning a commission to work on the Royal Albert Memorial Museum there. He was known for refusing to pay what he described as the iniquitous demands of the Inland Revenue, and preparing the catalogues of the resulting forced sales of his works himself. The lots he selected included the crowbar used by the bailiffs, and three "second-hand tombstones (slightly damaged) ... suitable for the graves of Income Tax Commissioners or other Revenue Officials". The publicity did him no harm at all.
His statue of St Pancras shows the 14 year old boy in a toga and carrying a bible and a martyr's palm - he was beheaded for defying the Emperor Diocletian. St Pancras is the patron saint of children and his aid is invoked in cases of cramps, headaches, false witness and perjury.