This week I visited a site I’ve had on the bucket list for a while – The Hardy Tree.
The Hardy Tree is located in St Pancras Old Church in Central London.
What makes this tree so particular is the graves that seem to circle around it.
Its not a usual sight in a graveyard!
What’s the story behind it?
Back in the 19th century when the industrial revolution hit there was a need for more trains and a need for underground stations.
The area of King’s Cross and Saint Pancras was to see two big stations to be built and unfortunately this meant the lines cutting through the graveyard of St Pancras Old church.
It is believed that between 11,000 – 15,000 graves was uprooted due to the new stations and during the process of transferring the bodies of the deceased the workers left a trail of decaying corpses and disturbed coffins.
During the 19th century, body snatching was rife and its no surprise that opportunists seeking to earn themselves a buck or two took advantage of the transfers which resulted in many bodies being stolen.
The public was quite distressed by the upheaval of the dead and the Bishop of London commissioned a firm of architects to clean up the mess.
It is thought that a young novelist named Thomas Hardy is where the tree’s name comes from. At the time Thomas was a artiects apprentice, and we all know apprentice get the worse kind of job and this was Thomas’s. Thomas had to clean up the graveyard of the bodies and the headstones.
Its thought that during his time here, Thomas actually uncovered the body of a two-headed man during the excavations.
Thomas never documented anything regarding and this and more recent photographs of the tree has raisen speculation if he ever had anything to do creating the design at all however he did write a poem named Levell’d Churchyard. Thomas’s poem suggests that he didn’t particularly have very fond memories of the work he did here but its hardly surprising given the job he was expected to do.
However, if his spirit still remains here and he did design the tree, I hope he realises people come to St Pancras Old church to see his quirky memorial of those that had past and the headstones he saved and placed here are now hugged by a root of a tree tightly, as if nature is now looking after them from the acts of how cruel mankind can be for their own gain.
John Tweed and The Hauntings of The Hardy Tree.
There is no specific hauntings to the graveyard or the tree, however what I did find was numberous accounts of letters that was written by the vicar John Tweed in 1859 to his wife Charlotte, who at the time remained in Buckinghamshire.
John documented in his letters that he was suffering with what appeared to have been a mass supernatural manifestation.
His letters detailed how his Churchyard was a mass gathering of apparitions and how tombstones seem to appear at a Ash tree and that he had even seen them moving towards this tree by a unseen force.
The Ash tree he was making reference could have been Hardys Tree
In December 1859 he wrote the below accounts to Charlotte:
‘More missing headstones. Increasingly certain of connection with my guests. Today I traced strange lines of disturbed earth across the graveyard. Each lead to the ash tree. Are they being dragged there? And then where? The ash tree itself is looking increasingly unhealthy, possibly diseased. I don’t like to get too close to it.’
‘If I hadn’t seen such as I have seen these past months I may not have trusted my eyes, but trust them I must. I shall record it in as plain a manner as I know how: By the light of the moon last night I saw a gravestone, moving with some speed, and quite of its own accord, across the graveyard. It hurtled towards the ash tree, at the base of which it disappeared, as if plunging in to the very bowels of the tree.’
‘Good God. Hundreds of them, of all shapes, just pouring into the tree.’
John later refers to the tree being a gateway and its believed by some that he felt it could have possibly been a Hell Gate.
“Dearest Charlotte, I do so love hearing your news from the vale, it pains me to have to recount the horrors of my life here… When you open a window to let out smoke does it not allow cold air in also? When you open your heart to the voice of a lover, does not some precious part of your soul seep into their heart also? Oh dearest love, there is a deep sense of foreboding about the place… My flock has flown, but I am far from alone… At night I am plagued by nightmares so vivid and dreadful that I am afraid to sleep at all. I have been nailed to the cursed iron frontage of a flame-licked and hell-bound locomotive. I have walked through the dark miasma and fetid slime of a London choked by death. I have seen the flagstones of the church floor thrust violently upwards by a sudden eruption of uncertain origin. And these are only the visions I have the constitution to retell… I begin to suspect that it is not just the lost ones that are being dragged down to that place. For how to account for the sheer number I watch descend every night? Where will it end? Must every dead soul in the parish, every dead soul in London be reclaimed for damnation?! No Charlotte, I shall not see it happen.”
What’s a hell gate?
Its when spirits can’t cross over and they get drawn to a vessel to use as a gate to drag them down to hell. Obviously, the vicar at the time would have thought that the lost souls he seen had not passed over as potentially they had sinned and they were stuck within this realm as the only way they could go was to go down to hell…
I personally don’t believe this, I think the upheaval of a souls body could draw them back to this realm and then they can become restless because they want to protect what was once their shell.
Allegedly John Tweed closed the Hellgate in 1860, by burying a Bible under the tree and scans of around the tree shows buried within the roots of the ash tree there is a large book…but nobody has ever been allowed to dig the area. No reports was made from John after 1860.
NOTHING BUT A MYTH?
Recent photographs of the area in 1926 show that the tree at one point after the alleged events of John Tweed and Thomas Hardy never had a tree there.
And photographs from the 1960s show it is then.
So if the tree wasn’t there in 1926 what was John Tweed writing to his wife about?
The tree we see today is in a dying state as it is infected with a deadly fungus and many feel it won’t be long before it dies..
So my thoughts are, maybe there was a tree there because obviously John wrote about one, but did this tree die and at a later date another was either planted or one just grew?
Please check out video of when I visited. I conducted a spirit box session and I do believe we got through ‘St Pancras’, let me know what you think?