What’s in a name?…St Pancras…

January 15, 2018

This name – now only usually used in reference to several buildings and landmarks around the Kings Cross area including churches, a road, hotel and railway stations – was originally that of a separate village.

The village was named for the church in its midst which had been dedicated to St Pancras. The church – which has been dated back to at least the Norman era – is said to have been built on one of the earliest sites of Christian worship in the UK and was dedicated to a Roman-era boy martyr, St Pancras (in Latin, St Pancratius).

Tradition holds that St Pancras was a citizen of Rome who converted to Christianity and was beheaded for his faith during the Diocletian persecution in the early 4th century when aged just 14. When Pope Gregory the Great sent St Augustine on his mission to England in the late 6th century, he sent relics of the saint with him, hence why many English churches are dedicated to St Pancras.

The village which had been based around the church was apparently largely abandoned in the Middle Ages – possibly due to flooding – and the area was only resettled in the late 18th century with the development of Camden Town and Somers Town.

While the church – now known as St Pancras Old Church – was restored in the mid-19th century, a new parish church – known as St Pancras New Church – which built about a kilometre away on Euston Road.

PICTURE: Stephen McKay/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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2 Responses to “What’s in a name?…St Pancras…”


  1. Little wonder that the villagers upped and left – the Fleet ran nearby and graves would surface – churchyard still puddles up at times – a favourite haunt of mine though. Thanks for the info. Have an 18th century print of Old St Pancras looking not dissimilar to how the churchyard is today – before the railway obviously.
    Here is a link https://telltaletherapy.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/digging-history-at-old-st-pancras/
    (please remove if so desired)

  2. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    I never liked any name related to the pancr(e)as. It is the most unpleasant of all the organs.

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