Home » Hidden London » Hidden London: The St Pancras New Church Caryatids

Hidden London: The St Pancras New Church Caryatids

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean
Euston Road is one of London’s busiest roads both with traffic and pedestrians moving between the main railway stations of King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston. Therefore, it is perhaps no surprise that the St Pancras New Church is often ignored but for those who are willing to investigate further there is plenty to discover.
© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean
Unlike many churches, the building of St Pancras New Church was influenced by what was known as the Greek Revival architectural movement. The movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries tried to revive the style of ancient Greek architecture, in particular the Greek temples. Part of the movement’s appeal was that it offered a classical style that appealed to local civic authorities and even a few church organisations. For a while it was very popular in  Britain, Germany and the United States.
© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean
The New Church was built primarily to serve the new built up areas around Euston Road, especially the nearby district of Bloomsbury. The building of St Pancras church was agreed in 1816 and the designs of local architect William Inwood and his son Henry William Inwood were accepted.  Henry William Inwood happened to be in Athens at the time that the plans their St Pancras were accepted, and he brought back to England plaster casts of details of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis. Inwood was also influenced by the Tower of the Winds in Athens which he used for a model of the church’s octagonal tower.
© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean
However the church’s most celebrated features are the two sets of caryatids that stand above the north and south entrances to the Crypt. The  original figures are well known from their location on the Acropolis, the St Pancras caryatids are different in respect that they hold an extinguished torch or an empty jug, reflecting their position as guardians of the dead.
© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean
Another difference is that the St Pancras caryatids are made of terracotta, constructed in sections around cast-iron columns, they were modelled by John Charles Felix Rossi.
The first stone was laid by the Duke of York at a ceremony on 1 July 1819 and church was consecrated by the Bishop of London on 7 May 1822. When it was completed, the church was considered one of the expensive church’s to be built in London since the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral. Although the church was closed for two years in the 1950s for structural renovation, St Pancras is still in use as a place of worship. It is now considered one of the most important 19th-century churches in England and is a Grade I listed building.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean
Its position, next to Euston Road has led to its splendours being diminished by pollution and attempts to clean have exposed staining of the Portland stone.
One of the stories related to the St Pancras caryatids is that when they were due to be installed it was found they were too large and some of their middle had to be chopped away. As with most of these urban myths it is difficult to determine fact from fiction.  But if you are looking for a piece of Classical Greece, make you way to St Pancras New Church.
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