The End of Hardy’s tree

From the Guardian Article

I published the following post about Hardy’s Tree on 28th December 2022. Here, follows the original post and an update which suggests the tree and the gravestones were not erected by Thomas Hardy.

This is the day that Herod ordered the slaughter of the Innocents, or Childermas, and I am glad to see that my Grandson is now older than Herod’s prescription.

Hardy’s Tree in St Pancras Church, Camden, London has fallen down. Hardy was an architect and worked in London for a while, where one of his jobs was to supervise the clearance of the graveyard. Several poems of Hardy refer to the removal of graves from their original positions and in this case, the gravestones were set around an Ash tree that inspires many, including my Central St Martin’s students who used it in a project recently. So, I was shocked to read a Guardian article (since deleted) which noted the sad demise of the Tree.

Extracts from one of several Hardy Poems about moving graves and gravestones follow, but I need to update the post about the connection to Hardy. The Guardian has now got an article which suggests the connection with Hardy is a more recent one than previously thought (Guardian article).

I (and I think the Guardian) were alerted to this by the work of Lester Hillman, who wrote a Churchyard Guide and a recent pamphlet about the Tree, which is reported in ‘Context ISSN 1462-7574’. This is the Journal of the City of London Archaeological Society. Evidence proves that the Ash Tree dates to the 1930s, and that the mound of gravestones is from burials relocated from St Giles in the Fields, and therefore unlikely to have been in St Pancras at the time Hardy was responsible for clearing it.

So it is not ‘the’ Hardy Tree, but then nor was the tree at Sycamore Gap anything to do with Robin Hood. What it was, was a beautiful piece of nature, in a poignant setting. May she rest in peace.

The Levelled Churchyard
Thomas Hardy

O Passenger, pray list and catch
Our sighs and piteous groans,
Half stifled in this jumbled patch
Of wrenched memorial stones!

We late-lamented, resting here,
Are mixed to human jam,
And each to each exclaimed in fear,
I know not which I am.

Where we are huddled none can trace,
And if our names remain,
They pave some path or porch or place
Where we have never lain!


Discover more from And Did Those Feet

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

4 Replies to “The End of Hardy’s tree”

  1. Interesting argument about Father Christmas/ St Nicholas…

    In the orthodox church, дед Мороз
    (Ded Moroz= father of frost), accompanied by Cнегурочка (Snieguroshka= fairy of the snow) brings gifts on New year’s eve, which is on January 7th).
    He travels with a horse drawn troika!

    I didn’t know that Thomas Hardy was an architect too!

Please leave me a comment - its great to hear what you think.