Gravestone-encircled ‘Hardy Tree’ tree falls in Camden

The Hardy Tree in Old St Pancras Churchyard  (Simon Lamrock)
The Hardy Tree in Old St Pancras Churchyard (Simon Lamrock)

A historic tree in a London churchyard famous for its link to British writer Thomas Hardy has fallen.

The tree, known as the Hardy Tree, became a symbol of life among death after the novelist and poet placed gravestones around its base in the 1860s.

The to-be celebrated writer Hardy, only in his 20s then, worked as an architect in the office of Arthur Blomfield in Covent Garden.

The firm got the commission from the bishop of London to disinter a large number of graves from Old St Pancras cemetary while engineering works were being undertaken on the Midland Railway, which runs through the now Kings Cross St Pancras station.

Hardy received the instruction for mass exhumation and decent reburial elsewhere, hence the prominant image was created.

It has attracted tourists in the Old St Pancras Churchyard ever since, but on Tuesday images emerged online of the toppled ash tree.

 (Simon Lamrock)
(Simon Lamrock)

The church’s website called the tree a “monument to the railway encroachments of the 19th Century”.

Wessex Museum’s Thomas Hardy exhibition curator Harriet Still told BBC Radio London the story behind the tree “brought out Hardy’s dark sense of humour”.

Decades later Thomas Hardy went on to publish many classic novels such as Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Camden Council had warned in the summer that the tree had been weakened by a heavy storm. It had been fenced off for many years.

 (Simon Lamrock)
(Simon Lamrock)

A Town Hall spokesperson told the Camden New Journal in July that it was looking at ways to commemorate the tree, with its fall imminent.

The New Journal reported in 2014 how the Hardy Tree was under threat after being infected by a parasitic fungus.