Plague-Pit---Crossrail

Thirty skeletons found in a mass burial – the latest archaeological find at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street site – are believed to have been victims of the Great Plague of 1665. Made during the excavation of the former Bedlam burial ground in order to make way for a new eastern entrance to the station, the discovery comes during the 350th anniversary year of the Great Plague. Jay Carver, the lead archaeologist for Crossrail, said the mass burial – with the bodies placed in now long gone wooden coffins – was unlike other individual burials found in the cemetery and thus “is likely a reaction to a catastrophic event”. “Only closer analysis will tell if this is a plague pit from the Great Plague of 1665 but we hope this gruesome but exciting find will tell us more about one of London’s notorious killers.” Clues which suggest that may be the case include a headstone found nearby marked “1665” and the fact that the 30 people all seem to have been buried on the same day. Museum of London Archaeology osteologists will now analyse the skeletons to find out the cause of death. Archaeologists have excavated more than 3,500 skeletons from the site since excavation of the burial ground – used between 1569 to at least 1738 – began earlier this year. It suggested 30,000 Londoners were buried there during that period. For more on the the Great Plague, see our earlier post herePICTURE: © Crossrail Ltd.

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The remains of an astrologer believed to have been stoned to death by an angry mob, a former Lord Mayor of London and a member of Civil War era dissenting group, the Levellers, who was executed by firing squad may be among those exhumed from the former Bedlam burial ground in Liverpool Street in the City of London in a new archaeological excavation.

A research project carried out ahead of the planned excavation of the new eastern entrance of the Liverpool Street Crossrail Station has unearthed the names and backgrounds of more than 5,000 of the 20,000 Londoners who were buried on the site in the 16th and 17th centuries.

They include Dr John Lamb, an astrologer and advisor to the Duke of Buckingham, who a mob apparently stoned to death outside a theatre in 1628 after allegations against him of rape and black magic, Sir Ambrose Nicholas, Lord Mayor of London in 1575, as well as victims of riots by ‘Fanatiques’ (as noted in the diaries of Samuel Pepys in January, 1661) and, according to a report in The Independent, Robert Lockyer, a member of the Leveller movement who was executed by firing squad in 1649 during the English Civil War.

Some 3,000 skeletons will be disinterred in the excavation along with, it is expected, Roman and medieval artefacts. The dig will start next month and will be carried out by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology). The skeletons will be analysed before they are reburied in consecrated ground.

The research into the backgrounds of more than 5,000 of those buried on the site – which was established in 1569 to help alleviate overcrowding caused by outbreaks of plague and other epidemics – has been carried out by 16 volunteers with the results compiled into a new online database – the Bedlam Burial Ground Register. Plague was the most common form of death followed by infant mortality and consumption.

“This research is a window into one of the most turbulent periods of London’s past,” said lead archaeologist Jay Carver. “These people lived through civil wars, the Restoration, Shakespeare’s plays, the birth of modern industry, plague and the Great Fire.”

Crossrail workers recently discovered the gravestone of Mary Godfree who died in September, 1665, as a result of the ‘Great Plague’ which reached its peak that year.

PICTURES: Courtesy of Crossrail.

We’re running a bit behind this week, so the next instalment in our Churchill series won’t appear until later this week.

 

Buried-at-BedlamA team of volunteers are searching through historical records for evidence of people buried at the Bedlam burial ground in the 16th and 17th centuries. The 15 member team are carrying out the work at the London Metropolitan Archives as archaeologists prepare to excavate 3,000 skeletons from the former burial site next year in anticipation of the construction of the new Liverpool Street Crossrail Station – part of the £14.8 billion cross London Crossrail project. About 400 skeletons have already been removed during preliminary works. Located near Bethlem Hospital, the burial ground opened in the 16th century as part of the city’s response to the plague and was the first burial ground in London not associated with a parish church. Among those buried here were Robert Lockyer, a soldier executed under the orders of Oliver Cromwell for leading the Bishopsgate mutiny of 1649, and Leveller John Lilburne. Crossrail are keen to hear from members of the public who may be able to provide further details of burials at Bedlam – if you can help, email bedlamrecords@crossrail.co.uk.