10 unusual parks or gardens in London…3. Crossbones Graveyard and Garden of Remembrance…

The Crossbones Cemetery in 2017. PICTURE: Matt Brown (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

This small walled garden, located in Southwark, for centuries served as a burial site for the poor of the area nd by the time of its closing in 1853, was the location of some 15,000 burials.

The graveyard is said to have started life as an unconsecrated burial site for ‘Winchester Geese’, sex workers in the medieval period who were licensed to work in the brothels of the Liberty of the Clink by the Bishop of Winchester.

Excavations carried out in the 1990s confirmed a crowded graveyard was on the site.

While the site had been neglected for years following its closure, in 1996 local writer John Constable and a group he co-founded, the Friends of Crossbones, began a campaign to transform Crossbones into a garden of remembrance – something which has happened thanks to their efforts and those of the Bankside Open Spaces Trust and others.

Tributes left on the fence outside the graveyard in Red Cross Way. PICTURE: Garry Knight (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

The garden provides a contemplative space for people to pay their respects to what have become known as the “outcast dead”.

A plaque, funded by Southwark Council, was installed on the gates in 2006 which records the history of the site and the efforts to create a memorial shrine.

WHERE: Crossbones Graveyard, Redcross Way, Southwark (nearest Tube stations are London Bridge and Borough); WHEN: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 12 to 2pm; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.bost.org.uk/crossbones-graveyard.

Lost London – Winchester Palace

This week we look at another “lost” palace of London but this time it’s not one built primarily for kings and queens. Rather we’re taking a look at the former Thameside home of the Bishops of Winchester.

Located in Southwark, Winchester Palace (also known as Winchester House) was built in the 12th century as the London residence of the bishop, a major landowner in the area.

The palace’s hall was extravagantly decorated and is known to have played host to royalty including King James I of Scotland and Joan Beaufort whose wedding feast was held there in 1424. It’s also suggested that King Henry VIII may have met wife number five, Catherine Howard, there.

The remainder of the palace was arranged around two courtyards and as well as buildings including its own prison and brewhouse, it also boasted a tennis court, bowling alley and pleasure gardens. It was used up until the Civil War – during which it served as a prison – before, in a growing state of deterioration, being let out for tenements and warehouses. Much of what remained was destroyed by fire in 1814.

Today all that remains above ground is a wall which stood at the west end of the great hall, mostly dating for the 14th century. Now in the care of English Heritage, it features a magnificent (albeit glassless) rose window, 13 feet in diameter, and three doors, believed to have led to the buttery, pantry and kitchen.

The palace was located in what was known variously as the ‘Manor of Southwark’, the ‘Liberty of Winchester’ or the ‘Liberty of the Clink’ (the word ‘clink’ refers to the bishop’s notorious prison – more on this another time). This was an area of land under the direct jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester and outside the jurisdiction of the City of London and become particularly known for prostitution – the Bishop was granted the power to licence prostitutes in the 12th century – with the prostitutes referred to as “Winchester Geese”.

The current ruins were found during the area’s redevelopment in the 1980s. Remains of Roman buildings were also found underneath where the palace once stood.

WHERE: Clink Street, Southwark (nearest tube station is London Bridge); WHEN: Anytime; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/winchester-palace/