After a short break, it’s definitely time to return to my favourite 10 Gothic London Sight seeing locations.
For me, Cross Bones has to be on my list. As a burial ground, there is little left to see as developments have encroached, and most of the remains of the estimated 15,000 interred have been removed to Brookwood Cemetery in Woking.
(Interestingly this is where the line from the Necropolis Station, which I’ve also written about, terminated. I also wrote a book which features a visit to the Necropolis station. You can listen in audio book form, here)
Simply known as Cross Bones, the burial ground off Union Street near London Bridge Station, started off as a place to lay London’s poor to rest, but was immortalised as it became a “Single Woman’s Cemetery” which at the time referred to prostitutes. Much disputed historical records place the purchase of the ground in the 1700’s for use as a burial place. You can read in detail about the debates as to the origin, use and consecration (or not) of the burial ground here on wikipedia
Whatever the truth, evidence and local knowledge tell us sad tales of what Cross Bones meant in a different age. An archaeological dig which took place in 1992 unearthed another 148 bodies from the site, of which over a third were still born or children under one year of age, and the remainder were mostly women. Today the remaining evidence is a small memorial garden, sometimes open to the public, and possibly the most tearjerking memorial you will ever come across, the iron gated wall running along Union Street is always covered in ribbons and flowers, toys and messages. Somehow it is beautiful, peaceful, sombre and tragic all in the same moment.
For me, Cross Bones is a memorial to those society have judged and lost. To the disused and abused. To those who in many cases had their freedom and dignity striped from them, or who never really got a chance at life. I wish I could say we’ve changed, that life is different now, but I’m not so sure it is.
And so we remember them.
Lest we forget.
To the innocent dead.
To the outcast dead.
IMPORTANT NOTE FROM ME: If you visit the burial ground, or feel moved by the stories you hear, there is a petition to stop further developments and create a proper memorial garden on the site. You can sign the petition here.
You can also visit the Cross Bones website, http://www.crossbones.org.uk.
With love, from this side of darkness, J R Manawa xxx
p.s I can’t find my own photos of Cross Bones amongst the thousands of pointless selfies on my phone (confession there) so I will have to go back and take some more soon. These ones are borrowed from the Cross Bones website.