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Crossrail breathes life into long-dead Londoners

Crossrail breathes life into long-dead Londoners

  • Crossrail-led research identifies names and backgrounds of over 5,000 people buried in the infamous Bedlam burial ground
  • A notorious criminal murdered by the mob; political activists and plague victims among those found to have been buried beneath Liverpool Street in central London
  • Excavation of a further 3,000 skeletons to begin at Bedlam site in March
  • Recent discoveries include a plague tombstone from 1665. Click here to the database.

A Crossrail research project has revealed the names and backgrounds of over 5,000 Londoners buried in Bedlam burial ground at Liverpool Street, in the City of London.

In June last year Crossrail invited 16 volunteers to scour parish records from across the capital to create the first extensive list of people buried at Bedlam in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The resulting database, published today, will inform Crossrail’s archaeological excavation of the eastern entrance of Liverpool Street Crossrail station, which begins in March and will see around 3,000 skeletons excavated. It also sheds light on a tumultuous period of London’s history.

According to the research Dr John Lamb (also known as Lam or Lambe), an astrologer and advisor to the First Duke of Buckingham, is among those buried at the site. Lamb was said to have been stoned to death by an angry mob outside a theatre in 1628 following allegations of rape and black magic. Others identified in the research include victims of riots by ‘Fanatiques,’ noted in the diaries of Samuel Pepys in January 1661.

Plague was the most common listed form of death, followed by infant mortality and consumption. The burial ground was established in 1569 to help parishes cope with overcrowding during outbreaks of plague and other epidemics. Crossrail workers recently discovered the gravestone of Mary Godfree who died in September 1665, as a result of the ‘Great Plague’ which peaked that year.

Jay Carver, Lead Archaeologist at Crossrail said: “This research is a window into one of the most turbulent periods of London’s past. These people lived through civil wars, the Restoration, Shakespeare’s plays, the birth of modern industry, plague and the Great Fire. It is a real privilege to be able to use Europe’s largest construction project to uncover more knowledge about this fascinating period of history. Our heartfelt thanks go to the volunteer researchers, who have contributed immensely to Crossrail’s legacy.”

The archaeological excavations at Liverpool Street are undertaken by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) on behalf of Crossrail. Scientific analysis of up to 3,000 skeletons will provide new insights into the lives and deaths of early modern Londoners. The upcoming dig is also expected to uncover medieval and Roman artefacts and help piece together centuries of history. After excavation the skeletons will be reburied on consecrated ground.

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