Human remains exhumed by HS2 to be reburied at Brookwood

BROOKWOOD Cemetery has been selected for up to 20,000 reburials of those exhumed during excavations at St James’s Gardens, near Euston station, in preparations for the High Speed Two rail link.

The relocations continue a long history of London reburials at Brookwood Cemetery.

UNCOVERING HISTORY – Teams of archaeologists working at the St James’s Gardens burial grounds near Euston in preparation for the construction of HS2. It is estimated that 20,000 of those exhumed will be reburied at Brookwood Cemetery

HS2 Ltd worked with the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England to agree Brookwood Cemetery for the reburials, and all human remains will be reburied in consecrated ground, in accordance with HS2 Ltd’s commitment to the Archbishops’ Council.

Excavations of St James’s Gardens, one of London’s 18th and 19th-century burial grounds, by HS2 archaeologists began in October 2018. The disused cemetery is required for the construction of the new high-speed railway line and London HS2 station.

It is not unusual for the populations of London’s burial grounds to be relocated, and Brookwood Cemetery has reburied London’s deceased for more than 150 years.

The cemetery was conceived in 1849 by the London Necropolis Company to house London’s deceased at a time when the capital was unable to accommodate increasing numbers. It was connected to the capital by a special railway branch line.

When Euston station was extended westwards in the 1940s some of the occupants of St James’s Gardens required reburial. Those remains were rehomed at Brookwood, so the agreement to rebury the remaining occupants of St James’s Gardens there means that the buried population will remain together.

Helen Wass, HS2 Ltd’s head of heritage said: “Throughout our archaeology programme and the excavation of burial grounds we have treated the buried population with due dignity, care and respect.

“The final destination for the human remains excavated from St James’s Gardens is fitting, as they will be reunited with the previously relocated burials, moved more than 70 years ago.

“HS2’s unprecedented archaeology work has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tell the story of our past and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.”

Cllr Graham Cundy, Woking Borough Council’s lead member for Brookwood Cemetery, said: “Brookwood Cemetery is one of the largest burial sites in the country. A new grassland plot on the south side of the cemetery has been prepared where Brookwood will once again accommodate those displaced by the Capital’s expansion.  

“The Grade I-listed park and grounds are open daily to visitors.”

A team of more than 200 archaeologists and related specialists undertook the careful archaeological work in advance of the construction of HS2.

They have already discovered much about the lives and deaths of ordinary Londoners, as well uncovering the remains of notable explorers, soldiers, artists and musicians.

The story of London’s past being uncovered through the HS2 excavations at St James’s Gardens is part of the BBC documentary series, Britain’s Biggest Dig. It is available on BBC iPlayer. For more information, visit brookwoodcemetery.com.

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