Dead bodies being dug up in London to be reburied in Surrey’s Brookwood cemetery – Surrey Live



Bodies buried in a London cemetery are being excavated and moved to Surrey.

The deceased at St James’s Gardens near Euston Station will find a new resting place at Brookwood Cemetery near Woking – which has long been an overspill site for London burials.

The disused cemetery in the capital, which once held over 50,000 bodies, is being excavated as part of works for the new HS2 railway line.

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

The bodies will be reunited with some of the previous occupants of St James’s Gardens, who were reburied at Brookwood in the 1940s when Euston Station was extended westwards.

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 over 70 years ago.”

Inside the former St James’s Gardens, where excavation works have been taking place since October 2018 (Image: HS2)

All the human remains are to be reburied in consecrated ground as part of an agreement between HS2 Ltd and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.

HS2 archaeologists began the excavation St James’s Gardens in October 2018.

A team of over 200 experts undertook the careful archaeological work in advance of construction and have already discovered much about the lives and deaths of ordinary Londoners’.

They have also uncovered the remains of notable people including explorers, soldiers, artists and musicians.

How Surrey provided a final resting place for London’s dead

Brookwood 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.

Established on heathland acquired from Lord Onslow, it is one of the largest burial sites in the country.

Brookwood was connected to London by a special railway branch line, and the city’s dead were taken there by hearse train carriages.

A section of track at Brookwood Cemetery commemorating the London Necropolis Railway (Image: Surrey Advertiser – Grahame Larter)

Initially there were two stations at the cemetery – the northern one serving the non-conformist side of the cemetery and the southern the Anglican side.

The first major reburials at Brookwood took place in 1862 when the construction of Charing Cross Railway station, and the routes into it, required the burial ground at Cures College in Southwark to be demolished.

Although you can no longer arrive at Brookwood via the London Necropolis Railway, you can access the cemetery directly from Brookwood mainline train station.

The 500 acre site is a Grade I listed park and the grounds are open daily to visitors who want to explore the cemetery’s historic ties to London.

Cllr Graham Cundy, Woking Borough Council’s lead member for Brookwood Cemetery, said: “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 fascinating story of the excavations at St James’s Gardens is currently being showcased in a BBC documentary series, HS2 – The Biggest Dig.

The three part series continues on Tuesday, September 22 on BBC Two and is available on BBC iPlayer.

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