Close

Cookies on the Crossrail website

We use cookies to ensure we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Crossrail website.

Find out why we use cookies and how to manage your settings.

Suspected 1665 Great Plague pit unearthed at Crossrail Liverpool Street site

By Andrew Dempsey

Watch this video on the latest version of Chrome or Firefox on desktop or laptop and use your mouse or the control panel in the top left hand corner to scroll around the image.  On mobile or tablet devices, use the latest version of the YouTube app for Android or iOS and scroll around the video using your touch screen, or by moving the device left, right, up or down. 

A mass burial site suspected of containing 30 victims of The Great Plague of 1665 has been unearthed at Crossrail's Liverpool Street site in the City of London.

The discovery was found during excavation of the Bedlam burial ground at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street site, which will allow construction of the eastern entrance of the new station.

Jay Carver, Crossrail Lead Archaeologist said: “The construction of Crossrail gives us a rare opportunity to study previously inaccessible areas of London and learn about the lives and deaths of 16th and 17th Century Londoners.

“This mass burial, so different to the other individual burials found in the Bedlam cemetery, is very likely a reaction to a catastrophic event. Only closer analysis will tell if this is a plague pit from The Great Plague in 1665 but we hope this gruesome but exciting find will tell us more about the one of London’s most notorious killers.”

A headstone found nearby was marked ‘1665’, and the fact the individuals appear to have been buried on the same day, suggest they were victims of The Great Plague. The thin wooden coffins have collapsed and rotted, giving the appearance of a slumped and distorted mass grave. The skeletons will now be analysed by osteologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), and scientific tests may reveal if bubonic plague or some other pestilence was the cause of death. 

Mike Henderson, Senior Osteologist at MOLA, said: "The concentration of burials in this pit provides a new focus for scientific testing and study. We hope detailed osteological analysis will help determine whether these people were exposed to The Great Plague and potentially learn more about the evolution of this deadly disease."

Stunning 360° image of suspected 1665 Great Plague pit unearthed at Liverpool Street

Excavation of the Bedlam burial ground began earlier this year. The team of archaeologists from MOLA have carefully excavated over 3,500 skeletons from what is, in archaeology terms, London’s most valuable 16th and 17th Century cemetery site.

The Bedlam burial ground was in use from 1569 to at least 1738, spanning the start of the period of Elizabethan explorers, the English civil wars, the Restoration of the Monarchy, Shakespeare’s plays, the Great Fire of London and numerous plague outbreaks.

The Bedlam burial ground, also known as the New Churchyard, was located at the western end of Liverpool Street. The recent excavation suggests that 30,000 Londoners were buried at Bedlam between 1569 and 1738. It got its name from the nearby Bethlehem Hospital which housed the mentally ill, although only a small number of Bedlam residents are believed to have been buried there.

NOTE: Many features on the website require Javascript. You can enable it via your browser's preference settings.

For further information about our excavations at Liverpool Street visit www.crossrail.co.uk/sustainability/archaeology/liverpool-street

360° image of Bedlam burial ground excavations at Liverpool Street

Video playlist: Crossrail's archaeological excavation at Liverpool Street

Ends

For further information contact the Crossrail Press Office on 020 3229 9552 or email pressoffice@crossrail.co.uk

About the 360 video

Using an innovative 360 degree video capture, the short film lets viewers step into the shoes of archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) who are carefully excavating the burial.

To watch this 360 degree video you will need the latest version of Chrome, Opera or Firefox on your laptop or desktop computer. On mobile and tablet, use the latest version of the YouTube app for Android or iOS.

About Crossrail

To date Crossrail has found more than 10,000 artefacts spanning 55 million years of London’s past at over 40 construction sites. It is the UK’s largest archaeology project. Preliminary excavations at the Liverpool Street site in 2011 and 2012 uncovered more than 400 skeletons and numerous artefacts.

For further information about our excavations at Liverpool Street visit www.crossrail.co.uk/sustainability/archaeology/liverpool-street

The total funding available to deliver Crossrail is £14.8bn. The Crossrail route will pass through 40 stations and run from Reading and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km (13 miles) tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

When Crossrail opens it will increase central London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration and cutting journey times across the city. Crossrail services are due to commence through central London in 2018.

Crossrail is being delivered by Crossrail Limited (CRL). CRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London.

Search News