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Archaeology at Farringdon

During the excavation of a compensation grout shaft in Charterhouse Square in March 2013, Crossrail uncovered firm evidence for a burial ground at this location. Two distinct layers of burials were found including the graves of 25 individuals. Pottery found within the graves indicates that the burials were indeed made in the mid-14th century or later.

It provided the first evidence of the location of London’s second Black Death emergency burial ground established in 1348 and referenced in historical records as being in what is now modern day Farringdon.

Despite significant development in the Farringdon area over the centuries, the burial ground, described in historical records as “no man’s land”, has never been located.

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The Charterhouse site is only the second Black Death burial ground discovered in London. Scientific analysis is underway involving a global team of researchers. We hope to discover more about the people buried there.

Despite decades of previous archaeological research in the area, no certain evidence for the burial ground had ever come to light. However, skeletons had been found during 19th century construction work.

Historic newspaper reports tell us that construction workers had probably encountered the burial ground in the 19th century:

  • 1861– sewer workers come across a human skeleton in Charterhouse Square
  • 1865 – a newspaper reports human remains are found during construction of a railway at West Smithfield
  • 1885– a large number of skeletons are discovered during building works on the west side of Charterhouse Square

Crossrail research shows Charterhouse skeletons were black death victims

In March 2014, Crossrail unveiled new research that showed many of the skeletons found at the Charterhouse Square worksite in Farringdon died of plague during the 14th Century Black Death pandemic, while others died during later plague outbreaks.

CRISIS AND THE BLACK DEATH

Many devastating plague events occurred in London between the mid-14th century and the 17th century. The 14th century Black Death was one of the most devastating epidemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people. It is thought to be spread to humans from fleas carried by rats. The name derives from the terrible black coloured swellings that erupted over the body and resulted in death within days.

Plague outbreaks continued in London at regular intervals right up to 1665. Scientists believe that outbreaks were associated with particularly cold climate episodes and famine events resulting in the rat flea population transferring to human hosts. From c. 1300 to the 1800s England experienced a dramatic climate shift, known as the Little Ice Age. Numerous severe winters were recorded.

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