The Survey of London (1950) points out that St Saviours only owned the lease of the land and it was usual for only land owned as freehold to be consecrated - but this does not rule out Cross Bones Graveyard as the Single Womens Burial Ground.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century it had become seriously overcrowded and by 1839 a large part had not been used for new burials for a while, although many of the poor Irish were still buried there. The vestry met to discuss the possibility of reopening the graveyard and it was decided to do so. Mr G A Walker (see sources) reports that at this meeting one gentleman argued that if the graves had been made deeper, hundreds more corpses might have been buried there. Another admitted that it really was too bad to bury within eighteen inches of the surface, in such a crowded neighbourhood; and it was even hinted that the clearing viz the digging up and the removal of the decayed fragments of flesh and bones, with the pieces of coffin etc would be the best course, were it not for the additional expense. Mr Walker, a surgeon, was disgusted that the funds of the vestry came before the health of the living.

The graveyard was finally closed for new burials in 1853. The Ordnance Survey Map of 1872 shows St Saviour's Boys' and Girls' Schools and other buildings on the site, and the area that is not built upon is described as a Builder's Yard. St Saviour's had acquired the freehold of the site in 1863 but the site was sold for development in 1883. Building was opposed and in 1884 the sale was declared null and void under the Disused Burial Grounds Act. By 1892, Charles Hart owned the lease to the graveyard. He held nightly shows on the land which comprised "steam and hand organs, shooting ranges, steam roundabouts, a "razzle dazzle" etc. " Hart and two others were found guilty of keeping a nuisance and the funfair cleared away. The schools were condemned by the London County Council in 1908 and moved into new premises just opposite at No. 48 Union Street. The Cross Bones' site left unused until the 1990s when a sub-station was built for the Jubilee Line. Prior to this work, the Museum of London conducted an archaeological excavation and their findings can be found here. They exhumed 148 skeletons, representing only a small proportion of the total buried, which were thought to date from between 1800 and 1853. A large proportion of them were perinatal or under 5 years of age reflecting the high rate of infant mortality in one of the most destitute areas of Victorian London.

Today, Cross Bones Graveyard still lies unused with iron gates garlanded by constantly changing ribbons, messages, flowers and other decorations, and a plaque that commemorates the graveyard and the Winchester Geese. There is an active campaign to preserve part of the site as a garden of remembrance, for more information visit www.crossbones.org.uk

Entrance Gates

Sources:

Mrs Basil Holmes,The London Burial Grounds(1896)
Matthew Concanen and Aaron Morgan, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of St Saviour's, Southwark (1795)
Sir Howard Roberts and Walter H. Godfrey (eds), Survey of London, Vol 22 (1950)
John Stow, Survey of London (1598)
G A Walker, Gatherings from Graveyards, particularly those of London (1839)
The Times,30 January 1892, p11.

www.museumoflondon.org.uk