A gruesome discovery at Liverpool Street Station is coming to light as archaeologists begin excavating skeletons from a Bedlam burial ground.
Work on the new Crossrail uncovered the remains of more than 5,000 people, including plague victims, a former Lord Mayor of London and a murder victim, in a graveyard underneath the commuter hub, which served the City of London and surrounding areas for more than 150 years.
Now, 60 archaeologists have started working almost round the clock to uncover the site which researchers believe could be one of the most valuable ever uncovered in the capital.
The cemetery was in service throughout the 16th and 17th centuries at a time in London’s history which saw the start of the British Empire, civil wars, the Restoration, Shakespeare, the Great Fire of London and, of course, the plague.
It’s hoped that tests on the more than 300-year-old skeletons will help archaeologists understand the evolution of the plague bacteria strain.
“This excavation presents a unique opportunity to understand the lives and deaths of 16th and 17th century Londoners,” said Crossrail’s lead archeologist Jay Carver.
“The Bedlam burial ground spans a fascinating phase of London’s history, including the transition from the Tudor-period City into cosmopolitan early-modern London. This is probably the first time a sample of this size from this time period has been available for archaeologists to study in London. The Bedlam burial ground was used by a hugely diverse population from right across the social spectrum and from different areas of the City.”
Researchers also hope to learn about the migration patterns, diet, lifestyle and demography of those who were living in London at the time.
The work will take four weeks before they move onto uncovering the rather less gruesome medieval marsh deposits and Roman road remains running under the site.
By September, work on building a new ticket office will be able to start.
City workers and history buffs who fancy a peek at the site can visit the viewing gallery on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 1pm and 2pm.
Here's a glimpse of what you might see (not to be confused with the goings-on at the station above).