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St Pancras
Grounds south of the Euston Rd
Key:  current observations and notes   Holmes (1897)     other sources     maps

St Andrew’s Burial Ground, Gray's Inn Road.
An attractive ground, with more gravestones left in situ than usual and flower beds instead of too much easy to mow grass. There is evidence of extensive subsidence here, with sinking paths and  lopsided gravestones. 
The church has gone, and has been replaced by a startlingly white and modern apartment block. Presumably the row of adjacent buildings were built in the burial ground at some point after it was closed. 

The part south of where the church used to be is still quite untidy (see Holmes below) though the lumber has gone.

    In 1819 a Mr Gilbert tried to have his wife buried in this ground in an iron coffin, as he had 'a great dread that her remains might be despoiled'. The authorities demanded a special fee of £10. Mr Gilbert wouldn't pay. In June of that year there was a 'disgraceful riot and disturbance' at the ground when an attempt was made to bury Mrs.Gilbert, the upshot of which being that Mr Bridgeman, the patentee of the iron coffin, was hauled off to the compter on a charge of assault. (He had upset the sexton by suggesting that he didn't like iron coffins because he couldn't get the bodies out, but who hit whom first was never established) 
    After much argument with the ecclesiastical authorities Mr Gilbert presented a petition to parliament, which was ignored.  In 1820 it came before the Consistory court. Deliberations took five months. Eventually it was held that iron coffins, being durable, required a longer lease of the ground, and thus a higher fee was justified. However, Mr Gilbert got his way on a legal technicality, and in November 1820 Mrs Gilbert, who had spent over a year and a half in the St Andrew's bone-house, was finally laid to rest. 

1¼ acres. This ground belongs to the parish of St. Andrew, Holborn, adjoins the church of Holy Trinity, and is maintained as a public garden by the St. Pancras Vestry. It is well kept, except a railed-off piece south of the church, which is a sort of lumber-room. (Holmes)


Mrs Holmes 'Lumber Room'.

The Burial-ground of St. George's, Bloomsbury.
The Burial-ground of St. George the Martyr, Bloomsbury.

Well maintained public garden. To the south, there is a walled-off area attached to the Coram family centre. This is used as a playground. 

These are out of Wakefield Street, Gray's Inn Road, and together form one public garden maintained by the St. Pancras Vestry, and very well kept. A part of the latter, which was consecrated in 1714 is still closed. Each ground is 1¼ acres in extent. There are vaults under the church in Hart Street. (Holmes)


Mortuary chapel of 1807

 

Walled off area attached to Coram Centre

Whitfield's Tabernacle Burial-ground, Tottenham Court Road. 
Paved over. The chapel received a direct hit from a V2 rocket late on in the war, and was replaced by a dull postwar brick building, currently used mainly by an American congregation, but also by a Chinese Lutheran community. This new chapel takes up much of the space. A single gravestone is tucked in by a low wall. 
Bodies were discovered here during work in 2002. 
In March 1798 a bodysnatcher known as Lousy Jack was apprehended here loading the body of an infant into a carriage; eight other bodies were found in a ditch.  Two weeks later, in the best possible taste,  the incident was referred  in an advertisement for Jarvis's patent unopenable coffins. (The Times March 10th and 31st 1798.)

Somewhat less than ½ acre. The London County Council opened it as a public garden in February, 1895. It is said that in 97 years upwards of 30,000 bodies were interred in this ground. (Holmes)


The last gravestone

Lost Ground - Workhouse ground of St Paul's, Covent Garden, in Cleveland Street.

This helpful note from Ruth Richardson solves the mystery that had puzzled the author of this website!

The land for the workhouse & burial ground was originally acquired on a lease from the Duke of Bedford, and the workhouse was built - the front building which still stands fronting onto Cleveland Street today. It was originally an H block, with slightly longer wings at the back than at the front.

The land could not be consecrated for burial because the Church would not countenance consecrating leasehold land, so in the end the Duke of Bedford agreed to grant the freehold - he was the parish patron after all. That's why there was the delay until 1790. The Bishop of London consecrated the REST of the site (i.e. the land not under the footprint of the workhouse building) in 1790 in a big ceremonial event.

The whole site was therefore ready to receive the dead poor of the parish. The trouble was that under the New Poor Law of 1834, the workhouse was designated the Strand Union Workhouse, the workhouse for a Union of a number of parishes in the Strand area... and the pressure on the site was therefore constant through to the mid-19th century - constant pressure to accommodate the dead, and ditto for them to make room for workhouse facilities.

If you look at the site from above on Google Earth, you'll see that the rear wards have been replaced with some splendid Nightingale wards (1870s) and that smaller buildings line both lateral boundaries, as well as the rear boundary with the properties in Charlotte Street, except where the rear access gate stands. I understand that the Nightingale Wards have no basements, and that they were built on concrete floats as the soil was so unstable, even 20 years after the burial ground was closed to further burials in the mid-century burial reforms. Also that when a new lift shaft was added to the south side of the front H block in the late 1990s, a word-of-mouth report from a local building worker involved in digging the foundations human remains reveals that were found under what had always been regarded as the side path.

The workhouse was taken over by the Middlesex Hospital in the 1920s and became a state-of-the-art surgical & maternity annexe, and later the Outpatients' department until 2005/6, when that fine historic hospital was closed and demolished.

In 2010 I was approached by local people trying to save the Workhouse from demolition, and I became involved in the campaign to save it. We managed to get the front building listed Grade 2, which is splendid. The government agreed to the listing because I had discovered in the nick of time that Charles Dickens had twice lived 9 doors from the workhouse, for over 4 years in what was a rather itinerant childhood: 1815-16 (his first home in London) and 1828-31 (when he was a young clerk and newspaper reporter). He would have been able to hear the workhouse bell, smell the place, he'd have seen the queues outside, burials passing in, the Beadle - you name it! The press got hold of the story and whoosh - Oliver Twist's workhouse! With the Dickens Centenary in 2012, the Government certainly saw it would not be politic to allow its demolition. In fact the press was not far off the mark - I found a number of parallels between the workhouse in Oliver Twist and the one in Cleveland Street. The clincher was when I found right opposite the workhouse was a shop run by a man named Bill Sykes!

My involvement with the workhouse campaign was partly motivated by my commitment to the dead in the soil. Unfortunately, the Church of England has done nothing to help defend them - even though the Bishop said in 1790 that the land was consecrated to prevent any indignity to the dead FOR EVER.

So the burial ground is still there under the buildings, and it is unprotected from development.

There may soon need to be a battle over it - and I hope that you & readers of the website will rally round when the time comes. 

Note: Many more details of the history of the workhouse and its ground, and the Dickens connection, can be found in Ruth Richardson's book written out of the campaign and the discoveries which emerged from it: Dickens & The Workhouse (Oxford University Press 2012).

 

 Vault:  St. Pancras New Church.
Opened 1822. 


St Pancras New Church

Vault:  Foundling Chapel. 
Built around 1745 and associated with Handel Chapel demolished c. 1920. No information on how many burials there were in the vault, though Coram was buried there. His monument was moved to St Andrew's Holborn, though it is not clear what happened to Coram. 

Possible vault
St Peter's Regent Square
Built 1822-4. Bombed during the war and demolished. 

To burial grounds north of the Euston Road