Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey has been chosen for the site of reburials for those exhumed during excavations at St James’s Gardens in preparation for HS2.
In October 2018, HS2 archaeologists began the excavation of one of London’s 18th and 19th century burial grounds, to the west of Euston station in St James’s Gardens. The disused cemetery is required for the construction of the UK’s new high-speed railway line HS2 and its new London station. The site was home to over 50,000 of London’s deceased.
Dating from 1849, Brookwood Cemetery was conceived by the London Necropolis Company to house London’s deceased at a time when the capital was unable to accommodate increasing numbers. It was connected to the capital by a special railway branch line, and the capital’s dead were taken there by hearse train carriages. Initially there were two stations at the cemetery – the northern one serving the non-conformist side of the cemetery and the southern the Anglican side.
It is not unusual for the populations London’s burial grounds to be relocated, and Brookwood Cemetery has reburied London’s deceased for over 150 years. The first major reburials took place in 1862 when the construction of Charing Cross Railway station and the routes into it required the burial ground at Cures College in Southwark to be demolished.
London’s Euston station was extended westwards in the 1940s and some of the occupants of St James’s Gardens required reburial. Those remains were rehomed at Brookwood, so this agreement with the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England to rebury the remaining occupants of St James’s Gardens there means that the buried population will remain together.
Helen Wass, HS2 Ltd’s head of heritage said: “Throughout our archaeology programme and the excavation of burial grounds, we have treated the buried population with due dignity, care and respect. The final destination for the human remains excavated from St James’s Gardens is fitting, as they will be reunited with the previously relocated burials, moved over 70 years ago.
“HS2’s unprecedented archaeology work between London and the West Midlands has been a once in a lifetime opportunity to tell the story of our past, create opportunities in the present and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.”