HS2 exhibition reveals untold stories of London burial ground

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A new, free exhibition revealing the life stories of Londoners during the 1700s and 1800s has opened to the public today (Wednesday 15 March) at St James’s Church on Piccadilly. Wisitors will be able to enjoy an interactive art installation exploring the lives of five people who were buried at St James’s Burial Ground next to Euston Station. The exhibition is part of High Speed Two’s archaeology programme.

Run by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), one of the companies behind the archaeological excavation of the burial ground, the exhibition will be suitable for the whole family with the voices of past Londoners brought back to life through a captivating audio experience. It will give a unique insight into how people lived in a time of incredible growth and change in London.

The burial ground is linked to the church on Piccadilly, as the land in Euston was bought in 1788 by St James’s Church Piccadilly for use as an extra burial ground for the parish between 1790 – 1853, making the venue a fitting host for the exhibition.

Over 57,000 people were buried at St James’s Burial Ground and HS2’s archaeologists learnt about how the site was set out in sections, according to how much the deceased or their families could pay. The exhibition highlights how people were buried and explores some of the unusual objects they were buried with.

Stories of St James’s Burial Ground will delve into the lives of a variety of people from across the Capital – from a lady buried with her pet parakeet, to dressmaker Elizabeth Mercer and luxury business owner Charles Fortnum, the grandson of one of the co-Founders of Fortnum and Mason.

Helen Wass, Head of Historic Environment at HS2, said: “The careful excavation of St James’s Burial Ground next to Euston station has been one of the largest investigations on HS2’s extensive archaeological programme. The work was carried out with dignity, care and respect, and in keeping with those values, this exhibition will honour and tell the stories of the lives of those buried there. The interactive exhibition will be a thought-provoking insight into what life was like in London during a time of great social and economic change.”

The exhibition will run from 15 March to 1 April, and 10 – 23 April, and will be open Monday to Saturday between 10am to 4:30pm and Sundays 12 – 6pm. There will also be two activity days where visitors will meet with archaeologists who worked on the dig and are involved in ongoing analysis, see some of the amazing finds that were uncovered and get a taster of how to transcribe records from the burial ground. The activity days will take place on Tuesday 11 April between 10am – 4:30pm and Sunday 16th April between 1:30 – 4:30pm.

The exhibition will relocate later this year and will travel to Camden, giving more opportunities for people to learn more about the stories from the Burial Ground.

Image credit: HS2

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