Published on February 20, 2013 | by Adam Leyland

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Archaeologists find adult and child remains near LCC

Excavating the future leisure centre site next to the London College of Communication

Archaeologists found hundreds of ancient skeletons by LCC [Image: Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd.]

Archeologists excavating ancient skeletons at a building site next to the London College of Communication in the Elephant and Castle have found several pits partly filled with the remains of children.

Peter Moore, a director from Pre Construct Archeology who is leading the dig, was saddened by the find of children’s bones.

He told Arts London News that in nearly 35 years of excavating bodies “I have never seen this before”.

PCA expect to uncover up to 500 skeletons on the site in Elephant and Castle, before the construction of a new £20 million leisure centre on the site continues.

Between five and ten pits have been found so far on the site that was originally home to St Mary’s Churchyard.

Grave history

When the pits were dug in the 19th century, they were filled with bodies and left open until there were enough corpses to fill the hole.

Moore explained that children’s bodies were used to fill the trenches to the top, due to their smaller size, but added that he was unsure why the pits were left open.

“Larger bones [and] all the other jumbled bits of bones were put into other crypts.” PCA director Peter Moore

Archeologists believe that the site has been a graveyard since the 12th century and that some bodies have been there for nearly 1,000 years, according to PCA.

None of the remains can be identified as they potentially date back to medieval times, Southwark Council has said.

They added that the remains have to be reburied, or in the event of them posing any health risks, they will be disposed of as hazardous waste.

Moore told ALN that most of the skeletons are from the mid-19th century, at a time when Elephant and Castle had become one of the capital’s biggest suburbs.

He added that, by then, rich locals stopped using it as a graveyard.

Unearthed

This is not the first time that the ancient graveyard has been disturbed.

“In the late 19th century the authorities widened the road, which meant digging into the graveyards,” Moore said.

They also built a new church on the site, St Gabriel’s Chapel of Eve, during the period, meaning more bones were unearthed and re-located.

Moore said: “Larger bones [and] all the other jumbled bits of bones were put into other crypts.

“The 25 crypts found are brick-built structures to house burials usually for rich people.”

Councillor Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council was quoted on the council’s website saying: “The remains will be treated respectfully and we will be following the Ministry of Justice’s guidance to peacefully re-bury or relocate them.”

Archeologists confirmed that construction on the new leisure centre will resume once the excavation has finished, which is expected to be by the beginning of April.

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