There's a Lot More Skeletons Where These Came From
- I've been wondering if I've missed something with these reports... I thought it was well known that Charterhouse Square was an old plague pit, so all the news reports of "discoveries" seem rather overblown. I assume it's just the media trying to make things sound more dramatic than they actually are for the people on the ground!
On 15 Mar, 2013, at 18:19, terry foreman <terry.foreman@...> wrote:
- Exactly, Phil. I've read that many victims of the 1665 plague were buried there. Maybe it's just that this is the first time there's been much excavation there, so it's only now that actual skeletons are coming to light.
The skeletons found in the Crossrail pit are from the Black Death, a far more devastating plague than the London Plague of 1665. The Black Death, in the 1340s and 1350s, wiped out approximately a third of the population of England and parts of Europe. Although it was known that the Charterhouse area was the site of a plague pit, the exact location was not known. The excitement is partly because of what may be learned medically from examination of the skeletons. They appear to be from the early days of the Black Death because they were carefully laid out. Later, when the deaths mounted heavily every day, skeletons were just tipped in.
Exactly, Phil. I've read that many victims of the 1665 plague were buried there. Maybe it's just that this is the first time there's been much excavation there, so it's only now that actual skeletons are coming to light.
- The BBC report I read concluded these were Black Death victims - not the 1665 outbreak. I thought most of those were burred in their churchyards. Pepys complains to his diary about the hummocky nature of St Olave's churchyard after the plague. The 1665 event (only marginally less horrific than the 1613 event) (or was that 1615?) was not so catastrophic that there was not orderly burial - eventually - of the dead. The Black Death (and some argue that this was a different disease maybe anthrax perhaps in conjunction with plague) was more of a catastrophe leading to mass undiffentiated burials.
On 18 March 2013 04:11, gillianbagwell <nellgwynn54@...> wrote:
Exactly, Phil. I've read that many victims of the 1665 plague were buried there. Maybe it's just that this is the first time there's been much excavation there, so it's only now that actual skeletons are coming to light.--
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- I realize that the skeletons they have found in Charterhouse date from the 14th century, not the 17th. What I was expressing surprise about was that, as Phil said, news stories seem to take the tone that the find was unexpected.
I thought some dead from the 1665 plague had been buried there, but there were certainly plague pits in other areas from that plague, which killed a third of the population. There was nothing orderly about it.
Peter Ackroyd's "London: the Biography," quotes Daniel Dafoe "A Journal of the Plague Year" (yes, I know it was written later, but it dealt with the 1665 plague). On "a piece of ground beyond Goswell Street, near Mount Hill ... abundance were buried promiscuously from the parishes of Aldgate, Clerkenwell, and even out of the city."
Ackroyd says that the Mount Mills pit "was comparable to the burial pit in Houndsditch, about forty feet in length, sixteen feet broad and twenty feet deep, containing more than a thousand corpses." The pit was near the Pye Tavern and the drunken patrons "jeered anyone who mourned for the newly dead." One dead cart driver, "when he had any children in his dead cart, could cry 'Faggots, faggots, five for sixpence,' and take a child up by the leg."
Ackroyd, writing in, or at least published in, 2000, said "The area of Mount Mills is a waste ground still." I sought that place out in 2005. Much of it was taken up by a parking lot and still had the appearance of "a waste ground." But there was some construction that appeared to be fairly new, so perhaps the spell of a haunted ground had finally been put behind it.