Archaeologists are looking for volunteers to help record nearly 58,000 burial records related to the recently excavated St James’s Burial Ground in Euston.

The burial ground at Euston was excavated between 2018 and 2019 as part of the preparation works for the HS2 station to be built there, and was the largest excavation of its kind ever undertaken in the UK. It was also the topic of a BBC2 documentary which is currently available on iPlayer.

St James’s Burial Ground excavation (c) HS2

With excavations complete, archaeologists now want to combine their findings with details contained in the burial ground records, to delve even deeper into the site’s history. The project aims to create a searchable, digital archive to develop a better understanding of the people buried at St James’s, revealing details about their lives and opening the doors to further research.

During the excavation, a unique coffin was found. Made from wood wrapped with lead, it was an unusual shape and size, and had decorations unlike any the team had seen before. By looking at burial records, newspaper articles and wills, archaeologists were able not only to explain the coffin’s unusual shape, but also to identify its owner and piece together a detailed picture of her final days.

Volunteer participants will be able to use the project website to decipher handwritten burial records, logging key details like names, addresses and causes of death. No previous experience is required – just a willingness to learn new computer skills and do some problem solving – and there is no minimum time commitment.

The project website can be found here.

Example of the website interface

Robert Hartle, a Senior Archaeologist at MOLA Headland Infrastructure who worked on the excavation, said: “The Stories of St James’s Burial Ground digitisation project is a unique opportunity to make a genuine contribution to our ongoing archaeological research and make connections that will shed new light on ordinary people, all too often forgotten to history.”

MOLA archeologist at work (c) HS2

How to take part in the Stories of St James’s Burial Ground project

  1. Register for an account with Zooniverse (the website hosting the project)
  2. Go to the Stories of St James’s Burial Ground project page
  3. Choose a task from the ‘Get started’ section, read the tutorial, and begin

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