A mass burial site suspected of containing 30 victims of The Great Plague of 1665 has been unearthed at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street building site.

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The discovery was found during the excavation of the Bedlam burial ground at Liverpool Street, ahead of construction of the eastern entrance of the new Elizabeth line station.

Jay Carver, Crossrail Lead Archaeologist said: “The construction of Crossrail gives us a rare opportunity to study previously inaccessible areas of London and learn about the lives and deaths of 16th and 17th Century Londoners.”

A headstone found nearby was marked ‘1665’, and the fact the individuals appear to have been buried on the same day, suggest they were victims of The Great Plague. The thin wooden coffins have collapsed and rotted, giving the appearance of a slumped and distorted mass grave. The skeletons will now be analysed by osteologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), and scientific tests may reveal if bubonic plague or some other pestilence was the cause of death.

“This mass burial, so different to the other individual burials found in the Bedlam cemetery, is very likely a reaction to a catastrophic event. Only closer analysis will tell if this is a plague pit from The Great Plague in 1665 but we hope this gruesome but exciting find will tell us more about one of London’s most notorious killers,” Carver added.

Excavation of the Bedlam burial ground began earlier this year. The team of archaeologists from MOLA have carefully excavated over 3,500 skeletons from what is, in archaeology terms, London’s most valuable 16th and 17th Century cemetery site.

The Bedlam burial ground was in use from 1569 to at least 1738, spanning the start of the period of Elizabethan explorers, the English civil wars, the Restoration of the Monarchy, Shakespeare’s plays, the Great Fire of London and numerous plague outbreaks.

The Bedlam burial ground, also known as the New Churchyard, was located at the western end of Liverpool Street. The recent excavation suggests that 30,000 Londoners were buried at Bedlam between 1569 and 1738. It got its name from the nearby Bethlehem Hospital which housed the mentally ill, although only a small number of Bedlam residents are believed to have been buried there.


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Using a 360 degree video capture, the short film lets viewers step into the shoes of archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology who are carefully excavating the burial.

To watch 360 degree videos, you’ll need the latest version of Chrome, Opera or Firefox on your laptop or desktop computer. On mobile and tablet, use the latest version of the YouTube app for Android or iOS.

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