Human remains that were removed from the former cemetery at St James’s Gardens to make space for the HS2 station at Euston have been reinterred at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey, and a service was held last week to mark the completion of the reburials.

Some relatives of those being reburied joined representatives of the Archbishop’s Council, St James’s Church, Piccadilly, and St Pancras Church, Euston.

To honour the deceased, a memorial monument has been erected within a new landscaped garden. The design of the monument takes inspiration from the form of the gravestones and ledgers found at St. James’s Gardens.

Memorial in Brookwood Cemetery (c) HS2

The monument is in two pieces which reflects the changes made to the burial ground when Euston Station was extended in the late 19th century, with a new road load laid out between the remaining gardens and the station. It is reminiscent of ledger stones similar to those which have been found during the HS2 works, commemorating those removed from St. James’s Gardens.

Work to excavate the disused London Cemetery began in October 2018, and a team of archaeologists removed over 20,000 human remains buried there in the 18th and 19th centuries. Around 5,500 of the human remains carefully excavated from St James’s Gardens are undergoing archaeological analysis and will be reinterred with the burial population on a future date.

Euston excavation site (c) HS2

Brookwood Cemetery was chosen as the destination for the burial population due to its connection to the capital. The cemetery was opened in 1852 by the London Necropolis Company to accommodate increasing need for a burial site for London’s growing population. A railway branch line connected the cemetery to Waterloo station and special hearse carriages for the coffins were used.

Many more of London’s burial grounds have been relocated in the past and Brookwood has often been the location for reburials over the past 150 years. In the 1960s the chapel at St James’s Gardens was demolished and the remains of the individuals interred within its crypt were removed and reburied at Brookwood. The cemetery is the largest in the UK.

The new landscaped garden has been designed to symbolically reunite the burial population and enhance the connection between the two burial plots.

The burial ground was originally an overflow cemetery for the parish of St James’s in Piccadilly. As part of HS2’s archaeology programme, the stories of those buried at St James’s Gardens has been told through an exhibition held earlier in 2023 at St James’s Church in Piccadilly.

The monument next to the site is inscribed with a poem which reads:

“Still hearts buried within the quiet earth, from centuries past,

Their earthly fires no longer kindled,

heavenly spirits now shine bright,

pure white of the moon and stars, in eternal life,

memories left to remain, now solemn and soothing,

amongst the trees old and new, cloaked in vivid colour,

nothing is as certain as the passing of days,

the setting sun and rising moon,

new birth and life, to ashes and dust in death,

remember the past with peaceful reverence,

and to the future with faith, kindness and hope”


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