Sunday, 9 February 2014

Crossbones graveyard

Down a quiet road in Southwark, London, Crossbones Graveyard is marked by this modest sign.

First recorded in 1598, the graveyard is the final resting place for the prostitutes who worked in Southwark’s brothels. Somehow the sign, in its rough and ready state, is a touching tribute to the struggles of the women buried here.

Activities forbidden within London’s city walls flourished across the river in Southwark. It became home to the seedier, smellier side of life that wasn’t welcome in the city: tanneries, breweries, bear pits, taverns and brothels.

The graveyard was closed in 1853 and largely left until the 1990s when the Museum of London excavated it during the course of some London Underground work. You may have seen the BBC documentary (2010) which identified one of the skeletons as a child prostitute and detailed the difficult life she would have had.

The local community has taken this neglected burial ground of forgotten souls into its heart. There are regular vigils, offerings are left on the gates and the shrine attracts around 50,000 people a year, remembering the outcasts.

Bonus picture of the offerings on the gate

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