Friends of Crossbones: Protecting memories of the outcasts after regeneration

BY CALUM FRASER calum@slpmedia.co.uk

A shrine to the outcasts of London’s history will be preserved intact, say developers who want to build next door.

A public meeting in Borough next week will hear residents’ views on proposed development ideas for Landmark Court in Redcross Way.

Regeneration firm U+I, along with Transport for London (TfL), is in the early stages of developing ideas to regenerate the site for new homes, including affordable housing and commercial space.

There will also be shops and creative spaces in the development next to Crossbones Graveyard and Gardens, which the company says would remain protected throughout and after any development.

Crossbones, the outcasts’ burial ground, was saved following a 20-year campaign to protect the site from development. Site owner TfL granted a lease to Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST) for the site in 2015 and agreed the burial ground would be protected as open space as part of the comprehensive development of the adjacent site.

Friends of Crossbones have since worked to create a community garden of remembrance on the site of the old graveyard.

Crossbones was the mediaeval unconsecrated graveyard for ‘Single Women’ or ‘Winchester Geese’ – mediaeval sex workers licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to work within the Liberty of the Clink, which lay outside the law of the City.

It then became a paupers’ burial ground.

It closed in 1853, when it was described as being completely overcharged with dead.

London Underground dug up part of the site while building the Jubilee line extension in the 1990s, removing 148 skeletons from an estimated 15,000 burials.

The shrine in Redcross Way is now adorned with ribbons bearing the names of the dead, photographs, jewellery, totems and mementos.

Vigils are held there at 7pm on the 23rd of every month.

The Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev Andrew Nunn, has conducted an ‘Act of Regret, Remembrance, Restoration’ there every year since 2015 on July 22, St Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day, remembering the historical injustices done to the women buried at Crossbones.

A procession will leave the cathedral at 12.30pm, after Choral Eucharist, arriving at Crossbones for the service at approximately 12.50pm.

John Constable, a writer whose Crossbones-inspired play The Southwark Mysteries was performed at The Globe Theatre, said: “Our main concern is to protect the identity of Crossbones as a public garden of remembrance for outcasts, outsiders and other marginalised people, rather than it being assimilated into a more general open space.

“We believe the garden, already established on the site, should be allowed to evolve naturally, with wild flowers and DIY memorials, rather than having some grand master plan imposed on it.”

U+I senior development manager Rebecca Selby said: “Although the proposal for a development on the Landmark Court site is in its early stages, we are keen to listen to the local community from the very beginning.

“We look forward to seeing as many people as possible and invite those who are unable to attend to get in touch with us using our contact phone number and email address.”

The public meetings are today and tomorrow, from 10am-3pm in The Africa Centre in Great Suffolk Street.

Details of the proposals will published online at www.landmarkcourtsouthwark.co.uk once finalised.

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