London

Paupers' graveyard to become remembrance garden

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Media captionCross Bones dates back to late medieval times

A paupers' burial ground in south-east London, where thousands of prostitutes are thought to be buried, is set to be turned into a public garden.

Cross Bones, which runs parallel to Borough High Street, Southwark, has a history dating back to medieval times.

Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST) said landowner Transport for London (TfL) was leasing it the burial ground so the trust could turn it into a garden.

BOST said the prostitutes were denied a Christian burial.

Joseph Bonner from the trust said the Bishop of Winchester was thought to have granted licenses to these prostitutes, known as the Winchester Geese.

Image caption Friends of Cross Bones have held a vigil at the site every year since 2004

The burial ground is thought to have been closed in 1853 due to it being overcrowded.

Excavations carried out by the Museum of London Archaeology Service in the 1990s found graveyards with bodies piled on top of each other.

For the last 20 years local playwright John Constable and the Friends of Cross Bones have led a vigil at the gates and has been campaigning for the site to be turned into a garden of remembrance.

He said Cross Bones represented "ordinary Londoners - honest, hard working but very poor people who really built the city but are not generally remembered."

It was first known as a "single women's burial ground", Mr Constable said.

'Not developed'

BOST said initial grant funding had been secured to make the site safe, add a gate and lay out the first raised bed to protect the human remains.

"We need to raise a further £60,000 to turn this special place into a garden with regular opening hours, for all to enjoy, and remember," Mr Constable added.

Graeme Craig, TfL's director of commercial development, said the grounds were part of a much larger site earmarked for commercial development.

"We have agreed that the identified burial ground will not be developed, and will be retained as open space as part of the comprehensive development of the site," he said.

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