Crossrail Archaeological Exhibition
Monday, 24th September, 2012
19th-century Stepney Green chamber pot.
Crossrail Archaeological Exhibition: Back By Popular Demand
Not many exhibitions can show off such diverse disinterments as a 55 million-year-old piece of resin, a skeleton from Bedlam and a [?post*] medieval wig curler. The Crossrail project, excavating down so deep it’s in danger of waking a Balrog, is turning up all manner of curiosities from days of and before yore. A selection of 100 recently unearthed artifacts will go on show at the Crossrail Visitor Information Centre, nestling in the shadow of Centre Point, from 2-27 October.
* post medieval wig curlers:
Current Archaeology: Bedlam Burials
These have excited considerable interest, with the remains being widely reported as those of the unfortunate inmates of the world’s first lunatic asylum. Yet the truth is less clear cut. Who was really buried in this cemetery, and what can they tell us about an age when it was a jolly distraction to laugh and gawp at the capers of ‘men deprived of reason’?
London’s ever increasing population had brought the parish graveyards within the city walls to crisis point. Chronically overcrowded, coffins were stacked like subterranean high-rises in ever deepening shafts, as the dead were packed in one on top of the other. Requisitioning St Bethlehem’s vegetable plot was an essential element of a scheme to relieve the city centre graveyards, and provide new space for London’s, not the asylum’s, dead. Once established, the extent to which patients were interred in the cemetery is still unclear.
Yet, in the early years at least, there is every reason to believe that it was far from routine. People came to St Bethlehem for treatment from all over the country, and it appears that when they died, efforts were made to return the bodies to their home parish. Yet such a need was, in itself, comparatively rare. For all its barbaric and alien methods, St Bethlehem was very like a modern hospital in one key regard: people were not sent there to be incarcerated in perpetuity – the intention was to treat them, then discharge them.
Bronze Age transport route ‘found during Crossrail dig
Wood found during excavation work for Crossrail could be evidence of a 3,500-year-old Bronze Age transport route through London, experts believe.