Civils and stations

26.10.18

Archaeologists begin UK’s biggest ever excavation work at HS2 London Euston site

Archaeological work on the HS2 rail link between London and Birmingham to remove 45,000 skeletons from a burial site has begun.

Over 1,000 archaeologists, specialists, scientists and conservators will be exploring and recording over 60 archaeological sites for the £55.7bn rail project over the next two years.

All part of HS2’s enabling works, the giant archaeological project, the largest ever undertaken in the UK, will explore more than 10,000 years of British history along the 150-mile route.

HS2 said the dig at the controversial Camden burial site would “add to our understanding of how this city transformed,” as well as helping prepare for the £55.7bn high-speed rail line.

The work will range from the prehistoric period, through Roman Britain, the Anglo-Saxon and medieval ages, all the way to the Industrial Revolution and World War II, and a number of significant sites have been identified on the route.

Early findings have already discovered two Victorian time capsules buried nearly 140 years ago in London, and the archaeologists plan on exploring a prehistoric hunter-gatherer site on the outskirts of London and researching an undiscovered multi-period site in Northamptonshire.

They also plan on finding out more about the Black Death and its impact on medieval villages, and on excavating a Romano-British town in Aylesbury, with all discoveries shared with local communities.

Some 61,000 burials took place at St James’s Gardens between 1788 and 1853, beside what is now London Euston station, and HS2 said it was working with the Church of England to select a site where the skeletons will be reburied.

When the site first closed, protestors held a memorial service for the thousands of remains due to be exhumed following an unsuccessful campaign to save the site.

HS2 said it plans on including all ages in the discoveries through lecture days, community open days, school visits and online channels, as “HS2 will link the past, present and future.”

HS2 archaeologist Michael Court said: “Birmingham's pivotal role in Britain's Industrial Revolution is unquestionable, and HS2's archaeology programme in the city will allow us to tell the story of the skilled workers who fuelled it.

“Burial and historical records will aid archaeologists, scientists and historians in understanding how the buried population lived, worked and contributed to making Birmingham the international powerhouse that it became.”

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Image credit - tuulimaa

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