Rail company 'desecrates' St
Most of us use a trowel to excavate a skeleton,
some use a plasterers' leaf too, while others favour a spoon
bent into interesting shapes to get at the awkward bits. Well,
at St Pancras in North London they've discovered a new tool for
it's called a JCB.
The archaeological community was horrified
to learn that an important cemetery was being machined out after
archaeologists had been thrown off site. Archaeologists and English
Heritage (EH) inspectors were barred from the Camley Street Cemetery
site by Union Railways, despite a 'gentlemen's agreement' that
there would be an archaeological excavation.
Thurley, the director of EH, said:
'The archaeologists were
excavating these remains with respect. Now, instead, the
company will be sending bulldozers straight through the lot,
loading the soil, bones, bits of coffin and name plates into
what they call a muck-away truck. It is a total desecration of
human remains.' A worker on the site confirmed that: 'We've been
digging up skulls, ribs, legs, the lot.'
The cemetery was first used in 1792 for
the Catholic community in Camden and aristocrats
fleeing the French Revolution. Burial continued until 1854. The
Council for British Archaeology (CBA) said that 'this short period
of burial activity makes the assemblage even more significant
as trends can be analysed over a couple of generations.' Many
of the caskets have names on them, increasing the potential for
The site is part of a new station for the
Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), built by Rail Link Engineering
for London and Continental Railways. The scheme is governed by
its own Act of Parliament, the CTRL Act 1996. This sidesteps
normal planning regulations; archaeological intervention is not
statutory, only by 'gentlemen's agreement.' The developers now
say that time has run out, although archaeologists were allowed
only three weeks to excavate about 100 graves out of thousands.
The CBA estimates that 'over 2,000 graves' have now been removed
without archaeological monitoring.
outcry, by the Church of England as well as archaeologists, was
reported on TV and radio and in the local and national press
and after an emergency board meeting the developers agreed provisionally
to refrain from using JCBs. An EH statement welcomed the developers'
promise to 'reinstate
archaeological monitoring and prepare for our approval an archaeological
method statement appropriate to the new
exhumation methodology.' EH said
it would 'continue to
monitor the archaeological programme.'
The developers insisted that: 'We have all the relevant permissions
required to carry out this process and we are fully compliant
with all our commitments. The work is being undertaken by a competent
specialist contractor.' The change
in the exhumation method 'could
have serious implications for the cost of the project and for
its completion date,' they added.
The CBA, which was at the forefront of
the campaign to stop the destruction, said
it was pleased with the result but warned that: 'We need to keep the pressure on to ensure
that the planned archaeological work is reinstated.' The wider implications were 'extremely worrying,' however,
since proposed changes to make planning legislation more 'business-friendly'
would result in blanket consent being granted for other major
projects such as airports.
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