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St Giles in the Fields
Includes Bloomsbury Parishes of St Georges Bloomsbury, St George the Martyr, and Christchurch Woburn Sq. 
Key:  Current observations and notes   Holmes (1897)    Other sources    Maps

St. Giles' Churchyard.
Founded by Queen Matilda in 1101 when it was a leper hospital. Now laid out as a garden, with children's playground in the southern part.  The part north of the church has mostly been lost to road widening. 

Historic burials at St Giles include George Chapman, translator of  Homer, the poet Andrew Marvell, Edward Coleman and 12 catholic Martyrs executed at the time of the 'Popish Plot' of 1678/9,  and Richard Penderell, who helped smuggle Charles II out of England and whose tomb with its grandiloquent epitaph has been an object of ridicule ever since:

Here lieth Richard Penderell, Preserver and Conductor to his sacred Majesty King Charles the Second of Great Britain, after his escape from Worcester Fight, in the year 1651, who died Feb 8, 1671. 

Hold, Passenger, here’s shrouded in this Herse,
Unparalell’d Pendrell, thro’ the universe.
Like when the Eastern Star from Heaven gave light
To three lost kings; so he, in such dark night,
To Britain’s Monarch, toss’d by adverse War,

On Earth appear’d, a second Eastern Star,
A Pope, a Stern, in her rebellious Main,
A Pilot to her Royal Sovereign.
Now to triumph in Heav’n’s eternal sphere,
Whilst Albion’s Chronicles, with matching fame,

Embalm the story of great Pendrell’s Name.

Nearly an acre. This ground being originally consecrated by a Roman Catholic, was much used by the poor Irish. It was enlarged in 1628, and at various subsequent dates, and was very much overcrowded, and it occupies the site of an ancient graveyard attached to a leper hospital. It has been laid out as a public garden, and is maintained by the St. Giles' District Board of Works. The brightest part of the ground is north of the church, and this is only opened at the discretion of the caretaker. (Holmes)

ST. GILES'S BURYING GROUND. - St. Giles's parish has the melancholy notoriety of originating the plague in 1665. (1) It was the fashion in those days to ascribe that visitation to imported contagion. I will not pause to enquire whether in the disgusting condition of many portions of this and other districts sufficient causes may not be operating to produce an indigenous effect, which might again be ascribed to a foreign origin.  

Pennant, in his account of London, p. 157, ex- presses himself strongly on the condition of this churchyard :-" I have," says he, " in the church yard of St. Giles's, seen with horror, a great square pit, with many rows of coffins piled one upon the other, all exposed to sight and smell ; some of the piles were incomplete, expecting the mortality of the night. I turned away disgusted at the view, and scandalized at the want of police, which so little regards the health of the living, as to permit so many putrid corpses, tacked between some slight boards, dispersing their dangerous effluvia over the capital, to remain unburied. Notwithstanding a compliment paid to me in one of the public papers, of my having occasioned the abolition of the horrible practice, it still remains uncorrected in this great parish. The reform ought to have begun in the place just stigmatised.”   
That the present condition of this burying place is not much improved, will be seen by the following extract, taken from the Weekly Dispatch of September 30th, 1838 :-  
" ST. GILES'S CHURCH YARD.-What a horrid place is Saint Giles's church yard !. It is full of coffins, up to the surface. Coffins are broken up before they are decayed, and bodies are removed to the " bone house" before they are sufficiently decayed to make their removal decent. The effect upon the atmosphere, in that very densely populated spot, must be very injurious. I had occasion to attend the church with several gentlemen, on Tuesday; being required to wait, we went into this Golgotha; near the east side we saw a finished grave, into which bad projected a nearly sound coffin; half of the coffin had been chopped away to complete the shape of the new grave. A man was standing by with a barrowful of sound wood, and several bright coffin plates. I asked him " Why is all this ?'. and his answer was, “O, it is all Irish” We then crossed to the opposite corner, and there is the " bone house," which is a large round pit; into this had been shot, from a wheelbarrow, the but partly-decayed inmates of the smashed coffins. Here, in this place of " Christian burial," you may see human heads, covered with hair; and here, in this  "consecrated ground," are human bones with flesh still adhering to them. On the north side, a man was digging a grave; he was quite drunk, so indeed were all the grave diggers we saw. We looked into this grave, but the stench was abominable. We remained, however, long enough to see that a child’s coffin, which had stopped the man’s progress, had been cut, longitudinally, right in half; and there lay the child, which had been buried in it, wrapped in its shroud, resting upon the part of the coffin which remained. The shroud was but little decayed. I make no comments ; every person must see the ill effects if such practices are allowed to continue." The vaults of this church are crowded with dead; they are better ventilated than many others, - so much the worse for the public.

(1)  “The year 1665 became memorable in London by the dreadful ravages of the GREAT PLAGUE, which first broke out at a house in Long Acre, near Drury Lane, in the parish of St. Giles in the Fields:” - ( London and Middlesex, by E. W. Brayley.)
(Walker 1839) 


    Mr. Walker, speaking of the St. Giles' Churchyard in London says, "in less than 2 acres it contains 48,000 bodies." A London churchyard is very like a London omnibus. It can be made to carry any number. If there is no room inside - no matter, there is always plenty of accommodation outside. The same with a London churchyard - number is the last consideration.
    There are three things, in fact, which are never by any accident full. These are: The Pit of a Theatre, an Omnibus, and a London Churchyard. The latter combines the expansiveness of the two former, with the voluminousness of the Carpet Bag.

(Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1849)

A pleasant autumn afternoon at St Giles.  Additional excitement was provided by a drugs bust taking place in the church doorway nearby.

Penderell's tomb - still there, though the inscription is fading - nearly 350 years to spare Penderell's blushes.

Lost ground

The Workhouse Burial-ground. 
Workhouse set up in 1727. The burial ground was uncovered in 1895 following demolition and new building work in Shorts Gardens. Large numbers of bodies were found within two feet of the surface. 
Now the site of a sports centre.

Now part of the workhouse in Shorts Gardens. (Holmes)

Church with Vault
St George's Hart Street. 
Now Bloomsbury Way. Built 1720 - 30. See St Pancras for the burial ground. 

Possible vaults:

St George the Martyr Bloomsbury
In Queen's Square. Built 1704 so vaults very likely. See St Pancras for the burial ground.

Christchurch, Woburn Square
Built 1831-3
Click here for a note on church and vault burials.