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St Saviours Southwark
Key:    Current observations and notes      Holmes 
(1897)      Other sources      maps

Additional information taken from Southwark's Burial Places by kind permission of author Mr Ron Woollacott.

St. Saviour's Churchyard. 
Southwark Cathedral from1905. 
Churchyard to S. now paved and much truncated. Rocque and Horwood suggest an extensive churchyard to the north of the church, (priory cloister?) now lost. 
  In November of 1822 the funeral of a Southwark milkman took place here; he had committed suicide after being fined and bound over to keep the peace. This was, it seems, the result of a quarrel with his wife. The milkman had been popular and respected by his neighbours, but there was little sympathy for his wife, who was forced to observe the funeral from her window.  (The Times, November 5th 1822)
Famous burials within and without include poet John Gower (d 1408) Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester  (d 1626) Edmund Shakespeare (William's brother. d. 1607). 

 This ancient ground has been often enlarged and curtailed, and at times was used as a market-place. What now exists is about 1 acre on the south side of the church, which is at present under restoration. (Holmes)

ST. SAVIOUR'S CHURCH, Southwark. The burial ground adjoining the church is very full.
There are two vaults belonging to this church, one called the Great Vault, underneath the. body of the church. The coffins are piled one upon another; some, which contain branches of the same family, are chained together. All the bodies placed in this vault are buried in lead,-a condition never deviated from. When this vault is opened a fire is always kept burning. On one occasion I
accompanied the grave digger to this vault; he received a caution from the sextoness, and hesitated for some time before opening the door; he observed that " he should know, directly he opened the place, whether there was danger." In descending, he carried a lighted candle at arm's-length; he then called out, "there is no danger." The place is extremely damp, and gives out a most offensive smell.

Another vault, called the Bishop's vault, runs underneath the church yard. Light and air are admitted from the burial ground, through an iron grating. The entrance to this vault is through the " Ladye Chapel ;" the roof is arched over with brick-work. The coffins are piled upon one another, but the burying in lead is left to the option of the party concerned in the funeral; the smell here is more offensive than in the larger vault.
(Gatherings from Graveyards, Walker, 1839)


Additional ground for St. Saviour’s, called the College Yard or St. Saviour's Almshouse Burial-ground, Park Street.
Opened about 1730. Purchased in 1860 by Charing Cross Railway Co. and railway arches were built over the ground. Human remains moved to Brookwood cemetery Woking. Other bodies reburied at Nunhead cemetery.  
The remainder of the ground was roofed over and used as a builder's yard as described by Mrs Holmes. Now part of the Borough Market.

This existed before 1732. Size, ¼ acre. The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway goes over it on arches, and it is now the storeyard of Messrs. Stone and Humphries, builders. Most of it is roofed in but it is not actually covered with buildings. (Holmes)

Very early photograph of College Ground from the 1860s, just before the railway destroyed it.


The site today

Additional ground for St Saviour's, called the Cross Bones. Redcross Street. (Now Redcross Way)
Very old ground, originally unconsecrated and used for the burial of prostitutes from the South Bank 'stews'. Later used for Pauper burials. Notorious for body-snatching, given the presence of  St Thomas's and Guy's hospitals nearby.  A high wall with broken class on the top was built in the early nineteenth century, but (allegedly) the sexton was in league with the body snatchers so this was ineffective.
Building work in the 1920s led to the exhumation of many bones, as did building work on the new substation for the Jubilee Line extension in the 1990s. Detailed archaeological work from this time and a general history of the ground is described in The Cross Bones Burial Ground (Museum of London Archaeological Service 1999).
Currently the site is derelict. It is owned by Network Rail who wish to use it for offices. There is a local campaign to create an amenity open space here.

This was made, at least 250 years ago, "far from the parish church," for the interment of the low women who frequented the neighbourhood. It was subsequently used as the pauper ground, and was crowded to excess. Nevertheless two schools were built in it. The remaining piece is about 1,000 square yards, It has frequently been offered for sale as a building site, and has formed the subject for much litigation. It is made partial use of by being let for fairs, swings, &c. It was sold as building site in 1883, but, not having been used by 1884 the sale was declared (under the Disused Burial Grounds Act) null and void. (Holmes)

The poor ground, called “Cross Bones,” in Red Cross Street, Union Street, Borough, also belongs to this parish. The greater portion of this ground has not been opened for some time past, in consequence of its very crowded state; the remaining part, however, is still used for interments, many of the poor Irish are buried in it. Two charity schools, one for boys and the other for girls, are built at the west end, in Union Street, the back parts of which run into this ground. On the 20th February last, a vestry meeting was holden "for the purpose of considering the propriety of re-opening the Cross Bones burying ground. "The ground had been closed about two years (the time generally  allowed for the destruction of the bodies! ) and it was moved that it be re-opened; the mover of the resolution stating, that in consequence of the aversion generally manifested to bury in what is named the " Irish corner," many bodies were taken out of the parish to be buried. This corner, however, had been cleared, and room made for about a thousand bodies. One gentleman argued that " if the graves had been made deeper, hundreds more corpses might have been buried there." Another admitted that it really was too bad to bury within eighteen inches of the surface, in such a crowded neighbourhood; and it was even hinted that " the clearing," viz. the digging up and the removal of the decayed fragments of flesh and bones, with the pieces of coffin, &c. would be the best course, were it not for the additional expense."
The fund of the vestry and the health of the living were here placed in opposite scales: the former had its preponderance.
(Walker, 1839)


Cross Bones ground today

 Help save the Cross Bones burial ground! Explore its history and sign the petition at


Deadman’s Place Burial-ground.  
Now Southwark Bridge Village Car Park, off Thrale Street. Behind the Novotel and Southwark Rose Hotel. Car Park Motto; 'Thank you for calling - please call again!'. This probably wouldn't have worked in Walker's Day.
 Its history is obscure. Some historians claim it
dates from at least Elizabethan times, and has been  in use as a burial place for plague victims for centuries. Others say it was established later, as a non-conformist ground. Burial place of Alexander Cruden, author of the Biblical Concordance.
The name is probably nothing to do with the presence of the burial ground. 

Deadman's Place is now called Park Street. This ground was originally used for the interment of large numbers of victims to the plague. Then it became the graveyard of an adjoining Independent chapel, and was extensively used for the interment of ministers, being a sort of Bunhill Fields for South London. Now it is merely one of the yards over which trucks run on rails, in the middle of the large brewery belonging to Messrs. Barclay and Perkins, about ½ acre in extent. It existed as a burial-ground in 1839, but not, I believe, in 1843. (Holmes)

DEADMAN'S PLACE.- This burying ground is near to Ewer Street, and is equally surcharged with dead, - the name befits the appearance. Tradition says it took its name from the number of the dead interred there in the great plague, soon after the Restoration. (Walker, 1839)


And now . . .

Christ Church Churchyard, Blackfriars Bridge Road.  
Probably earlier than Holmes suggests below: Woollacott gives 1671 as date of first burial. Church consecrated 1671, rebuilt 1741, graveyard extended at that time and again in 1817. Ground closed 1856. Opened as a public garden in 1900. Church destroyed in WW2, rebuilt 1960 as an uninspiring brick box. The churchyard is quite attractively laid out. 
       In March of 1818 the bodies of three adults and a child were 'torn from their graves' by body Snatchers, the wall around the ground being 'too low and defective for the purposes of security' (The Times March 20th 1818)
Crypt cleared 1895 when it was discovered that lead coffins were being melted by the heat from the newly installed boilers.  650 bodies removed to Brookwood. 

This dates from about 1737, and has been enlarged. An infant school was built in it. It is closed, and not laid out. (Holmes) 


View of 1819

Lost Grounds

Baptist Burial-ground, Bandy Leg Walk (Now Southwark Bridge Rd)
St Saviour's Workhouse Ground

Still a fire station. In 1988 Skeletons were found when laying pipes in the fire station car park. 
The St Saviour's workhouse ground was adjacent and to the east of the Baptist ground. It was formed in 1777 as a  poor ground. Remains found in 1884 on construction of the fire station; site now lost under Southwark Bridge Road. The site was originally part of the unsuccessful Grotto Gardens Pleasure Ground founded 1760 and remembered today by Grotto Court.

Subsequently called Guildford Street. There was such a ground in 1729. In 1807 there existed the St. Saviour's Workhouse, with a burial ground on the east side of it which, from its position, may have coincided with the Baptists' ground, and what is now left of the burial-ground is a garden or courtyard, about 1,000 square yards in size, between the new buildings of the Central Fire Brigade Station in
Southwark Bridge Road, and the old house behind them. It is entered through the large archway. (Holmes)


Southwark fire station, garden to the right. 

Friends' Burial -ground, Worcester Street (Now O'Meara Street.)
Destroyed when the Railway to Charing Cross was constructed in 1860, and by the construction of Southwark Street.  Bodies removed to Long Lane Quaker Ground... but not all. 9 bodies were found on this site during work on the Jubilee Line Extension in October 1994. Scruffy car park on the corner of Southwark Street and O'Meara Street might be a remnant of the ground. There is a 19th century Catholic Church to the South with a garden that might overlap part of the ground.


Chapel Burial-ground, Ewer Street 
W. side of Ewer St., where the railway crosses the road. Known in the 1820s as Crawford's ground, although owned at that time by an undertaker named Wild.  Removed c1861 when the Charing Cross Railway was built, though judging by recent finds many bodies were left in situ. 
Date of the discovery of bodies mentioned below was actually June 1987. 

At a late hour on Wednesday night, the neighbourhood of Ewer Street, In the Borough, was thrown into great confusion by the report that an attempt had been made by two of that by now very numerous body called 'bodysnatchers' to disinter the body of a child at Crawford's private burial ground in that street. 
  Yesterday the two accused persons, whose names are george Harris and Thomas Wallis, were conducted in the midst of an immense multitude to the office, and charged with having attempted to commit the odious robbery. Another person was suspected of having been concerned. 
  John McDonnel, watchman of the Clink Liberty, stated, that in consequence of information which he had received that some of the graves were to be opened on Wednesday night, In Crawford's burial ground, he went, accompanied by other watchmen, to the vicinity of the scene of action, at half past 12 o'clock, and heard a noise like scrambling over a wall. Upon making a proper search, they found thr two prisoners concealed in a privy adjoining the burial ground, and were convinced that an interruption was thuis given to the work of raising up a dead body, for a newly-made grave had been partly emptied of the earth. 
  The magistrate called upon the prisoners to account for their presence in a place where they could have had no business at any hour of the night.
  Harris at once admitted that he had gone to the burial ground, accompanied by his 'mate', for the purpose of getting hold of the body of a child that had died a few days before; and he rgretted that he had been disturbed in his business by the watchman on the night in question. He hoped, however, it would not be considered a felony, when he assured the magistrate that he had received full permission from the gravedigger, John Hill, to take possession of the corpse. A bargain had been made between them the night before, at the Roebuck public house, over six pots of half and half, and the gravedigger told him the exact spot there the child was to be got at, at the same time assuring him that the thing could be done with ease, as the coffin was just fit for gentlemen of his description, being kept together by slight tacks, which would soon give way to a pickaxe. The gravedigger gave him some other information, which comprehended, amongst many important instructions, the easiest method of gaining access to the ground; and promised him the soap impression of the key of the vault, where respectable bodies could always be got at. This kindness ended, upon the part of the gravedigger, with the information that a tall Irishman, who died of a surfeit, was to be shoved into the ground on Thursday, and would be excellent for the knife. Fve shillings was then put into the hands of the gravedigger, as a recompense for this service, and Harris and Wallis proceeded to the grave at the proper hour and with the proper implements. They had just commenced operations when they heard a hue and cry, upon which they made the best of their way over the wall, there being no hole in the ground in which they could hide themselves - for they would rather wade through a river than be taken in such a business. They knew how they got into a mess; for Bill Hollis and Murphy, who were at the head of the profession, knew their success, envied them their increasing business, and lay in wait and had a 'down' on them in all directions. 
  Mr Allen, upon hearing this defence, sent for the gravedigger, who soon made his appearance, accompanied by Mr Wild, the undertaker, and the owner of the burial ground. 

  Hill upon being confronted by his accusers, opened his eyes to the utmost stretch, and declared, with the most sanctified look, and in a corresponding tone, that the gentlemen must be mistaken, for he had never before seen them. The 'gentlemen', however, persisted in declaring that the truth had been spoken, and they were corroborated in their assertion by the servant girl at the Roebuck, who, upon looking at the parties, said most positvely that she had sen the gravedigger and the two 'gentlemen' drinking together on the night the bargain was made, at the rate of two pots a man. Upon hearing these tidings, the gravedigger became greatly agitated; he denied the fact of having joined in the conspiracy against the dead, but he admitted that he now recollected having seem the prisoners once before in Crawford's burial ground.
  The Magistrate observed, that there was very little doubt of the part taken by the gravedigger in the traffic now going on to such extent amongst the profession; and ordered that he should be placed at the bar with his companions. 
  The three prisoners were then ordered to find bail, in default of which they were committed to prison. 
   (The Times, November 22nd 1822)


EWER STREET CHAPEL AND BURYING GROUND, at the bottom of Union Street, Borough.- The burying ground appears to have been raised nearly six feet from the original surface, and is literally surcharged with dead; it is now closed, and presents a very repulsive aspect. It might be instructive to know the number of bodies here inhumed; perhaps, - but dead men tell no tales, - the exhumed might present a formidable array. The vicinity is disgustingly dirty.

This is the site of an unmarked graveyard, as discovered in about 1990 by some workmen who were renewing the concrete floor under two of the railway arches when they came across about a skull. Suspecting foul play, the police were called in. The police called in a pathologist. He called in an archaeologist. I think about 200 skeletons were eventually unearthed and dated to some time after the Black Death but before WW II. I think the bones were reburied elsewhere (but only two of the arches were excavated).
  It appears that when the viaduct was built (1840's?) the contractors came across the graveyard, said nothing and moved the graves which were in the way of the piers, resulting in a lot of the bodies being reburied standing up and bones just jumbled up together very close to the surface.

(From Se1 community website forum 2002)


Site of ground in Ewer St 2002

Baptist Chapel Ground, Pepper Street  (Duke Street Park)  
The chapel is shown on Rocque. Probably now under the widened Union Street.
Houses at corner of Pepper Street are on the site.  (Holmes)

St. Margaret, Southwark  
Parish church of Southwark until 1541. Burial ground extended in 1536. Site of church sold in 1545. Apparently the churchyard was extremely crowded.
Church converted to a prison in later years, then replaced by the town hall.  The ground disturbed during building work in 1832 and large quantities of human remains were found.
The site is now occupied by Town Hall Chambers, Borough High Street, and by the widened Southwark High Street.

Town Hall Chambers - another bank that turned into a wine bar.

Unknown ground

Knight, in London Vol 4. (1841), quotes the following:
'Martin's, in the Borough, measuring about 295 feet by 379, is supposed to have received within ten years 14,000 bodies'
This is the only reference I can find to 'Martin's Ground' though Hoole and Martin were the proprietors of New Bunhill Fields in the New Kent Rd. Knight cannot be referring to this ground as he mentions it as well. 
One possibility is that it refers to the ground in Ewer St. mentioned above - the dimensions seem to fit quite well. This ground was in private ownership by the 1830s.