All cities have a past that they would rather forget about and not acknowledge or showcase it to adoring tourists. The Cross Bones Graveyard in London is one such place.
Located in the Southwark borough of London, near London Bridge, the Graveyard was an unconsecrated site for burying over 15,000 prostitutes and paupers of medieval London. Though the site was never a secret, it came into prominence in the early 1990s when it was dug up for construction of the Jubilee Line of the London Underground. Excavators found an unusually “crowded graveyard with bodies being piled on top of one another”. Forensic tests showed that most of the buried had suffered from some disease or the other.
I visited the Cross Bones Graveyard one July evening as part of “The Other London Walk”, a guided walk conducted by a homeless woman. She led our group to the sites of London’s other history, a history not showcased to tourists—a London of the deprived, the homeless, the sick, and the disadvantaged.
The simple memorial plaque affixed to the gates only says what the site is, but the gates which are “festooned” with ribbons, and messages and prayers convey a far more powerful and poignant message.