The rate of change within London is such that streets can take on a very different appearance within a matter of months, however it is unusual for a public park and old burial ground to disappear, however this has been the fate of St. James Gardens.
St. James Gardens are alongside Euston Station, between Cardington Street and Hampstead Road. They were used as a burial ground for the parish of St. James Piccadilly between 1790 and 1853. In 1887 the majority of the monuments and tombstones were removed and St. James opened as a public garden.
The location of St. James Gardens is the green space to the left of Euston Station in the map extract below from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London. I have used this map as the gardens have now disappeared from Google Maps (apart from an unlabelled small green rectangle). The gardens are still visible on Streetview which also has the ability to rollback to historic views of a location, however I believe this is not a feature with the basic map so it is interesting to consider how locations will be recorded long term if we rely on Internet mapping services.
The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map clearly shows St. James Gardens and also shows how what was once a rectangular burial ground had already been cut through by Cardington Street and the original Euston Station.
The land occupied by St. James Gardens is needed for the expansion of Euston Station to accommodate HS2, so the gardens closed at the end of June to enable preparatory work to be undertaken prior to HS2 construction.
This will primarily involve the exhumation of the bodies buried across the gardens, the removal of the monuments that remain along with the trees that line the gardens.
I have seen various estimates for the number of bodies that are thought to be buried, anything between 30,000 and 60,000 which clearly means no one really knows, however it will be a major task for the exhumation and reburial of such as large number bodies. The first phase of work will be the excavation of archaeological trial trenches so that the scale of the task can be better understood.
A week before the planned closure, I managed to get down to St. James Gardens and photograph a historic space that will soon be lost from the landscape of London for ever.
The plaque at the entrance from Hampstead Road recording the opening of the burial ground as public gardens on the 17th August 1887.
The Camden Council welcome sign:
The majority of the original gravestones and monuments were removed when the burial ground was converted into public gardens and only a few now remain. These were already fenced off. The HS2 statement of the archaeological work to be carried out across the garden states that the remaining gravestones and monuments will be recorded, then removed and safely stored. There is no indication of their long term fate.
View across the gardens:
One of the most significant remaining monuments is that to the Christie family:
The memorial is to James Christie (the founder in 1766 of Christie’s auctioneer’s), who was buried in St. James Gardens. The memorial also records his wife and children (although I cannot find out who the John Chapman is, the only one on the memorial without a Christie surname).
John Christie, who was buried in St. James Gardens in 1803 (Source: Thomas Gainsborough [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
He had four sons, who are recorded on the monument. His eldest son, also James Christie took over the Auction business is recorded as are the other three who, I assume not being the eldest and therefore not inheriting the family business had to make their way in other professions.
Edward Christie is recorded as having been a Midshipman on HMS Theseus when he died at Port Royal, Jamaica of fever whilst on board a captured slave ship on the 18th July 1802, aged 19 years.
Albany Henry Christie is recorded as aged 39 when he died on the 3rd October 1821, but with no information on his profession or location, although I have found references to him being an articled clerk so he may have been in the legal profession.
The monument also records the death of his second son, Captain Charles Christie of the 5th Regiment, Bombay Native Infantry, killed in Persia by the River Aras in an attack made by a body of Russian troops on the 1st November 1812.
Captain Charles Christie had an adventurous life as part of the Bombay Regiment. In 1810, disguised as horse dealers, he was exploring a possible route through what is now Afghanistan and Iran to explore if a route was possible for European armies to invade India.
Christie was also part of an officer corp that entered Persian service following an 1809 treaty with the Shah of Persia. This included training Persian infantry and commanding one of the Persian regiments.
He was also involved in a number of military actions between Persia and Russia, as Russia was trying to take control of the area to the north of modern day Iran.
This involvement with Persia formally ceased in 1812 after an agreement between Great Britain and Russia, however a number of officers, including Christie, remained with the Persian army.
In a battle between the Persian and Russian armies in what is now Iran, Christie was shot in the neck, but refused to surrender and apparently killed six men before he was finally killed by the Russian forces. He was buried where he died close to the village of Aslan Duz which today is on the border between Iran and Azerbaijan on the River Aras.
The monument provides a snapshot of the careers of sons of the business and professional classes in the late 18th century. The eldest son would take on the family business, the route to financial success for the other sons would then often be the Navy, Army or Legal professions, as shown by the Christie family.
Unfortunately for Edward and Charles, their careers did not end with success, but with an early death a long way from home.
If you look back at the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shown above, you will see St. James Church between the burial ground and Hampstead Road. The print below from Old and New London shows the church facing a very rural Hampstead Road:
Edward Walford writing in Old and New London provides some more information on the church and who is buried in the burial ground, a location which does not get a very positive description:
“St. James’s Church, formerly a chapel of ease to the mother church of St. James’s, Piccadilly. It is a large brick building, and has a large, dreary, and ill-kept burial ground attached to it. Here lie George Morland, the painter, who died in 1804; John Hoppner, the portrait-painter, who died in 1810; Admiral Lord Gardner, the hero of Port l’Orient, and the friend of Howe, Bridport and Nelson; and without a memorial, Lord George Gordon, the mad leader of the Anti-Catholic Riots in 1780, who died a prisoner in Newgate in 1793.”
This was published in 1878 and the description of the burial ground as dreary and ill-kept probably explains why it was cleared and turned into public gardens in 1887.
View across St. James Gardens with some of the mature trees that will be lost:
Although the gravestones do not now exist, many of those who have unmarked graves in St. James Gardens played a significant part in late 18th and early 19th century history.
Captain Matthew Flinders, the navigator who led the first circumnavigation of Australia was buried here in 1814.
Lord George Gordon who led the protest from St. George’s Fields to the Houses of Parliament and which evolved into what became known as the Gordon Riots was buried here in 1793.
View over to the location of the London Temperance Hospital, the majority of which has now been demolished.
Walking around the gardens I found that the occasional solitary grave remains:
The mature tress have large, colourful cloths wrapped around their trunks. This was the result of a “yarn bombing” where hand knitted scarves are wrapped around the trunks of trees to draw attention to their fate.
The open space between the park and the Hampstead Road that was occupied by the London Temperance Hospital:
A few more of the remaining monuments and gravestones. The gravestone to lower right is to Catherine Griffiths and Griffith Griffiths along with their daughter Elizabeth and their son Daniel who is recorded as being drowned in the Thames on the 18th June 1852 at the age of 16.
View across the gardens from the edge of the gardens adjacent to Cardington Street:
Cardington Street on the left:
Cardington Street entrance to St. James Gardens with an HS2 poster announcing the closure of the gardens:
View across Cardington Street to the entrance:
St. James Gardens are now closed. Hoarding will hide the archaeological investigations across the site and the eventual removal of the monuments and the remains of those buried. St. James Gardens will eventually disappear beneath the development of Euston for HS2.
I hope that the few remaining memorials are moved to a location where they still have some relevance and with public access. It would be a shame if Captain Charles Christie, buried on the border between Iran and Azerbaijan, looses his remaining tangible connection with London.
A shame to be losing public green space in the centre of London. Will some of it reappear after the work, like Finsbury Circus, or will it be gone forever?
If I have understood the plans for HS2 and the published maps documentation, they are gone forever.
What happens to all the jewellery etc that people were buried with…I’m sure some of that goes missing???
During these days, people were usually not buried with jewellery. Not only because of christianity (grave gifts for a supposed afterlife are a pagan thing and don’t apply to the christian faith), it was also highly uncommon in the late 18th/early 19th century due to frequent grave robbery.
In case you find some of the very rare exemptions, the finds belong to the state and therefore get into the archive or sometimes a museum.
Thanks for your article on St James Gardens. I was born just up the Hampstead Road over my father’s Pie and Mash shop in Seaton Place Market. As a child I played in the gardens where there was a small children’s playground. This must have disappeared at some point. Sadly, we had to leave the market when it was demolished in 1963 as part of the huge development that included the widening of Euston Road and the creation of the underpass at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Hampstead Road which you mentioned in a recent post. Please keep up the good work on your fascinating blog and if you ever dig up some pictures of the market where I was born I would be grateful. I have tried to find such information but Seaton Place Market seems to have vanished in the mists of time.
My Mum Flo worked in your Dads shop for a while, we lived on the top of Harvey and Thompsons in one of three flats with 21 kids between us, after we all moved out it all collapsed it was in the local paper. My great great grandmother is buried in St James gardens, she died at 23 in childbirth, I will be wanting to know where everyone is being reburied, there is no respect for anything any more. Bring back the old times, do you remember the Tolmer cinema, they would come round in the interval with a flit spray to keep the bugs at bay, you would have to scrabble about to find a decent seat, everything in there was falling to bits. I loved the market when it got dark with all the lights on around the stalls, it had a special feeling about it, I remember Waltons stall on the corner and Rose and a horsemeat shop when the rationing was still on. We were all closer together then weren’t we.
My husband and I still think that your Mum & Dad’s pies were the best and seem to remember they were 6d each. Was your Mum called ‘Mary’ ? We now live in Norfolk. I often walked through St. James’s Gdns when I was a youngster. Sad it’s gone also another Hospital, The Temperance in Hampstead Rd was much needed by the locals in the area.
Shocked this work has been carried in the gardens.
The memorial for the plot at Brookwood cemetery where most of the people buried there are buried is just going through planning per mission now.
https://www.tbcs.org.uk may be able to give an update.
Thank you for the update re the memorial at Brookwood.
Yes, my mother was called Mary. My father was Harry Miller as am I. When we left in 1963 my father was selling pie and mash with liquor for one shilling and one penny – 6p in the new fangled decimal coinage! They never opened another shop. My father was 57 when he was compelled to sell his business and I was only 13, so unlikely to take over any new business. Glad you can remember how good the pies were. I still eat pie and mash regularly where I now live in Greenwich, but I still remember the taste of the Seaton Street pies. Thanks for remembering.
Hello Harry Miller,
My mums family all lived in Seaton street and had a stall there. Pavey was the family name, though it transpires there were a couple of other Pavey families living there. My Auntie Mary, in her 90’s, calls your dads shop Mary Millers pie shop when she reminisces. I used to go Seaton street as a small boy and remember it. I have over the years collected a lot of info’s and photos of Seaton street and post them in Facebook on a Camden page. I checked and you are not a member. If you send me your email address I can send you lots of info’s etc. Seaton street also appears briefly in a film starring Max Bygraves and Barbra Murray call A Cry from the Streets filmed in 1958.
Thank you for your interesting reply. I remember the name Pavey. Was one of your family called Otto Pavey? Did he have a stall in the market or something like that? The name lingers in my memory but I can’t get beyond that. I would be most interested in seeing the photos you mention. Sadly, I don’t have a single photo of the shop apart from a fragment of a torn photograph showing my sister outside. Perhaps I should join Facebook in order to see the pictures. I have avoided doing so that’s far. Anyway, please reply and let’s find a way to communicate. My personal email address is email@example.com.
I lived in Drummond st during the Fifties and the park was our playground that Euston Gardens, Regents Park, Tolmers Square. I went to Netley street school and had great times in the area, playing hide and seek in the great hall in Euston. Seaton street market was another great place to visit. It is so sad that the whole area is being changed. But that’s progress and there’s no way to stop it. I struggle to find pics of Drummond st in the Fifties apart from the few I have.
Another thorough and thought-provoking post. Thank you. On the subject of historic maps online, I wonder if you have used the National Library of Scotland website? http://www.nls.uk
It takes a bit of drilling into, but there is a good selection of historic OS and other maps, covering England as well as Scotland, free. eg this one of the area in your post: http://maps.nls.uk/view/101201493
There is also http://www.old-maps.co.uk, but a subscription is needed to view maps at any useful scale
Lovely postb. London is losing its green spaces far too regularly. There should be a rule that green spaces lost are replaced on or near the original site.
Thanks for another thoroughly interesting post.
Another part of London’s heritage is to give way to concrete and glass monstrocities; in this case so that some people can save 20 minutes getting to Birmingham. Is that a price worth paying? I think not ! Very sad.
Excellent, though sad, post. I wonder if Christies (the firm) are aware of the wanton destruction of the gardens and burial ground? And all in the name of a misguided, monumentally expensive vanity project which we can ill afford.
Fascinating reading – thanks for writing. And I would guess that the John Chapman on the Christie memorial would be the father of his wife Isabella?
Ah, yes. Here we go. From “Memorials of Christies”:
“James Christie I. was an ardent Jacobite, and the names of all his children bear witness of his devotion to this cause. He first married Isabella Chapman, daughter of a Suffolk landowner ; and secondly Mrs. Urquhart, widow of a Scotch wine merchant.”
Thanks for confirming this – good to know.
I always learn so much from your posts – thank you. Sad that this valuable little garden is closing, in an area that has precious little green space.
What superb lettering on the Christie Memorial.
I wonder what will the authorities do with so many remains once they have been removed, 60,000 bodies, will take up a lot of room.
About seven years ago I designed a self-guided trail for Camden Council to link all the green spaces between St James Gardens and St Pancras Old Church. The council had just made attempts to clean up these spaces and wanted to encourage people to visit them. At each of the stops that I had identified, local primary schools worked with a sculptor to devise little markers, each with an image of something that I’d discovered in researching the walk. I now forgot what the children did for St James Gardens, but I wonder if it’s still there, and whether those clearing the space will know what it is and chuck it into a skip.
It surprised me that (if I understand you correctly) the God-fearing Victorians were happy to clear away graves of people who had in some cases been buried only 34 years earlier – the equivalent of graves from 1984 being desecrated today. I wonder what the surviving relatives thought about it.
Anyway, another interesting article about a place I had never heard of. And, as others have said, a shame to lose a green space in central London.
I found this post fascinating and somewhat poignant. The destruction of heritage tends to be a gradual process but huge schemes such as HS2 make it very apparent. Some of my ancestors lived on Drummond Street next to Euston Station. Much of the original line of Drummond Street has already been obliterated by the southward expansion of the station buildings (possibly when the arch was ‘redeveloped’). But there is enough left to the west of the station to see what sort of place it might have been. But last week I found out about the demise of the Brie Louise pub on Coburg Street – a great pub that has twice won the CAMRA pub of the year award – yes, it is to be flattened by HS2. And then I realised the rest of Drummond Street will go too.
Progress may be inevitable but I’m not sure that this grandiose scheme is value for money. Certainly the social costs of the destruction of businesses and heritage never find there way into any cost-benefit analysis. If they did I’m sure HS2 would be stopped immediately. There are alternatives to increasing rail capacity to the North. The disused mainline from St Pancras to Manchester is one. And perhaps use some of that investment to make the Intercity line linking Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle an electric one? What is happening to the Euston area is wrong on so many levels.
In the 1930’s my father had the Jolly Gardeners pub, later known as the Brie Louise, on Cobourg St. A stones throw away was the St. James Gardens. My sister was old enough that she was allowed to take me there. We spent many hours during summer days in that oasis of greenery for us kids.
Sorry to go on about Seaton Place Marketbut the same process that Peter describes is now happening to the pub in Cobourg Street. No attempt is made when the development takes place to retain or recreate any aspect of what was there formerly. A market could easily have been included in the new development when the Euston Road underpass was built and the office space next to it created. A petition was gathered at the time but completely ignored.
This is a disgrace and should never have been allowed, but as usual the council has rolled over like a good little puppy dog having eaten up the tow line of how good this will be for the local people. Never mind the destruction of the local environment or the desicration of an historic and sacred site. There are some things that cannot be replaced and this is one of them. Plant a few piddly little trees somewhere else does not absolve your guilt. And all for a waste of money white elephant project that will coincide with fewer people commuting in 10 years years time as working patterns change and more work from home or local places and more people are replaced by AI. Has noone taken that into account? They reckon around 50% of jobs will go due to AI and they will not be replaced by new sectors of employment – because there arnt any. How dumb can both main political parties be? To buy up this bullshit for short term job creation – even then the contracts are awarded to foreign firms anyway. And loads of short term workers flood over here for to fill the temporary jobs and then what? What when its all over? Nothing, just unemployment and the further draining of welfare support benefits such as the use of NHS services, free education and everything that goes with that. How many more billions of pounds are going to be wasted on top of the current billions?
I am the Archivist at Christie’s and we have known about the memorial for some years. We tried (in vain) to have it moved closer to the company a few years ago. Westminster Council thought it too ‘funereal looking’ for St James’s Square. We still have no idea what is going to happen to it.
Hi Lynda – thanks for your comment, I did wonder if Christies were aware of what was happening at St. James. I do not agree with Westminster Council that the monument looks too funereal. For me, it told a fascinating history of a generation of Londoners and how some ended up all over the world, as well as the origins of the auctioneers. St. James Square would be a perfect location. The posters around the square at the time stated that the monuments would be carefully stored pending a decision on their final destination, what ever that means!
I would be grateful if you could let me know if you do hear where the monument ends up. Thanks, David
St Pancras Parish Church on Euston Rd has offered to take the monuments and tombstones into the south churchyard, subject to community consultation of course, sooner than lose them from the local area….
Terribly sadly they are now cutting down the trees in st James gardens, exhuming bodies inside the tents.
Its an abomination. Among all the lost souls buried here, there are three hero’s, lions , the David Beckam’s of their time. two British and one American.
Namely Henry Pearce, Bill Warr and Bill Richmond. They were boxing legends of the nineteen century.
There were no blue plaques or monuments erected to highlight their lives and now their graves are going to be plundered.
Would this happen to other well known hero’s ?
The people concerned with these actions are heartless, money making monsters and they will be remembered in history with shame.
They are taking away our history, character and leaving us with another piece of concrete, which some now call London. This is what our future generations will inherit.
I’m a Canadian who is saddened to learn of the further desecration of this former cemetery. In 1809 a Scot by the name of Col. Robert Stewart, a veteran of the American theatre of the Seven Years’ War (called the French and Indian War by Americans) died in Hampstead. He is said to have been buried in a vault in St. James Chapel which stood at the west end of the St. James Burying Ground, later St. James Gardens. The church disappeared sometime before 1896. Stewart commanded the Virginia Light Horse cavalry and was a close military associate and personal friend of General George Washington who later became the first president of the USA. Does anyone know what may have become of the remains of those who had been buried within this chapel? Are their extant records relating to the relocation of these remains? Whose remains and where did they end up?
My parents were married in St James’ and I was Baptised there, as was my sister. Several aunts and uncles married there. My family were the regular congregation in the 40’s and early 50’s and my father the organist until the church was closed in 1952(?) and we were all dispersed to other churches in the area.
It wouldn’t be so bad if this really was progress, but this is a wasteful vanity project. If HS2 was going to be any use to the country it should have linked directly into HS1 and on to Europe. As it is the money could be much better spent elsewhere, and much of it outside London.
Thanks, Christopher, for this information. In an earlier post on this web-site (the post immediately preceding yours) I stated that the church disappeared sometime before 1896. That statement was based on something I read but I subsequently learned that my source was erroneous. I now understand that St. James Church was demolished in 1964, which would suggest, based also on your information, that it was unused for a bit more than a decade before being demolished. Since you and your family were closely connected to this church, do you have any knowledge of what became of the human burials (remains) that took place in vaults beneath the church? Also, I’d like to know what became of any bronze? plaques that presumably would have identified who was buried in these vaults.
Checking on my old photo albums I find I have several photos of the interior of the church that my father took shortly before it closed. I could scan them and send them to you if they’re of any interest. According to the notes the church closed for worship at Easter 1954, but I seem to remember that it wasn’t demolished until sometime after 1960 as it occurred after I left school in that year. One of my photos is of a large wall memorial on the south side of the chancel arch which I believe was to Cecil Rhodes of Rhodesia fame! I remember (although I was only a teenager at the time) that there was a lot of noise about clearing the vaults which might have been why demolition was so long delayed. I think the remains were taken to a cemetery somewhere in the east London suburbs. The church was only reduced to around 6 feet high and its site used for many years as a staff car park for the hospital. Sadly virtually the whole generation of my family who were connected with the church are no more so there’s little else I can tell you.
Many of my ancestors were born and died in St James’ Parish. Is there any way of finding out if they are buried there and if they are being moved? Will any of those being moved be identified and their next destination recorded please?
I have ancestors from Somers Town, which included this, so I would take that there is some chance they were buried there. Or in St Pancras Old churchyard, but as that seems to be full of toffs and notables, probably not. What, if anything, is left of Somers Town??
Very interesting article.
I have an ancestor who was buried in a vault beneath the church (inscription below). I assumed he was still there somewhere. I have repeatedly contacted HS2 as to where the 40,00 (possibly 60,00) are being reinterred, but have had absolutely no response. I recently learned that those who were buried in vaults beneath the church could have been moved in the 1950s or early 60s could have been moved to Brookwood Cemetery.
My Nan and Grandad (Alice and Joseph Hill) lived in Seaton Street for a while and I can just about remember a market in that area.
This is the inscription: CHARLES HILL, 1832
IN A VAULT OF THIS CHAPEL ARE DEPOSITED THE REMAINS OF
CHARLES HILL OF MORNINGTON PLACE PANCRAS
WHO DIED MARCH THE 5TH. 1832 AGED 68 YEARS
THIS TABLET IS ERECTED TO HIS MEMORY
AS A SMALL TRIBUTE OF DUTY AND AFFECTION
BY HIS ONLY DAUGHTER
SARAH JERMYN Hill
I finally had a response from HS2 regarding the exhumations at St James’ gardens:
The human remains will be reburied in consecrated ground, in accordance with our commitment to the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Our archaeologists will carry out scientific analysis on a proportion of the burials, as agreed with Historic England and the Archbishops’ Council.
The monuments and grave stones will be examined and recorded by archaeologists and removed from site to be stored safely elsewhere while we consult with the relevant authorities on their future use.
If you would like to know more specific information, I can ask any questions you may have to our archaeologists we have working the site.
I guess that’s a start.
What will happen to the plaque at the entrance from Hampstead Road commemoration the opening of the burial ground as a public garden?
Thank you for an outstanding photographic record of St. James Gardens as I remember them on my visit to London in 2014. It is indeed sad to see the green space and so many trees lost forever.
On a positive, but selfish, note the finding of the remains of Capt. Matthew Flinders RN 1774 – 1814 was something I had feared might never happen, as a letter written in the late 1800s by his daughter suggested that his grave and its contents had been removed before 1850.
The 2014 memorial to Capt. Flinders is at Euston Station, and we await news as to where his mortal remains will be reburied.
Update concerning the reburial of Capt Matthew Flinders 1774 – 1814.
He will be reburied inside St. Mary & the Holy Rood at Donington, Lincolnshire on 17 July 2020. See http://www.matthewflinders.net for further details including the commemorative service at Lincoln Cathedral the following day.
It’s wonderful they have found the remains of Capt. Matthew Flinders. I have a relative buried there also. I have been told that the remains discovered so far are in ‘storage’ and may be moved to Brookwood Cemetery. The notables may be going to St Pancras Church.
Thank you, Jeane Hill, for your two posts of last November and one post during the present month of January. I’m particularly interested in your post of November 16, 2018 regarding the removal of human remains from the vaults beneath St. James Church and re-internment. A distant relative of mine was buried in a vault beneath St. James Church. I don’t know how well his remains were identified (perhaps a plaque with his name and a few words about him). I would like to know where the remains removed from the vaults are currently being stored, where the plaques or other identification markers are currently being held, whether these remains will in fact be buried at Brookwood Cemetery, and if so, when? Also, what will become of the plaques? Who can provide me with such information?
Earle Lockerby I have only been getting vague information from HS2 via e mail. My great, great grandfather Charles Hill was buried beneath the chapel and had a plaque. His remains I have been told were possibly removed to Brookwood Cemetery but as far as I know there were no identification markers to confirm this (ie coffin plates etc.) HS2 don’t seem to want to disclose where the current exhumations are stored and when they will be moved at present (I keep trying.) Some of these again I believe will be going to Brookwood and as for the notables, St Pancras Church have expressed an interest in having. firstname.lastname@example.org can direct specific questions at archaeologists if you have a relative buried there.
I’m not sure that the following e-mail exchange adds much to our understanding of what has transpired with regard to burials beneath the former St. James Chapel. My initial e-mail was directed to ‘HS2 enquiries’ and the person who responded was Christina Cojocaru, Helpdesk Advisor, HS2 Ltd. In any event, here are the questions asked and responses received (Ms. Cojocaru’s phone number and e-mail address are included at the end of her first response):
A relative of mine, Robert Stewart, was buried in a vault beneath St. James Church in the early 19th century. I don’t know how well his remains were identified (perhaps a plaque with his name and a few words about him). I would like to know where the remains removed from the vaults are currently being stored, where the plaques or other identification markers are currently being held, whether these remains will in fact be buried at Brookwood Cemetery, and if so, when? Also, what will become of the plaques? These are reasonable questions and deserve reasonable answers. Please provide answers. If you are personally unable to do so, please forward this e-mail to someone who is in authority and can provide answers. If some of these questions cannot be answered at this time on account of plans not having yet been completed, please just say so.
Some transparency on this matter is required.
Dear Mr Lockerby,
Thank you for contacting us with your question about the St James’s Chapel Vault.
The area previously occupied by the Chapel is part of the St James’s Burial Ground Site, and is undergoing investigation currently, along with the rest of the Ground. We have excavated the entire Chapel Vault to foundation level, and have found no burials within it and no monuments or other evidence of who was buried there. This accords with archive research carried out by our team, which refers to records held by the Diocesan Advisory Council showing that arrangements were made for the removal of the remains in the vaults in the 1960s. There is no information with this research to show where the remains were taken.
Cristina Cojocaru | Helpdesk Advisor | HS2 Ltd
Tel: 08081434434 | email@example.com
Dear Ms. Cojocaru,
Thank you for your response. I just want to ensure that I understand correctly what has taken place. When you speak of excavation having occurred ‘to foundation level,’ do you mean that excavation has taken place down to the bottom of the foundation of the former chapel? In other words, excavation has taken place to some depth below ground level?
Two other questions: a) is it planned to do any further excavation to a greater depth within the foundation perimeter? b) Has the excavation to date within the foundation perimeter shown any evidence of cavities wherein entombments may have existed? In other words, are you seeing evidence of the vaults from which remains were removed in the 1960s?
I look forward to learning of additional archaeological information.
Our archaeologists have now completed the excavation and removal of the entire Chapel Vault, including its foundations.
The archaeological record of the Vault will be published in due course, but we can confirm that nothing was observed that would indicate who was buried in the Vault prior to it being emptied in the 1960s.
It strikes me that Ms. Cojocaru has provided ‘stock answers.’ If the HS2 organization has no knowledge of the proceedings of the 1960s relating to the vaults and their remains, then who does? Ms. Cojocaru offers nothing in this regard.
I would approach the relevant diocese office as she refers to the HS2 team working to records held by the ‘Diocese Advisory Council’. I assume they gave permission for and over saw the emptying of the vault in the 1960’s as Ms Cojocaru states.
They should also hold all records of any interments formerly moved over the years.
I would also think it was their duty to eventually hold all the details of those being exhumed now, especially those identifiable. I doubt whether the HS2 archeological team will archive their findings so the diocese would be the obvious choice unless they deposit the information direct to the Public Records Office.
Hi Eric, as you say, they seem to be stock answers. Your relative seems to have been buried in the same area as mine ie under the chapel. I was told by the London Westminster & Middlesex Family History Society, that when the chapel was demolished in the late 50s there were some remains moved to Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey and reburied. I have been unable to find out more. Due to ill health I can’t get to Brookwood easily. Initially it seemed like all those from St James were being moved to Brookwood but I’m not sure that is the case as they are still in storage ‘somewhere’ HS2 seem reluctant to say where exactly.
Ms Cristina Cojocaru is not at fault. As stated, the vaults of St James’ Church were emptied in the early 1960’s prior to the demolition of the church to approximately ground level. The site was then used as a car park for the National Temperance Hospital. I was a regular worshipper at the church and lived in the area until around 1966 and remember its demolition. This is all long before HS2 was dreamt of. You need to address you questions to the London Diocesan authorities.
Thank you Christopher, for your suggestion. I ‘ve today sent an e-mail to the vicar of the Parish of St. Pancras, since the Parish of St. James was absorbed into the Parish of St. Pancras. My query may get redirected within the church hierarchy, but we shall see what sort of response, if any, may come out of it.
Incidentally, and quite coincidentally, I can inform my UK friends that CBC TV (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) carried a 4-minute segment today on its prime-time evening news program about the massive HS2 archaeological excavation program now taking place in St. James Garden. The TV camera and CBC reporter were right in among the personnel doing the digging under a massive canopy, and some of them were interviewed. The piece came across in a generally positive light and was handled sensitively. Perhaps for some ‘balance,’ one unnamed, local, older woman was interviewed who have her dissenting views about “the whole business.”
I have just received this information from the London, Westminster and Middlesex Family History Society. It may be of interest to anyone with relatives buried at St James Chapel.
The vaults of St James Chapel, Hampstead Road, were cleared in 1964 prior to the chapel, then in a dangerous condition, being demolished. The remains were reburied at Goodwood Cemetery at Woking in Surrey on 2 June 1964, Burial No: 221717. The Brookwood Cemetery Society can be contacted here: http://www.tbcs.org.uk and Surrey History Centre, who hold the original Burial Registers, at: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/surreyhistoryservice
They (LWMFHS) also have a useful guide for the cahpel with details of inscriptions: https://www.genfair.co.uk/search.php?category&product_county&Submit=Search&search=monumental+inscriptions&county&sid=391&order=score&fbclid=IwAR34uu8TAGH8SUPImGhEluPUjrytKg45WldZU9P5NcWVIphvy0s2PMPo07o
I have received a reply from Brookwood Cemetery following a grave search (For my relative Charles Hill) and it mentions about the reburials from St James Chapel at the time:
I have searched through around 11,000 records over the last days and I have found a match from the
Reburials area off St Pancras Avenue (plot 62 and adjacent area)
During the demolition work, the vaults were cleared of human remains during June- August 1964. The
project involved the recording of the inscriptions on the tablets in the church and on those in the vault. The
tablets were then crafted and removed to the diocesan store. 474 case of human remains were removed to
Brookwood, and further 428 identifiable human remains were reburied in private graves. Assuming these
graves were adjacent to the mass grave, their location remains unclear.
One grave number is given to all reburials, we would not obtain individual records of the deceased reburied
here at Brookwood Cemetery because the clearance of the vaults and crypts may not have had coffin with
name plates. I have searched for the late Charles Hill, and i have not been able to find any records of his
It would have been up to the Parishes to pay for a marker/ memorial to be installed on the plot, and I
believe that there is no marker or memorial.
I received the same information as did Jeane Trend-Hill. It came in the form of an unsigned, undated letter that was e-mailed to me by Maria Giordano, Brookwood Cemetery Administration Assistant. It would seem that this letter went out to a number (at least two) of people at the same time, including Ms. Trend-Hill and myself. The letter raises new questions. It states that the inscriptions on the tablets in the church and in the vaults beneath the church were recorded and that “the tablets were then crafted and removed to a the diocesan store.” Questions on my mind are:
1. If the inscriptions were recorded, where are these records now?
2. Why would tablets be “crafted,” i.e., made? Would it not be a question of simply salvaging existing tablets?
3. By “store,” is a place of storage meant? I hope that “store” does not mean retail outlet!
4. Where is the “store” and can the items that came to the “store” from St. James Chapel be viewed by members of the public?
5. Which diocese is Ms. Giordano referring to? Presumably, it is the one under which the Parish of St. Pancras falls, but that is simply an assumption on my part — and even if that is a correct assumption, I don’t know the name of the diocese.
I am trying to obtain answers from both Ms. Giordano and from the vicar of the Parish of St. Pancras. If this leads to any helpful information, I shall post it.
Shocking destruction of a truely beautiful london green space.I will miss the beautiful trees especially on a wonderful early summer morning…the old hospital around the corner is flattened too….the disturbance of all the dead souls is absolutely terrible all for a ridiculous railway project I hope george Osbourne is made to pay for this outrage.
Britain really is becoming a sad place to live…
It’s heartbreaking. My G Grandfather was buried in the chapel. I was told he was moved to Brookwood Cemetery but despite numerous enquires all I can find is an approx area where he might be now. St James was my childhood play area, my cut through to walk to work, a part of my life. I miss it terribly.
I have just found out that my 7th Great Grandfather John Robert Brunton, an actor of some repute was buried in St James Churchyard on 18th July 1848. Very frustrating that nobody seems to know where the remains and tombstones are now. There are few enough clues to our ancestors without destroying the ones there are.
Totally agree its absolutely shameful
All these bodies are now being buried at Brookwood cemetery in Surrey.
The bodies from St James church crypt where buried here between 2 June – 14 August 1964. About 900 bodies at a cost of about 20,000 pounds.
All the parish burial are now United at Brookwood
Barry Devonshire the Brookwood Cemetery Society
Sept 15th. BBC 2. The first of a three part series ‘Britain’s Biggest Dig’ is being broadcast at 21.00.
“The construction of the HS2 high-speed railway is an enterprise costing billions. A small but hugely significant part of the budget is being spent on archaeological work along the railway’s route. Beginning a three-part series, Dr Yasmin Khan and Professor Alice Roberts follow excavations at St James Gardens, Euston, site of a Georgian-era burial ground.”
What awful behaviour digging up the park and graves as long as I live I will have absolutely nothing to do with HS2.
I personally think that The tragedy is the destruction of a london green space the burials being disturbed for what I believe is a white elephant railways.
But to put it in context burial are always being disturbed in London with development.
But at least today human remains are treated with much more dignity by archeologists a undertaker’s than the past. And we learn much about history via archeology.
And I will continue to tell there life stories at there new resting place at Brookwood Cemetery
Totally agree. The monsters responsible for this desecration should be ashamed. They are not worthy to be called human beings. Just greedy, inconsiderate creatures and will be remembered in history as such.
Another piece of London’s history gone forever all for the sake of expanding the railway all the people interred there for 200 years decimated i wonder how they would feel unfortunately the dead will never know
Does anybody know when the bodies are to be re-interred at Brookwood? And whether that will be done with any ceremony?
The bodies are being reinterred at the moment . Many weeks work I images.. behind a green hoarding in a 60 x 60 meter plot.
I am in touch with the cemetery manager
With post if I hear about a service I will bpost
Brian the green hoarding have been up many weeks and work is going on inside. Many weeks I would think. I in touch with the Cemetery management and will post when I know.
Not sure a about a service. Perhaps st james piccadilly will know.
The memories of Seaton Street market are fascinating. It was on my paper round. The Temperance hospital was built around the chapel and there were excavation of graves in the chapel area in the late 1950’s. A neighbour of ours in Cartmel went to have a look. My grandfather was in the Temperance and I would like to know if he was buried in St James’s gardens. Does anybody know where the names are listed?
The register is on deceased on line
Does anyone know the location and if there is a memorial in St Pancras cemetery to the remains removed from St James in the 1880’s when Euston Station added platforms.
@Phill Oakley, My Nan used to go to Seaton St market.
The London Westminster & Middlesex Family History Society https://lwmfhs.org.uk/ have details of the burials from the chapel and St James graveyard (and a booklet.) I had a relative in the chapel but though they found the inscription, they can’t find him since his remains were moved to Brookwood when the chapel was closed. My Nan and other relatives in the area were buried in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery.
In my research papers I I have the the receipt for the 1966 chapel reinterments at Brookwood. It states photo s were taken at the time. I am trying to trace them. Little more information
The Chapel seems to have been demolished 1961..does anyone know what was built on the site in 1966. It is besides the Hampstead Road. The opposite side of the garden from Euston station
I was brought up attending St James and still lived in the area when it was demolished. As I remember the walls were reduced to around 6ft high and the site used as a staff car park the hospital.
Thanks Christopher I am trying to get the story together so I can tell it to the visitors to Brookwood Cemetery.
Regards Barry Devonshire
I watched an extract recently of “Britain’s Biggest Dig” from the BBC and the person filmed retrieving the remains of Capt. Matthew Flinders RN said “we knew within a yard or two where he was buried”. I am not sure if this was artistic license, or not, because in the early 1900s the author Ernest Scott who was researching the life of Matthew Flinders tried to ascertain where the grave was and was unable to get any information from those in charge of the area. If HS2 have the map of the original burial locations then it is a document that should be in the public domain.
Does anyone know of such a document ?
In February 2019 I wrote to HS2 and asked for the GPS co-ordinates and received notification that such were not available at that time but would be released. I wrote again in February this year and got a similar answer. I have just written again and the reply reads “due to COVID 19 we are not able to answer your query at this time”.
Until the start of January 2019 the rumour was that Matthew Flinders was buried under an existing platform at Euston, and this likely started from the comments Matthew’s daughter Ann (Flinders) Petrie wrote subsequent to the visit to the burial grounds circa 1850 by her aunt Tyler (Isabella) .
”Many years afterwards (from the burial) my aunt Tyler went to look for his grave, but found the churchyard remodeled, and quantities of tombstones and graves with their contents had been carted away as rubbish, among them that of my unfortunate father, thus pursued by disaster after death as in life.”
The assumption made by others in recent times that the debris was removed to the back of the burial ground adjacent to the west side of the then Euston Station which was further expanded in the 1850s, and then again later as well as being cleared of most monuments to become St. James Park.
We have yet to to find out where his remains will end up being reburried. Not all the remains are coming to Brookwood.
He was to have been re-buried inside St. Mary & the Holy Rood, Donington, Lincolnshire on the 17th of July this year, but then the COVID 19 situation changed those plans. Perhaps the event will take place in July 2021.
How tragic. I just discovered my Dad’s Great Grandfather Randolph Hollywell was buried here in 1824, and I Googled it with a view for a visit. No need to now as I’m assuming by now the whole site is probably buried beneath concrete. Previously an Archaeologist myself, I find this just awfully sad.
A fascinating post (and comments too). There’s an interesting entry for St James Church (aka St James Chapel) in a volume of the Survey of London, published in 1949 by London County Council and available at British History Online:
I also found an HS2 page which gives a wealth of information on the site and the archaeological excavations:
Forgive me for quoting at length:
“The Chapel was constructed between 1791 – 1793 and was in use until the 1960s when it was demolished following bomb damage during World War II. The Chapel measured 90ft by 60ft and the crypt beneath it was consecrated for burials. Both the chapel and the associated school house and residence were designed by noted church architect Thomas Hardwick.”
“Archaeological excavations conducted as part of HS2’s enabling works completely uncovered the remains of the chapel showing the footprint of the brick structure, compartmentalised vaults and associated vault numbering system. The vaults were cleared during the 1960s prior to demolition so no human remains were found during the course of the archaeological investigation. No funerary monuments were found either and it is likely these were removed prior to demolition.”
“The records indicate that the persons interred within the chapel crypt were removed and reburied in Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey prior to the 1960s demolition work.”
“A key finding has been the fact that none of the funerary monuments were removed from the burial ground following its closure in 1853. They were simply buried by imported material (taken from other sites of Victorian London). Over 700 monuments have been identified to date although unfortunately most were not found to be in their original location. … The monuments have been recorded, cleaned and stored for further study.”
“We have already learned a lot about the burial ground through the main phase of excavation which took place over the last year. The burial ground was exceptionally well organised which is incredible when you consider how many people were buried in a relatively small area. However, we also now know that the upper, middle and lower grounds were less populous than previously anticipated, meaning that a larger number of burials than was previously thought must have been removed as part of the works to expand Euston Station in the 1880s.
“Originally 128 funerary monuments were visible in the gardens (most of these were arranged around the perimeter on the south side), however the excavations have revealed over 900 additional buried monuments which provides a wealth of historic and biographical data. Unfortunately, many of the monuments relating to some of the more notable or historically significant parishioners had already been removed so we have been unable to locate the monument to artists Charles Rossi, John Hoppner or George Moreland or those of Lord George Gordon or Captain Matthew Flinders. Many of the monuments show evidence of bomb damage as a result of the heavy bombing of Euston during World War II. Some of the memorials were pitted as a result of shrapnel damage while others were sheared in half from the force of bombs detonating.”
As I have previously mentioned, my parents were married in St James’s and I worshipped here with my extended family from my birth until the church closed in 1954. I had not seen the link to british-history before and would draw attention to the fact that there is a serious error in this entry. It was the south gallery that was truncated to make way for the Lady Chapel, not the north! I have photos taken by my father shortly before the church closed to prove it, but can’t see how I can upload them?