Stow, in his Survey of London in 1603, describes the burial site as being appointed to single women forbidden the rites of the church so long as they continued a sinful life. However, by Victorian times, when the area was stricken by poverty and disease, the site was used as a pauper’s burial ground.
Archaeological digs for the Jubilee Line extension uncovered evidence of a highly overcrowded graveyard with bodies piled on top of each other, and tests have shown that many of the bodies are of women and children with diseases ranging from smallpox and TB to vitamin D deficiency.
The graveyard was finally closed in 1853 on the grounds that it was ‘completely overcharged with dead’ and that further burials were ‘inconsistent with a due regard for the public health and public decency’.
You can view (no entry permitted) crossbones garden / graveyard on the cultural walk.