Following on from my earlier post about the demolition of my primary school, my sister passed on an article from the local paper about the ‘roots’ of Prior Weston primary school.
From ?Islington Tribune?, September 2, 2005
?Plague? bodies dig at school
Bodies may soon be removed from a ‘Plague pit’ under a Finsbury primary school and nursery, writes Mark Blunden.
Eleven trial pits have already been dug at Prior Weston Primary and Fortune Park Early Years Centre in Whitecross Street, but no human remains have yet been discovered.
Hundreds of bodies may have to be moved so new school buildings can be built on the City Bunhill Disused Burial Ground.
An Islington Council public notice published yesterday (Thursday), states. “It is necessary to remove certain human remains and/or render certain graves.”
The council said removal methods approved by English Heritage mean there will be no public health risk from any excavation.
Peter Powell, chairman of Islington Archaeology and History Society, said: “It may well have been a plague pit because it is just outside the City walls.
“That’s the only real answer unless the remains were from a proper graveyard. Prior Weston, like many schools, has a church foundation.?
The Prior Weston site borders Bunhill Fields, one of the largest burial grounds in Europe. It is the final resting place for thousands of Quakers.
Prior Weston was built in the 1970s, but the records covering the site?s use before that have disappeared because they were held by the old London County Council, not the Town Hall.
Archaeologists believe the ground could contain the remains of monks and parishioners from a church on the site around 300 years ago. Bodies from the 1665 plague were routinely buried outside the city walls, making Whitecross Street a prime location.
The failure of the trial pits to discover bodies could mean they have already been removed, although there is no record of this.
Researchers believe the last of the Prior Weston bodies may have been buried 50 years ago.
If corpses are found in the next two months, the site will be disinfected and the bodies reburied ?in fresh shells or other such containers? The remains will be taken ?without undue delay?’ to East Finchley Crematorium for burial or cremation.
Anyone who believes a relative may be buried at Prior Weston is asked to contact the Department of Constitutional Affairs, Coroners’ Division.
Islington’s Lib Dem environment chief, Councillor Bridget Fox, said: “In a historical and densely populated borough like Islington, we foresee an archaeological aspect to large-scale planning applications. We have been praised by English Heritage for our sensitive and careful work in this area. Our use of their approved methods will ensure the clearing of the site is done safely and respectfully.”
Perhaps that accounts for the way I’ve turned out. I’m a plague baby! Sired in the midst of filthy corpses and well-meaning socialists! Unclean! Unclean!