Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Historic Graves Destroyed by Chunnel Link Diggers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Historic Graves Destroyed by Chunnel Link Diggers

Article excerpt


MORE THAN 1,000 graves are being destroyed by contractors building the King's Cross Channel Tunnel terminal in what government advisers have called "a desecration" and "an outrage against human dignity".

Archaeologists excavating human remains from up to 2,000 graves have been suddenly ordered off the site of the Camley Street Cemetery at St Pancras as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link company (CTRL) prepares to start digging them out. They had completed work on only about 100 graves.

The experts wanted to identify the graves and then contact living relatives of the dead. They also believed they could gather vital information which would help build up a picture of life in London during the Industrial Revolution.

"There will be many people alive who have relatives buried in this graveyard," said Simon Thurley, chief executive of the government archaeology watchdog English Heritage. "The archaeologists were excavating these remains with respect, as they are required to do. Normally that is done using sheets to protect the remains from public view, and with meticulous care.

"Now, instead, the company will be sending bulldozers straight through the lot, loading the soil, bones, bits of coffin and name plates into what they call a muck- away truck. Archaeologists will then pick over them for bones.

"It is a total desecration of human remains. If this were happening anywhere else - if it were an aboriginal cemetery somewhere, for example - there would be an outcry. It is outrageous that they can just drive through a churchyard - people's grandparents and great-grandparents - in this way."

English Heritage is powerless to act, despite what it says is the invaluable record the graveyard contains of life in London, with the most recent of the graves dating from 1854.

CTRL - which operates under a special Act of Parliament, giving it virtual carte blanche - has obtained a Home Office licence to remove the graves, although English Heritage says it is missing the usual clause insisting on their "respectful and dignified removal".

A CTRL spokesman said: "It has been known for many years that essential CTRL works at St Pancras would involve the removal of human remains and we have all the relevant permissions required to do so. …

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