June 24, 2009 8:58 AM   Subscribe

What are the locations of known plague pits in London, and are any maps available showing them?
posted by Artw to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There are definitely plague pits around Christ Church in Spitalfields, and according to this BBC article there are some in East Smithfield, too. Other sites suggest a 'Great Pit' in Aldgate.

This site says: "As recently as 1999, Museum of London archaeologists excavating a 12?acre site adjoining the Spitalfields Market, across from the Church, found plague pits, the remains of a mediaeval priory and yet another Roman cemetery."

And finally, this Ch. 4 history site says: "The majority of records for the location of burial pits are piecemeal and parochial. Most parishes had to resort to larger pits simply because of the sheer number of bodies they had to dispose of. These pits can be traced in the parish churchwarden's accounts, where payment for digging was recorded. It's then a question of consulting the various 17th-century maps and identifying the location. Some books on London burial sites were published in the late 19th-century, but because of property development, many of these sites have since been built over. "
posted by lhall at 9:20 AM on June 24, 2009

Here's a map that includes a lot of burial places from various time periods, but should also have some plague-era stuff.
posted by lhall at 9:26 AM on June 24, 2009

The librarians at the Wellcome collection probably can help with finding the "books on London burial sites were published in the late 19th-century" (after all they hosted the skeletons of London exhibition). They also have engravings. Yikes.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 9:31 AM on June 24, 2009

"Burial of the Plague Dead in Early Modern London" cites Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year: "In the 1665 plague, at St Dunstan in the West, the first pits were dug in mid-August; at St Bride's, as we have seen, in late August. At St Botolph Aldgate a number of pits were dug in August, but the 'great pit' in the churchyard, and which came to contain over a thousand bodies, received its first corpse on 6 September, according to Defoe's account...[.]

He mentions 'the great pit in Finsbury Fields', and lists sites or grounds (not necessarily pits) near Goswell Street, in Shoreditch, at Moorfields, and off Bishopsgate Street, and eight in the huge parish of Stepney."
posted by steef at 9:48 AM on June 24, 2009

In case it's not referenced in above links, Bunhill Fields in London fits the bill. Also a nice little cemetery to check out.
posted by np312 at 12:37 PM on June 24, 2009

My first thought was Blackheath in SE London, as I have a friend who lives there and he told me there were thousands of plague bodies buried beneath it. But a quick look at the Wikipedia page for the area suggests this is something of an urban myth.
posted by uk_giffo at 12:41 PM on June 24, 2009

I can recommend a good plague pit from my youth. Vincent Square in Pimlico has never been developed because it was a plague pit. It was also our school cricket pitch.
Picture and map:
posted by roofus at 1:42 PM on June 24, 2009

I was about to suggest Blackheath - but apparently not.
posted by Jofus at 5:23 AM on June 25, 2009

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