The Outcast Dead...

by David Swatton October. 22, 2012 3778 views

More of the strange things I came across… this time not so humorous - just the opposite in fact.

The quality of the pictures is kind of irrelevant to the post.

In the shadow of the latest icon of modernity is a throwback to ancient times - the memorial of Corssbones Graveyard in Southwark. To understand what this is about we need to go back over 800 years to the reign of Henry II in the 12th century. He passed an “ordinance” which gave the Bishop of Winchester the power to licence the “stewes” of Southwark - essentially brothels - levying rents, fines etc from these establishments.

At the same time, in its pious magnanimity, the church decreed that prostitutes should be denied Christian burial in consecrated ground. Therefore it was left to their friends and relatives to inter them in places such as this - Crossbones Graveyard… these women became known as the Outcast Dead. Over the years Crossbones evolved into a general paupers' graveyard until it was finally closed in the mid 19th century.

It was rediscovered 20 odd years ago when the Jubilee Line was being extended and they tunnelled through it and found themselves confronted by hundreds of skeletons. It has been estimated that over 15000 people were buried here.

So why the memorial now… which is constantly refreshed with new offerings, mementos, messages?

The place has become a symbol for the campaign of current workers in the sex industry to have a voice and to be recognised and not still to be viewed as the “outcast”. Each month there is a vigil held here when more recent outcast women are remembered.

It's a sad indictment of our so-called civilised society that such a term still has meaning…

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Helen Hooker 8 years ago

A very sad tale but very educational - there's so much of it history that I don't know. Thanks for sharing these photos and info.

8 years ago Edited
Gillian Parsons 8 years ago

Another lesson learnt, thank you, great post you never know what you will come across next.

8 years ago Edited
S&M 8 years ago

Fascinating and very, very unfortunate. I'm having an on-going discussion with a friend about which nation is more obsessed about its history, "England" (to make that one short) or France. Don't tell her, but I suspect it's a sign o' the times when we use history to justify a moral / political / economic take on the present (although we have always done that - I believe the phenomenon is referred to as "chronocentrism"). Fact is, your post scores an extra point for my friend. Oops.

8 years ago Edited
Marilyn Grimble 8 years ago

I learn something everyday ... I had to GOOGLE this to find out more...

8 years ago Edited
Jacki 8 years ago

How very interesting... I think you underestimate the power of your photos.

8 years ago Edited