Goswell Road bones: Remains of up to 2,000 people found in King Square, Finsbury

PUBLISHED: 12:30 21 October 2016 | UPDATED: 12:56 21 October 2016

The scene of the construction site off Goswell Road, Finsbury, in January

The scene of the construction site off Goswell Road, Finsbury, in January


Archeologists have incredibly discovered remains of up to 2,000 people dating back to the 16th century at a Finsbury building site, the Gazette can today reveal.

An osteologist from Mola inspects the humam remains. Picture: MolaAn osteologist from Mola inspects the humam remains. Picture: Mola

Police were called to King Square off Goswell Road in January after construction workers began to unearth the bones.

But officers were told their investigative skills were not required when archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeolgy (Mola) said they were likely to be from the Victorian era.

They worked with exhumation specialists Rowland Brothers to remove the bones and, nine months on, it can be disclosed they pulled between 1,000 and 2,000 remains from the ground – and their age had been underestimated.

Experts at Mola say the original burial dates remain a mystery but are likely to be as early as the 16th or 17th century. They reckon the remains were dug up from different sites due to development 100 years later and then reburied in shallow graves in King Square.

"We want to make sure these historical bones are given a dignified reburial, so we have created a dedicated place at Islington Cemetery where they will be laid to rest"

Cllr Claudia Webbe

Mola said no definitive explanation for the huge number of remains could be found. One theory is they came from the old St Bartholomew’s Hospital site, but the museum said it was not a plague pit used during The Great Plague of 1665.

Professors also discovered three of the human skull fragments showed injuries, one likely to be from a sword or an axe.

Another man’s skull showed possible evidence of medical treatment in the form of a circular hole similar to the ones used in trepanation, which is where doctors drill a hole in the skill to relieve swelling after an injury.

But Mola believes the treatment didn’t work too well, as the bones had not healed at all and the individual appeared to have died soon after.

There was also signs of trauma and disease in other bones, including a healed femur fracture, two examples of chronic bone disorder Paget’s disease and one adult with rickets.

The bones are now set to be reburied in Islington Cemetery with a memorial plaque.

The town hall’s environment chief Cllr Claudia Webbe said: “We want to make sure these historical bones are given a dignified reburial, so we have created a dedicated place at Islington Cemetery where they will be laid to rest with a memorial plaque.

“The site will also become the final resting place for other historical bones found in Islington, with future developers committing to work with Islington Cemetery Services to rebury in a dignified way any bones that are similarly discovered.”

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