Monday, 31 March 2014

Crossrail workers dig up plague victims

Yes, the Crossrail is being built across London. This is an underground tunnel that will combine East and West London without having to stop at various tube stations and make changes along the way. Now, some people would claim this massively convenient way of getting across town will be bad for business, but actually we don't think it will be. You see, most of our work is contracted and involves driving various important foreign guests around London. Their hosts would never put them on a train and, more importantly, they are rarely crossing London, mostly they are going from Heathrow into town. Actually, what we're anticipating is actually it should ease (if only slightly) congestion on London's roads.

Anyway, back to the title, one of the more peculiar stories to come out of the construction of these tunnels is the various things that get dug up along the way, in this case it's victims of the Black Death. For those who don't know, the bubonic plague spread across Europe in the 1350s and wiped out millions as it spread. Nowadays, outbreaks can be treated with antibiotics that weren't available at the time.

Crossrail excavations at Charterhouse Square

During the "great pestilence" there were two mass graves set up outside the City walls at East Smithfield and Farringdon, some a further out in Blackheath (hence the name) and stretch as far as Gravesend (hence the name). In March 2013, Crossrail workers uncovered 25 skeletons along with 14th Century pottery.

Tests on 12 of these Skeletons have been returned now and apparently they can tell all sorts from skeletons that are 500 years old. The first thing is that most of them were malnourished and had rickets. Some had bad spinal injuries consistent with heavy labour and the strangest conclusion was that some were from as far north as Scotland, indicating London was as attractive to others as far back as 1450.

The digging is only about half way through so who knows what else they'll unearth along the way, probably some of the victims of the Krays as they enter East London. What we do know is, London has a rich and vibrant history and we're learning more about it every day.

To book a car in London instead of being underground with the plague, click here

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