St. Bride's lower churchyard cemetery summary

St. Bride's Lower Cemetery, 75-82 Farringdon Street, forms part of the population who lived in the parish of St. Bride's during the 17th - 19th centuries.

The cemetery was the result of overcrowding of the actual churchyard linked to St. Bride's church, Fleet Street and believed to date mainly from the late 18th -19th century (1770-1849) (Miles & Conheeney 2005).

A total of 606 individuals were excavated with 544 available for analysis. The majority were orientated east-west, with only 30 orientated north south. Most were recorded as having been buried in wooden coffins.

The individuals were recovered from two areas; the vault with 47 individuals and the remaining 497 individuals from the open yard. The burials were densely packed and it was estimated that the skeletal assemblage available for analysis represented approximately 50% of the cemetery population.

The cemetery most likely contained individuals from Bridewell workhouse and Fleet prison, which were located nearby. The majority of the burials from the cemetery were of low socioeconomic status.

The population is well documented through the parish records, which provide detailed information of the individuals and their cause of death, however, the cemetery, being of low status, had very few coffin plates present.

Preservation

The preservation of the skeletal remains was excellent with 95% in good condition (table 1). The skeletal completeness was likewise excellent.

Preservation N= %
Good 516 94.8
Medium 23 4.6
Poor 5 0.9

Table 1 Skeletal preservation

Skeletal completeness St. Bride's lower

Figure 1 Skeletal completeness (N=544)

Demography

Child mortality was high and overall 32% of the population did not survive into adulthood and 85% of all children died before the age of 5 years (figure 2).

age distribution

Figure 2 Age distribution (N=544)

Age N= %
Perinatal 36 6.6
1-6 month 16 2.9
7-11 month 7 1.3
1-5 years 85 15.6
6-11 years 16 2.9
12-17 years 10 1.8
18-25 years 10 1.8
26-35 years 44 8.1
36-45 years 88 16.2
>46 years 162 29.8
Adult 65 11.9
Sub adult 5 0.9

Table 2 Age distribution (N=544)

Male and female distribution

Figure 3 Male and female distribution of adults (N=369)

All adults % Male % Female %
18-25 years 10 2.7 5 2.9 4 3.2
26-35 years 44 11.9 22 11.3 21 16.8
36-45 years 88 23.8 54 27.8 30 24
>46 years 162 43.9 88 45.4 64 51.2
Unassigned Adults 65 17.6 25 12.9 6 4.8
Total 369 194 125

Table 3 Male and female distribution by age in the adult population

Stature

Sex Avg_stat SD VAR MIN MAX N
Female 160.5 6.1 37.5 147.1 173.9 49
Male 169.0 6.2 38.2 154.9 183.5 76
Unsexed 159.7 8.4 88.2 149.9 171.8 4

Table 4 Stature estimation from femoral length

Pathology

Of the 544 individuals recorded 65.6% had one or more pathological condition recorded (see table below). 40% of the subadults had recorded pathologies. Most commonly seen were metabolic disorders such as rickets, in particular active rickets mainly noted in infants. Osteolomalacia, rarely seen in surviving archaeological assemblages, was noted in two individuals. Trauma was very common, in particular rib fractures and nasal fractures.

A number of neonates and infants had a condition suggested to be Langerhans Cell (Hystiocytosis X), expressed a rounded penetrating lesions in the skull with endocranial bevelled edges and non-sclerotic margins. The sheer number of infants with this condition (4%) however suggest that these changes may relate to another much more common infectious disease such as tuberculosis, though this is yet to be researched.

The same conditions have been noted in other post medieval London sites such as Cross Bones burial ground and St Benet Sherhog, none were noted in subadults from any other period.

Infectious diseases included treponematosis, most likely syphilis and tuberculosis, though non-specific infections constituted the majority of infections noted.

Surgical intervention was observed in 4.2% of all individuals. The majority were craniotomies performed on adults, though some also had evidence of autopsies on the ribs and vertebrae. A single amputation was that of a distal first phalange of the hand and more likely to be accidental than surgical.

St. Bride's Lower churchyard pathology table (Word 218kb)

Vertebral pathology

Vertebral degenerative pathology was recorded in the adult population. The prevalence of osteoarthritis was almost equal in males and females, whilst conditions such as Schmorl’s nodes, known to be caused by strain and load bearing, was over twice as common in males than females (table 5).

All adults Male Female
N n % N n % N n %
Osteoarthritis 369 >117 >31.7 >194 >66 >34 >125 >41 >32.8
Osteophytosis 369 >232 >62.9 >194 >131 >67.5 >125 >81 >64.8
IVD 369 >135 >36.6 >194 >78 >40.2 >125 >44 >35.2
Schmorl's nodes 369 >167 >45.3 >194 >118 >60.8 >125 >35 >28
Fusion 369 >34 >9.2 >194 >21 >10.8 >125 >12 >9.6

Table 5 Distribution of vertebral pathology by sex in adults with one or more vertebrae present

Dental pathology

The crude calculation of dental pathological conditions suggest that the prevalence of caries and calculus was high for both sexes, the rate of ante mortem tooth loss was high and affected the true rate of caries. Periodontitis was slightly lower in females whilst the rate of abscesses was slightly higher in females.

A total of 14 males and two females also displayed pipe facets in the anterior dentition, marked as a half circles on mainly the lateral incisors and canines. One male [1716] had a gold filling in a first maxillary molar.

Caries Calculus Hypoplasia Periodotitis Periapical lesions
N n % N n % N n % N n % N n %
Male 194 108 55.7 194 139 71.6 194 94 48.5 194 122 62.9 194 59 30.4
Female 125 65 52 125 81 64.8 125 44 35.2 125 71 56.8 125 46 36.8
All adults 369 184 49.9 369 233 63.1 369 136 36.9 369 207 56.1 369 66 17.9
Sub adults 160 29 18.1 160 15 9.4 160 16 10 160 0 0.0 160 1 0.6

Table 6 Distribution of dental pathology by sex in adults with one or more tooth present

Discussion

The lower St Brides churchyard is one of the largest recorded post medieval populations in London. Their low socioeconomic status and well documented background makes this population ideal for comparative social studies between osteological assemblages.

The St Brides Crypt was excavated in 1958 and forms part of the same parish representing individuals of higher socioeconomic status than the lower St Brides individuals (Scheuer 1998). These higher status individuals are not curated by the museum of London and do therefore not form part of the database.

Links to excavations carried out on this cemetery

75-82 Farrington Street, 20-30 St Bride Street, EC4
Sitecode FAO90

Recorded by: Kausmally T
Text by: Kausmally T
Last updated: 23 January 2008