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Catholic Mission of St Mary and St Michael cemetery summary

The cemetery of the Catholic Mission of St Mary and St Michael, Whitechapel (LUK04) provided a sample of 705 individuals (268 adults and 437 subadults) buried between 1843 and 1854.

Recording has been completed by the Museum of London Osteology team and analysis will be finished early in 2009.

Situated in one of the poorest areas of London, epigraphic evidence suggests this burial ground served a population chiefly of Irish descent, some of whom came to England during the Great Famine of 1847-8. Julia Beaumont, supervised by Dr Janet Montgomery of the University of Bradford, is carrying out her doctoral research to further examine population movement. The adult male/female ratio was 1.4:1. Amongst the subadults, mortality peaked around one year of age. A large number of infants who died between one and six months of age had suffered from rickets (47.5%: 19/40) and 20% (8/40) had evidence of scurvy. A particularly interesting aspect was the high number of adult males with pipe notches in their teeth (55/139 dentitions: 39.6%). This is significantly higher than previous samples from London, and the rate may reflect cultural and socio-economic factors. Those who had smoked pipes also suffered increased levels of chronic disease and an earlier death than those who did not.

Results are to be published in a synthetic monograph comparing three cemetery assemblages from eastern London: St Mary and St Michael, Sheen’s Burial ground and the Baptist Burial ground in Bow.