St. Pancras cemetery summary

Please note: These samples have been reburied. Archaeological investigations by Gifford took place at St Pancras burial ground in the London Borough of Camden in 2002–3 during construction of St Pancras International- the new terminus of High Speed 1.

St Pancras Old Church is documented from the late 12th century and successive extensions were made to the original churchyard. In 1792 the ‘New Burying Ground’ was established to the east. The 2002–3 exhumation of burials and subsequent analysis was principally concerned with the study of the ‘Third Ground’, which lay at the southern end of the ‘New Burying Ground’ and was used from 1793 until its closure in 1854. A total of 1,302 burials were recorded three-dimensionally. Of these, 699 were recovered for osteological analysis and the remaining 603 were removed by the exhumation contractor. The locations of an additional 81 burials, recovered for osteological analysis, were not recorded. No in situ burials dating to 1792 or earlier were recovered, though reused memorial stones and monuments, deriving largely from other cemetery areas, were found, the earliest inscription dating to 1708.

The survival of legible inscribed coffin plates allowed many of the burials to be linked with documented biographical detail. The cemetery included many people from outside the metropolis and immigrants, particularly refugees who fled the French Revolution. Study of cemetery management has been enabled by comparison of the excavated findings with documentary research. Key to this was the decoding of the alpha numeric grave plot system for the 'Third Ground' employed in the parish registers from 1793 to 1804. A total of 119 recorded burials were identified by coffin plate inscriptions and 29 of these matched with register entries that include a plot reference, a system in use for the 'Third Ground’ from 1793 to 1804 .

A total of 780 burials retained from processing and of these, 715 were the subject of full osteological analysis. Individuals were selected for analysis according observable characteristics of the coffin and associated human remains. Individuals came from both ornamented coffins and a corresponding sample of plain coffins. A significant sample of sub-adults was prioritised for study, as were skeletons with interesting pathologies. The individual skeletons were examined by five osteologists from Museum of London Specialist Services (now MOLA) and Pre-Construct Archaeology, during and shortly after the exhumation work. The human remains were reburied following recording. Analysis of the data was then undertaken by Bill White (demography, metric and non-metric data, joint disease and evidence for autopsy/dissection) and Natasha Powers (all other pathological conditions). The recording of the St Pancras assemblage pre-dated WORD. Consequently, there are no data downloads to accompany this summary. Researchers wishing to access detailed osteological data should contact the Museum of London Archaeological Archive and request access to the paper records. The number of post-medieval sites excavated in London has now significantly increased and we have learned much about the population of the metropolis which was not then apparent.

Preservation

Just under two-thirds of the sample was well-preserved and the remainder was predominantly moderately well-preserved. Due to waterlogged soil conditions, some of the remains were exceptionally well preserved with hair and soft tissue remaining, all were selected immediately for reburial by the specialist exhumation team.

Demography

A total of 8.7% of the sample had died at or around the time of birth, 76.5% of the subadults died under the age of 5 years and 19.6% of the population died between birth and the age of 12 years, a pattern considered to be typical of an urban site. Two female burials were found with foetal remains associated and they may represent just a fraction of those who would have died during or shortly after childbirth. There were 231 adult males and 219 females.

Age No. %
perinatal 63 8.8
0-5 years 78 10.9
6-12 years 23 3.2
13-17 years 19 2.7
18-25 years 122 17.1
26-45 years 201 28.1
45+ years 125 17.5
unknown 84 11.7

Table 1 Age distribution (n=715)

Stature

Female stature ranged between 143 cm and 177 cm (average: 157.0 cm; 5’2”, n=138). The range of stature for men was 150–188 cm (average 171.0 cm, or 5’7”, n=168). When stature was compared with nine contemporary sites (Roberts and Cox 2003, 308; Boyle 2002), there was no significant difference between the archaeological populations studied.

Pathology

Full pathology data is available in the paper archive. Please contact the Museum of London Archaeological Archive for further details.

A total of 111 individuals (15.5% of the assemblage) displayed the skeletal manifestations of infectious disease. Periosteal infection affected 64 individuals (including seven subadults) a crude prevalence of 9.1%. Two individuals, had maxillary sinusitis (2/715 or 0.3%). The true rate of the latter condition is likely to have been much higher as it was only observable where the facial bones were broken to reveal the paranasal sinuses. Six individuals (0.8% of the sample) had osteitis, one male had osteomyelitis and a septic arthropathy was present in a mature female [5170].

Four individuals (4/715 or 0.6%) had skeletal changes sufficient to allow a diagnosis of tuberculosis. Treponemal infections were the most prevalent specific infections: four adults displayed sufficient characteristics to enable a definite diagnosis of venereal syphilis, with a further eight probable cases, representing 2.6% of adult males (6/231) and 2.6% of females (5/219). This included 23-year-old Mary Ann Shillito [4121] who had been subjected to a craniotomy. Mr Francis Coster [5185], who died in 1798 aged 30 had advanced cranial changes. PHOTO. A further 14 individuals had bony changes described as possibly syphilitic.

Six individuals (0.8%) had diagnostic skeletal changes associated with DISH. A kidney or bladder stone was found with young adult female [7076] and a possible hydatid cyst with 36-year-old Elizabeth Austan [5112].

Three mature adult females had indications of senile osteoporosis and four cases of Paget’s disease of bone were identified.

Eighteen individuals had rachitic changes, including a number of adults with bowed limbs suggestive of rickets earlier in life. Elderly female [5190] had florid boney changes resulting from osteomalacia. Forty-two individuals (42/715 or 65.9%) had cribra orbitalia. Of these, 14 were subadult and 28 adult.

Eighty-four individuals (11.7%) had evidence of ante-mortem trauma (dislocation, slipped epiphyses, soft tissue injuries and fracture). Sixty-nine adults had fractures (44 males, 20 females), a crude prevalence rate of 9.7% (69/715). Transverse rib fractures were common and 36% of the adults with trauma suffered multiple injuries. Four definite cases of Bennett’s fracture were seen, all affecting 26 to 45-year-old men. Two juveniles aged between 5 and 12 years at death had suffered rib fractures to the left side. Three adults and one juvenile had evidence of secondary infection following fracture, suggesting compound injuries. Two individuals had been subject to surgical amputation of the lower limb and a mature adult female [7061] may have undergone cranial surgery.

Perthes' disease affected one individual and five males, four females and three juveniles were affected by osteochondritis dissecans

A number of individuals had minor congenital abnormalities including tarsal coalition and craniosynostosis. A more serious congenital abnormality was noted in young adult probable male [6270] whose ‘winged’ scapulae appeared consistent with Sprengel’s deformity. Congenital kypho-scoliosis affected Mrs Martha Haynes ([5383] d. 1795 aged 53).

By far the most common neoplastic condition seen was the ivory or button osteoma. Burial [5037] had a lesion on the right scapula, consistent with a diagnosis of metastatic carcinoma.

Three adult females were recorded as having possible rib deformation resulting from restrictive corsetry.

Vertebral pathology

The highest level of vertebral osteoarthritis was seen in the thoracic region (45.1%), followed by the lumbar (32.6%) then the cervical region (22.3%).

Dental pathology

Two carious deciduous teeth were present (2/333: 0.6%) and adult caries prevalence was 9.79% (583/5956 teeth). Over 59% of adults had at least one carious tooth. Ante-mortem tooth loss showed a significant increase with age. High rates of calculus were noted in subadults aged 6–16 years (11/13 individuals, 84.6% or 130/233 teeth 55.8%). Calculus affected 55.3% of adult teeth (3296/5956) and decreased slightly with age. Significantly greater numbers of female teeth were affected. Periodontal disease affected 40–44% of adults. Two subadults and over 50% of adult teeth had evidence of hypoplasia. There was an inverse relationship between age and prevalence, suggesting that individuals who suffered episodic stress during infancy did not attain as great an age at death. Rates of dental abscesses by both tooth position and individual (8.3%) appeared considerably lower than for other contemporary sites.
Two individuals with fillings were noted (one gold and two of grey metal). Two dental prostheses were present and both were manufactured from porcelain. The first was a chipped, partial bridge consisting of right maxillary incisors and a canine with paired holes for ligatures to attach it to the remaining teeth, the second was a complete maxillary prosthesis belonging to Arthur Richard Dillon.

Discussion

The demographic results reveal a relatively high infant mortality with over three-quarters of the subadults dying under the age of 5 years. High rates of enamel hypoplasia and the presence of rickets in the subadult population supports the picture of a ‘stressful’ childhood, yet a relatively high proportion of the St Pancras population was aged over 45 years at death (biographic data confirms that there were many elderly adults). A greater number of people suffered from caries than seen elsewhere, yet rates of periapical lesions were considerably lower. For a population demonstrating such stress indicators and known to contain a large number of low status burials, the rate of non-specific infection is lower than might have been expected. Although a number of males with DISH were observed, a low overall prevalence may be a reflection of the association with the nearby St Pancras Workhouse. Venereal syphilis was the most prevalent specific infection and conformed to the pattern reported in modern clinical literature. The aggressive expression of syphilitic lesions suggests the use of (and complications from) mercurial 'cures'.

There is little evidence of interpersonal violence, though some individuals may have participated in the fashion for bare-knuckle boxing. Anatomical and surgical study is evidenced by the quantity of dissected bone. The sample studied provides us with an intruiging ‘snapshot’ into the health of Londoners in the late 18th and early 19th centuries: a time of population increase, mobility, industrialisation and an increase in the numbers of urban poor.

Links related to St Pancras

No data downloads are available for this site.

Pathology photographs are available in the site archive.

The site bibilography can be found in the site monograph and archive.

A series of drawings showing the layout and development of the cemetery can be found in the site monograph and archive.

Links to excavations carried out on this cemetery

Channel Tunnel Rail link, St Pancras Terminus, Kings Cross Lands (including St Pancras Old Church), York Way, off Caladonian Road, N1, Islington

Site code: YKW01

Recorded by: James Langthorne, Natasha Powers, Kathelen Sayer, Don Walker and Bill White, 2002-2003

Last updated 12th May 2012 by R Redfern