Cross Bones Graveyard in south London became known as the “single-woman’s” cemetery because of the high concentration of sex workers, dubbed “single-women” or “Winchester Geese.” Since these women were prevented from receiving Christian burials, Cross Bones became the unofficial resting place for them and other poor people living in squalor in the suburbs of London.
Closed in 1853, it was estimated that 15,000 people were buried in the cemetery, the majority sex workers. A modern excavation done in the 1990s revealed that the area was heaped with bodies, some basically piled in mass graves. Even more grisly, the excavation led to the discovery that more than 40 percent of the graves were fetuses, or infants under the age of one. Researchers also discovered that bodies in the cemetery had come into contact with a number of diseases including smallpox, tuberculosis, and Paget’s disease.
Today, the horrors of the cemetery are recognized and remembered each Halloween and the site now houses an unofficial memorial garden, although most of it remains under concrete. The red fence outside it is densely decorated with tributes in the form of flowers and ribbons and the names of those buried and left to be forgotten.
Know Before You Go
The exterior is visible and accessible at all times. Entry into the interior is limited to Wednesday - Friday, Noon - 2 PM. Check the website for talks and special events.