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New book on Cross Bones (Redcross Way)

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Saturday 9 November 2013 8.54am

PlanetSlade's second free book went up online this week at the link above. It's a 70,000-word history of Southwark's most remarkable burial ground, and here's what it's all about:

Southwark’s Cross Bones graveyard began life as a dumping ground for the Bishop of Winchester’s dead whores.

For over four centuries, this burial ground’s neighbourhood was home to London’s legalised brothels, policed and taxed by the 12th century’s Bishop William Gifford and his successors. Nicknamed “Winchester Geese” to reflect the Bishop’s role as their master, the girls who worked these brothels were nonetheless refused burial in consecrated ground. Their bodies ended up at Cross Bones instead.

Since then, the horribly over-stuffed site has been used for the parish’s pauper burials, pressed into service as a plague pit and targeted by London’s most notorious gang of resurrection men. The surrounding streets have hosted Shakespeare’s own theatre, the Victorians’ most notorious slums and the wildest acid house parties of the 1990s.

Today, this medieval burial ground is a shrine to our own era’s outcast dead, where 50,000 people a year attend regular vigils led by a shamanic local writer and attach their own offerings to the site gates. All this makes Cross Bones one of the most fascinating, yet least understood, graveyards in London.
Wednesday 13 August 2014 2.15pm
Walking past the burial ground earlier today it was a surprise to notice the site gates and all the attached offerings have disappeared. Evidence of activity with heavy machinery inside the site. I'm not always the most observant but those gates and their 'decorations' were such a familiar part of that walk, and now there's just a some wire screens there. Have I missed an announcement about development kicking off there?
Wednesday 13 August 2014 2.47pm
There was a story in Property Week last November saying Pearson plc (owners of the Financial Times) had its eye on Landmark Court (a site which includes Cross Bones) as a potential location for the company's planned new headquarters building. Whether that's got anything to do with the works you report today, I don't know.

Anyone else got any fresh information?
Wednesday 13 August 2014 4.03pm
Transport for London (TfL) has moved THE CROSS BONES MEMORIAL GATES a few yards south down Redcross Way. The gates are temporarily hidden, though they should be visible again tomorrow – with a view through them into the garden.

Friends of Crossbones has broadly supported Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST)'s efforts to agree with Transport for London (TfL) a lease for a 'Meanwhile Garden' on the Cross Bones site. This should eventually enable public access for community gardening, and is a small step towards a permanent Garden of Remembrance. TfL have now accepted that the Crossbones site will be protected in the future, and we are close to achieving many of our objectives, although this transitional stage is proving quite challenging.

The decision to move the gates was entirely TfL's, though it has gone some way towards meeting our concerns and, provided it honours its undertakings, the repositioning of the gates could have advantages: reconnecting them with the burial ground area and enabling people to look through them directly into the garden.

TfL's statement can be read on the BOST website.
Wednesday 13 August 2014 4.08pm
For further information and updates, please visit the Cross Bones website: You can contact us through the website to receive regular newsletters on Crossbones related news and events.

Cross Bones was the inspiration for my own book The Southwark Mysteries, and features in Secret Bankside - Walks In the Outlaw Borough, and my new poetry book, Spark In The Dark.
Wednesday 13 August 2014 4.09pm

I've just found this August 12 statement about the gates at Bankside Open Spaces Trust's website (linked above):

[lengthy quote snipped - the link above will suffice]

I'm told the gates will be visible again very soon - perhaps as soon as tomorrow - in their new position a few yards south down Redcross Way.
Friday 22 August 2014 4.03pm
I'm glad to report the Cross Bones gate are up and fully visible again. They're now about 40 yards further down Redcross Way towards the Union Street end than they used to be.

The gates' plaque and all the offerings are still safely in place, and Cross Bones Mary's statue has been repositioned just behind the gates where they now stand. She's got a few extra decorative items round her to extend her own personal shrine too.

The new placing for the gates allows a view through their bars into the actual burial area of the Cross Bones site - which was completely invisible from the gates' old spot - and that's a big improvement.

The only downside I can see is that the gates are no longer set back from the road, which used to create a handy little space for people to gather at the monthly vigils. Still, I'm sure everyone will find a way to work round that.

The old fence boards, which carried a lot of graffiti, have now been removed, but they'd been pretty well documented in a thousand visitors' photographs over the years anyway. No doubt some Turner Prize hopeful will use these sources to reconstruct them for a gallery show one day!
Friday 22 August 2014 4.43pm
Paul Slade wrote:
The new placing for the gates allows a view through their bars into the actual burial area of the Cross Bones site - which was completely invisible from the gates' old spot - and that's a big improvement.

Agreed. Personally, I am not particularly interested in the esoteric opinions and beliefs that have grown up about the place, but it is intriguing to see that corner opened up to view rather than walk past a blank wall.
Saturday 23 August 2014 11.27am
I've just posted some pics of the repositioned gates and the new view through their bars on Twitter. Visit my account (Paul Slade @PlanetSlade) to see them.
Sunday 24 August 2014 8.22am
Actually, looking sat my pics again, I see I was wrong about the gates no longer being set back from the road. Apologies.
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