Memorial service for dead set to be displaced from burial ground by HS2 railway works
'It's a scandal', say opponents to controversial infrastructure project
24 August, 2017 — By Adam Solomons
A FINAL memorial service was held yesterday (Wednesday) for the thousands of dead people buried in a cemetery soon to be bulldozed to make way for the controversial High Speed 2 rail link.
Parishioners and protesters packed into St James’ Gardens for the service led by the Rev Anne Stevens from St Pancras New Church in Euston. The parish had requested the private event to pay respects to an estimated 61,000 people from the early Victorian era buried in the gardens.
HS2 Ltd, the company undertaking the £63billion railway to Birmingham and cities in the north, has so far not said where the bodies will be moved to, despite digging being due to start next month.
St Pancras Church warden Dorothea Hackman, 64, who helped organise the service, which was expected to be attended by 40 people, said: “These people shouldn’t be disturbed by spurious activities like this. “And just think of the detrimental effect removing the benefit of the trees and green space will have on the area in terms of air quality. There has not been destruction on this scale since the ’60s.”
She added: “We’ve been ridden roughshod by central government. I’m so disappointed in the democratic process.”
Stop HS2 campaigner Sarah Green said the removal of dozens of trees in Euston would worsen the capital’s air pollution crisis. She added: “It isn’t just about those who died, but those who will.”
Mimi Romilly, a singer-songwriter from the area, added: “It’s a scandal. Democracy inaction is HS2 in action.”
Initially, an overflow cemetery for St James’s Church in Piccadilly, St James’ Gardens is believed to be the burial place of Matthew Flinders, the explorer who mapped Australia for the first time.
Richard Ryan, the writer whose plays filled seats in the West End during the 1820s and who published Ireland’s first biographical dictionary, is also buried there. HS2 Ltd argued that it needed to bulldoze the park – one of the few green spaces in the area – so it could build a new entrance to the revamped Euston station. The work is due to be completed in 2033. Museum of London experts are due to begin an archaeological dig in the autumn, while final designs for what will replace the park are expected next year.
An HS2 spokesman said: “Though the former burial ground at St James’ Gardens has not been in use for more than 100 years, we will ensure that we treat the site with dignity, respect and care. As such, we will continue to work closely with the local community, the Archbishops’ Council, the local parish, Historic England and other organisations as we proceed with the next phase of the project.”