Thursday, 17 March 2011

The bones of St Bride's Church: Jelena Bekvalac reveals their story

German bombs virtually destroyed St Bride's Church - the journalists' church on London's Fleet Street but the damage revealed unknown sealed vaults in the crypt areas. 
   Archaeologists in the 1950s dug down and were soon stunned. They discovered thousands of human bones.
   "Some of the bones still have dessicated skin on them," said Jelena Bekvalac, the engaging Curator of Human Osteology at the Museum of London.
   Largely thanks to Jelena's enthusiastic research, we now know a great deal about these adult men and women, these boys and girls, how they lived and died. Born between 1676 and 1840, they ranged from nine to 91-years-old. Some were buried with dignity. Others with barely any recognition at all.
   Amongst them was Samuel Holden, a Governor of the Bank of England, William Rich, creator of the tiered wedding cake and the novelist Samuel Richardson (see photo).
   Jelena's account of her research enthralled tonight's 300-strong congregation. Jelena began to cough; she'd been speaking for an hour. "Maybe, it's the bone dust," Jelena said as . "I've probably ingested an entire skeleton during my research." 
   I wasn't too sure if that was a laughing matter. As we left Jelena to recover and filed out through the churchyard into the Fleet Street night, the sound of the spiritual song, Dem Bones or Dry Bones played out over St Bride's speaker system. Now that did tickle my ribs.

I'll add some more details to this posting in the next few days...

Paul Coleman, London, March 2011

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