Save Southwark Woods

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How will Southwark Council dig up its dead?

13 January 2016

Southwark Council To Dig Up Thousands of Graves, Sell Off As ‘New’ Plots

Save Southwark Woods Asks Will Graves Be Excavated by JCB Or Shovel?

Will Remains Be Dumped in Mass Graves Or Buried Under New Bodies?

Will Headstones, Tombstones And Other Memorials Be Binned, Buried or Sold?

Save Southwark Woods Campaign Wants Graves Preserved, Cemeteries Declared Nature Reserves

Today, Save Southwark Woods asked Southwark Council to say what methods they plan to use for what may be the biggest excavation of graves in UK history.

Southwark wants to take advantage of a 2007 law which allows graves sold in perpetuity to have their rights extinguished after 75 years, the remains dug up, and the plots re-sold as ‘new’. Southwark’s strategy is to dig up thousands of graves in Camberwell New and Old Cemeteries in burial, excavation, reburial.

This so-called ‘re-use’ is, in fact, just a euphemism for evicting the dead.

Southwark is touting this inner city destruction as a ‘sustainable’ burial strategy – instead of respecting the dead, protecting the beautiful woods around them, accepting the cemeteries are full and declaring them nature reserves.

Councillor Darren Merrill, responsible for the Environment and Public Realm, has called residents’ voicing their concerns ‘scaremongering’. But councillors have refused to explain how they plan to exhume thousands of graves.

These are just some of the questions residents want answers to:

Will Southwark use the ‘lift and deepen’ method of ‘re-use’ where remains are exhumed, the grave deepened, and a new body buried over the old?

Or will bones and other remains be bagged and binned in mass graves?

Will the thousands of graves be dug out by mechanical digger or by hand?

Will they be exhumed in public view or screened off?

What will happen to possessions or valuables found in the graves?

Will archaeologists and historians be on site?

What will Southwark do with thousands of people’s headstones, memorials and other grave artifacts? Will they be abandoned in piles, buried, binned or sold?

What procedures does the Church of England require for exhumation on this vast scale?

“Southwark’s plans are diabolical.” said spokesperson Blanche Cameron. “It shows a complete disrespect for the people buried here and their families. Southwark wants to dig up the final resting places of thousands of Londoners from the 1850s to the Second World War – just to provide burial in the inner city. The dead buried here must be left to rest in peace, and the beautiful woods that have grown up around them made nature reserves for the living.”

New recently sold burial plots on Woodvale side of Camberwell Old Cemetery
New recently sold burial plots on Woodvale side of Camberwell Old Cemetery, created by mounding over the graves of thousands of London’s poor

Most affected families are unaware of the Council’s plans. Save Southwark Woods is trying to reach everyone with family buried in the Camberwell Cemeteries to tell them their family’s graves are at risk.

Campaigners are asking people to tell friends and relatives to object to the Council, write to the local press, and write to the Diocese of Southwark who have the power to agree or reject Southwark’s plans.

And contact us to help save the graves, memorials, woods, nature and beauty of the Camberwell Cemeteries.

Blanche Cameron

Save Southwark Woods