Lives less ordinary: John Constable, campaigner to save Cross Bones cemetery

Posted at 5:15 pm, September 22, 2013 in Secret London

© Ben Rowe

Each week we meet the Londoners who make this city so special. This week, we talked to John Constable, writer and campaigner to save Cross Bones Cemetery.

Where are we?
‘Every month we hold a vigil at Cross Bones cemetery in Southwark. People tie mementos to the gates to remember those buried there, or loved ones they have lost.’

Who is buried here?
‘Prostitutes, paupers and outcasts, including hundreds of children, were buried here from the Middle Ages up to Victorian times.’

How did you find out about it?
‘In 1996, while writing a poem, I was visited by a muse called “The Goose”.’

Why a goose, do you think?
‘In medieval Southwark, prostitutes called “Winchester Geese” plied their trade under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester.’

That explains the feather…
‘Exactly. I hold it during the vigil. So, my goose led me through Southwark’s streets.’

A wild goose chase?
‘At 3am we ended up at the gates of a desolate work site. It was the old burial ground.’

Why is it important to you?
It’s due for development by Transport for London, but I want to create a garden here to remember those who were considered outcasts.’

The Cross Bones vigil is held at 7pm on the twenty-third of every month at Cross Bones, 18-22 Redcross Way, SE1 1YJ. For more info, go to crossbones.org.uk.

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