Archaeologists complete excavation of the 19th-century burial ground in Birmingham

Archaeologists working at the HS2 Curzon Street station site in Birmingham city centre have reached a major milestone by completing the archaeological excavation of the 19th-century burial ground.

The 12-month project saw over 70 archaeologists from MOLA Headland Infrastructure excavate 6,500 sets of human remains from Park Street burial ground where the HS2 station is being built.

The burial ground was opened in 1810 as an overflow cemetery for St Martin-in-the-Bullring and remained open for only 63 years before closing to public burials in 1873.

Archaeologists will now begin to examine the skeletons in closer detail, alongside artefacts discovered within the burial ground which includes figurines, coins, toys and necklaces. Nameplates have been found with a small number of the people buried at the site, and the team will combine research of historical documents, such as parish records and wills, with analysis of the skeletons, to develop detailed biographies of these individuals.

The team who worked on the archaeological dig will share their discoveries and initial findings from the site with the local community on Saturday 21st at Eastside City Park in conjunction with the National Trust’s Heritage Open Days.

Discover the archaeology of HS2 Birmingham – Heritage Open Day event

Location: Eastside City Park, on the corner of Curzon Street and New Canal Street
Date: 21 September 2019
Time: 10am-5pm
Free: No booking required

Work on the site will now move onto ground remediation, utility diversion and test piling for the foundation of the station buildings.

Mike Lyons, HS2 West Midlands Programme Director said:

“Birmingham is at the heart of the HS2 network and we’re proud to have reached this first major milestone in the construction of Curzon Street station.

“Across Birmingham and the West Midlands, we’re making significant progress building Britain’s new high-speed railway. Freeing up space across the existing rail network to run more local trains, HS2 will give passengers thousands of extra seats every day, and take cars and lorries off our busy roads.

“We already know that Birmingham played a pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution and HS2’s archaeology programme will allow us to tell the story of the skilled workers who fuelled it.

“As part of our commitment to being a good neighbour, we’ve teamed up with the National Trust’s Heritage Open Days where we will be sharing with the local community our discoveries and insights from the site and what we’ve learned so far.”

Commenting on the end of the archaeological fieldwork, Claire Cogar, Lead Archaeologist from MOLA Headland, said:

“The careful and fascinating excavation of Park Street burial ground is telling us a great deal of the effects of life in 19th-century Birmingham on the population. By analysing the archaeological remains, we hope to build a picture of the lives of the people who built Birmingham and made the city what it is today, from the diseases they suffered and what they ate, to where they came from. Our initial findings have already identified evidence of diseases including scurvy and rickets.

“We have also found interesting objects placed into burials. One burial contained a bone-handled knife, another had a figurine and others contained dinner plates. These finds provide insights into the types of burial rituals, traditions and practices of the 19th-century.”

Following archaeological and scientific research, the remains will be reburied together in consecrated ground at a suitable location identified in consultation with representatives of the Church of England.