London Euston HS2 exhumation plan prompts memorial service

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HS2 impressionImage copyright PA
Image caption The HS2 project is also expected to lead to more than 500 trees being cut down in Camden

A memorial service is to be held for 60,000 people whose remains are due to be exhumed in London as part of the £55.7bn HS2 high-speed rail project.

It comes after Camden residents tried to save the St James’ Gardens site, close to London Euston, which was a burial ground from 1790 until 1853.

Local church warden Dorothea Hackman said it was “quite outrageous they are going to dig up our dead”.

HS2 Ltd said the work would be done with “dignity, respect and care”.

Notable people buried in the gardens include Capt Matthew Flanders, the first person to circumnavigate and name Australia, and Bill Richmond, one of the first black boxers.

‘An insult’

“[These people] shouldn’t be disturbed by spurious activities like this,” said Ms Hackman, who helped organise the service, to be attended by 40 people.

“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 Sixties. Government has run roughshod over democracy.”

Resident Marian Kamlish, 92, said that “in times of austerity”, such a “vanity project” was an insult to those who work for the likes of the NHS, and fire and police forces.

HS2 Ltd will excavate sections of the burial ground to enable it to plan the removal of the remains prior to their subsequent re-interment elsewhere.

A spokesman stressed the grounds have not been in use for more than a century.

“We will ensure that we treat the site with dignity, respect and care,” he said.

“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.”

In February, Parliament granted powers to build Phase 1 of the line – between London and Birmingham – which is due to open in December 2026.

And in June, the Department for Transport (DfT) said First Trenitalia West Coast, MTR West Coast Partnership and West Coast Partnership had all been shortlisted to operate the service on the line.

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