An exhibition of treasures found during the building of HS2 has opened

Remember that historic burial site in Euston that had to be excavated to make way for the new HS2 station? Archaeologists found all sorts of cool stuff during the four-year works, and it’s all on display now as part of a new exhibition at St James’s Church in Piccadilly. 

Headland Archaeology and the Museum of London Archaeology worked on the project between 2017 and 2021, sensitively exhuming and documenting more than 30,000 bodies from the St James’s Burial Ground in the largest archaeological excavation of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century burials ever undertaken in the UK.

The site’s clay-based soil means that the coffins interred there between 1789 and 1853 have been much better preserved than at other sites of a similar age. The project has proved to be unusually rich in discoveries as a result, with organic items including clothing articles and wooden coffins uncovered intact during the dig.  

‘Stories of St James’s Burial Ground’ HS2 exhibition
Photograph: Courtesy of HS2

Personal items ranging from clay pipes and pocket watches to hair combs and slippers can now be viewed as part of the ‘Stories of St James’s Burial Ground’ exhibition on display at the Sir Christopher Wren-designed church which conducted the majority of the graveyard’s burials.

The exhibition also features these only-slightly-sinister cardboard models (above), scattered around the church’s pews, all of which depict real people who were buried at the site, from dressmaker and amputee Elizabeth Mercer, to businessman Charles Fortnum, a member of the family of one of the co-founders of luxury department store Fortnum & Mason.

Fancy learning more? The free exhibition runs until Sunday April 23 2023 (excluding 1-10 April) from 10am to 6pm, alongside a programme of free talks about the dig. Find out more here

St James’s Church, 197 Piccadilly, W1J 9LL. Until Apr 23.

We’re giving away 100 tickets to the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition 2023.

The UK’s most popular indoor attraction is in London.