Archaeologists dig up the Victorian burial ground where Birmingham’s HS2 station will go

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A team of 70 archaeologists have been digging up the ancient burial ground for a year to make space for a HS2 station in Birmingham


Time-lapse footage has shown archaeologists digging up a Victorian burial ground where 6,500 people were buried as they pave the way for the controversial HS2 railway line. 

A team of 70 archaeologists spent a year excavating the 19th-century Park Street site in Birmingham where a station on the high-speed route is set to be built. 

Forensic combing of the burial ground also found a treasure trove of historical artifacts including figurines, coins, toys and necklaces inside the coffins.

Along with the thousands of skeletons, these items will now be examined and informed by historical documents, such as parish records and wills, to develop detailed biographies of the individuals.

Time-lapse footage charting the archaeologists’ dig lays bare the mammoth excavation task they embarked on during the last 12 months.  

A team of 70 archaeologists have been digging up the ancient burial ground for a year to make space for a HS2 station in Birmingham

Forensic combing of the burial ground also found a treasure trove of historical artifacts including figurines, coins, toys and necklaces inside the coffins

Forensic combing of the burial ground also found a treasure trove of historical artifacts including figurines, coins, toys and necklaces inside the coffins

Park Street burial ground was opened in 1810 as an overflow cemetery for St Martin-in-the-Bullring and stayed open for only 63 years. It closed to public burials in 1873.

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.

‘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.

Park Street burial ground was opened in 1810 as an overflow cemetery for St Martin-in-the-Bullring and stayed open for only 63 years, closing to public burials in 1873

Park Street burial ground was opened in 1810 as an overflow cemetery for St Martin-in-the-Bullring and stayed open for only 63 years, closing to public burials in 1873

‘These finds provide insights into the types of burial rituals, traditions and practices of the 19th-century.’

Another plot contained a bone-handled knife, others contained dinner plates and one had a figurine.

After their research has been completed, HS2 bosses say the remains will be reburied at a suitable location in consultation with the Church of England.

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.

‘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.’

Archaeologists described what they've found already as 'fascinating' and say they hope it will 'build a picture of the lives of the people who built Birmingham' (Pictured: Archaeologists dig up a skeleton)

Archaeologists described what they’ve found already as ‘fascinating’ and say they hope it will ‘build a picture of the lives of the people who built Birmingham’ (Pictured: Archaeologists dig up a skeleton)

A cross discovered from the burial ground, among a a treasure trove of historical artifacts including figurines, coins, toys and necklaces

A cross discovered from the burial ground, among a a treasure trove of historical artifacts including figurines, coins, toys and necklaces

Neolithic tools, medieval pottery and Victorian time capsules have already been discovered in other digs along the HS2 route.

The remains of a Royal Navy explorer who led the first circumnavigation of Australia were also uncovered by archaeologists.

Experts discovered Captain Matthew Flinders, who is also credited with giving Australia its name, as they excavated St James’s burial ground in north London.

He was just one of thousands of skeletons which will be removed from burial grounds where the the high-speed rail route will be built.

The London to Birmingham section of the HS2 line was due to open at the end of 2026, but could now be delayed to 2031.

The cost of the project has risen from £56bn to between £81bn and £88bn, it was revealed in July, according to the chairman of the project Allan Cook.

Brick-lined burial vaults. After their research has been completed, HS2 bosses say the remains will be reburied at a suitable location in consultation with the Church of England

Brick-lined burial vaults. After their research has been completed, HS2 bosses say the remains will be reburied at a suitable location in consultation with the Church of England

Initial findings from artefacts from the Park Street burial ground have already identified evidence of diseases including scurvy and rickets

Initial findings from artefacts from the Park Street burial ground have already identified evidence of diseases including scurvy and rickets

The dig is making way for the HS2 Curzon Street station. The London to Birmingham section of the HS2 line was due to open at the end of 2026, but could now be delayed to 2031

The dig is making way for the HS2 Curzon Street station. The London to Birmingham section of the HS2 line was due to open at the end of 2026, but could now be delayed to 2031

A breast plate was discovered on top of a coffin. These skeletons, will now be examined and informed by historical documents, such as parish records and wills, to develop detailed biographies of the individuals

 A breast plate was discovered on top of a coffin. These skeletons, will now be examined and informed by historical documents, such as parish records and wills, to develop detailed biographies of the individuals



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