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Skeletons unearthed during archaeology works at Elephant and Castle

Published Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Archaeology

Archaeological discoveries have delayed the demolition of the current leisure centre at the Elephant and Castle ahead of a new £20m state-of-the-art facility.

As part of the council's £1.5bn regeneration of Elephant and Castle, the current leisure centre will be demolished and a brand new, £20m state-of-the-art leisure centre will be built in its place, including a swimming pool, as requested by local people.

The council anticipated that archaeology and pre-demolition works would begin and be completed by July this year, but following some archaeological discoveries during this phase, it will now be later in the year before demolition is expected to begin.

Before the current leisure centre was built, the ground it was built on was originally home to a church and graveyard. The council expected that part of its archaeological work would unearth remains from the burial site, which dates back to medieval times.

However, after initial excavations, it was discovered that the extent of the findings is greater than what was anticipated.

Councillor Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council, said:" The remains will be treated respectfully and we will be following the Ministry of Justice's guidance to peacefully re-bury or relocate them. The leisure centre work will resume as soon as we've sensitively dealt with this issue."

None of the remains have been identified or can be identified; they potentially date back to when the graveyard was first used in medieval times. The remains and how they are treated are governed by Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and specific law and guidance. The council is working under a licence from the MoJ to undertake these works.

The remains have to be reburied, unless they pose any risk to health of the archaeologists or public, in which case they would be disposed of as hazardous waste immediately.

Some remains are coffined, so they will be reburied in a cemetery outside the borough. The site is now a full archaeological investigation, so all the loose remains (bones) will be retained for investigation and then reburied.

The council is investigating to see if the majority of the remains can be buried in a Southwark cemetery.

The extra archaeology works will delay the beginning of construction of the leisure centre by approximately three months from November 2012 to February 2013.

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