Monday, 2 June 2014

The Church of England and HS2

There are numerous media reports of a formal objection to the HS2 railway project that has been made by the Church of England. See for example:

Read the official press release about it here: Archbishops’ Council submits petition on HS2 Bill to Parliament:

02 June 2014
The Archbishops’ Council has submitted a petition on the HS2 Bill to Parliament, regarding treatment of burial grounds and human remains.

A Church of England spokesperson said “In terms of ‘opposition’ the C of E is not opposing HS2 per se, rather we are petitioning for a technical change to the Bill, ie we are opposing the Bill in its present, in our view technically deficient, form. It is simply a matter of re-instating a clause which can be found in other legislation relating to development and has been left out of this Bill.”


There will be thousands of exhumations, but not at Kensal Green where HS2 runs underneath in a tunnel. It is likely there will be a significant number at the three sites, but we do not have reliable figures.

One of the problems such projects face is that it’s difficult to judge the amount of time and money which will be needed to deal properly with human remains.

Individual churches near the line are opposing the Bill and have sent in their own petitions. We hope to achieve better mitigation and where necessary compensation for these churches and their communities. We are particularly worried about the effect on Chetwode St Mary in Buckinghamshire, but there are others.

Main burial grounds that will be disturbed

Euston St James Gardens, London, to be cleared (actually in St Pancras parish), 18th-19th century.

Kensal Green cemetery London, tunnel underneath (so no exhumations).

Stoke Mandeville St Mary old church, Bucks / Oxford, to be cleared (a ruin, with burial ground probably 12th century to 1905)

Park Street / Curzon interchange, Birmingham 18th-19th century, to be cleared.

This is all explained at Law & Religion UK HS2, burial grounds, the Church of England and hybrid bills.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 2 June 2014 at 9:05am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

I suspect that the HS2 petition is going to get a fairly dusty response.

I don't know about the ones south of here, but the Park St burial ground in Birmingham was closed for new ordinary burials in 1857, no further graves were opened after 1873, was converted into a park in 1879 and 1151 coffins were removed to Witton in 1894. Portions had been sold to the LNWR in 1846 and 1892 without much fuss; the eastern route out of New St station runs across its southern boundary.

As you can see from this aerial photograph, it's laid out as a park, and although if you walk through it there are a few grave slabs propped against the wall, it has obviously been cleared of all marked graves. Yes, there will be loose, unlabelled remains in the soil (probably quite degraded, as most soil in central Birmingham is wet and acidic), but given there hasn't been a fresh burial in 140 years and the site was cleared of remains in coffins 120 years ago, there will be no way to identify them. Given it was a pauper's graveyard (an extension of St Martins') the burials done without coffins will probably have been unmarked and possibly unrecorded, and if the church authorities were happy to sell land to the railways while it was an active burial ground, it seems a little excessive to worry about the same thing happening 130 years later.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 2 June 2014 at 6:32pm BST

The whole thing is nonsense. There are surely perfectly proper procedures for dealing with burial sites. Crossrail has gone straight through plague pits and St Pancras is built on top of a cemetery (although I will admit that 19th century procedures were rather more rough and ready and Thomas Hardy protested at the treatment of the remains in Somerstown)

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 12:38pm BST

As this item appeared on TA we were bidding farewell to an honoured guest who always leaves us enriched by his short stays. The Revd Dr Richard Buxton was my liturgy tutor at Salisbury and very good he was too. Dr Buxton worked as an engineer before training at St Stephen's House Oxford, he celebrated the 45 anniversary of his ordination during this visit.

Richard's great passion is the railway and he works hard at restoring and maintaining stretches of rail, stations and locomotives of a bygone era. Those who know this learned academic will remember him as a solid biblical preacher, and most of us will recall a celebrated sermon that demonstrated by careful biblical reference the unassailable fact that the ancient Hebrews had steam trains.

I am sure he will have much comment of an intelligent, informed sort, on this issue.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 4:46pm BST

Entirely agree with Richard's 'the whole thing is nonsense'. How much longer ('quo usque tandem?') will our buffoonish leadership continue to bring us into disrepute?

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 8:10pm BST

Has the Church of England made a 'Grave' mistake?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 11:10am BST
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