The Winchester Geese


Further to recent postings on  “Southwark” and on “The Stews, Animal-Baiting Arenas and Play-Houses of Southwark” …

Many of the stews of Bankside in Southwark were licensed by the Bishops of Winchester, such that  the prostitutes who worked in them  came to be known as “Winchester Geese”.  When they died, they were interred, with the other “Outcast Dead”,  in an unconsecrated burial ground now known as  “Cross Bones Graveyard”, on Redcross Way.  The graveyard remained in use up until the nineteenth century.

A “Museum of London Archaeology Service” monograph describes in detail the findings of recent archaeological excavations at the site.


One of the excavated skeletons, of a  nineteenth-century woman,  aged only around sixteen to nineteen,  exhibited pathological indications of advanced syphilis.  Research undertaken for an episode of the BBC television series “History Cold Case” in 2010  indicated  that this skeleton was likely to be that of one Elizabeth Mitchell, who is recorded as having been admitted to nearby St Thomas’s Hospital suffering from the running sores all over the body symptomatic of advanced syphilis, and as having died there, on 22ndAugust 1851, aged nineteen.


Having recently been at least temporarily spared from “development”, the site, which is owned by Transport for London,  is currently in use as a community garden of remembrance (under the auspices of the Bankside Open Spaces Trust).  It is generally open  between 12-3 on weekdays.  Regular vigils for the dead are also held here, at 7:00 pm on the 23rd of every month.

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