Charnel House Spitalfields, London's 14th-Century Bone Store

A Reminder of Spitalfields's Medieval Past

Charnel House, Spitalfields, London
Charnel House, Spitalfields, London. © birdbath

In front of no.1 Bishops Square, beside the renovated Old Spitalfields Market you can see a 14th-century Charnel House, a store for human bones disturbed during the digging of graves within the cemetery. This archaeological find was discovered in 1999 and it has since been preserved for everyone to see.

It is thought that parts of the masonry may date back to the 12th century. Long before the Charnel House was built, the Romans used the area as a burial ground. A Roman lead coffin was found near this site which contained the body of a woman. 

The medieval site offers a window into the area's past. Spitalfields was home to one of the country's largest hospitals and a cemetery that yielded the remains of more than 10,000 Londoners. 

If you're in the area to explore Old Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane or Shoreditch it's worth paying a visit to this ancient monument to understand the origins of the area. 

From the Onsite Plaque

The crypt of the chapel of St Mary Magdelene and St Edmund the Bishop built in about 1320 and sited in the cemetery of the Priory and Hospital of St Mary Spital. In the chapel above, services were held to dedicate the bones beneath. After St. Mary Spital was closed in 1539, most of the bones were removed, and the crypt became a house until it was demolished in about 1700. The crypt lay forgotten beneath the gardens of terraced houses and then Stewart Street until it was found in archaeological excavations in 1999.

Address

1 Bishops Square
London
E1 6AD

Nearest Tube Station

Liverpool Street

Accessibility

There is a glass floor outside 1 Bishops Square (offices designed by Norman Foster) and you can look down onto the Charnel House. There are steps and a lift (elevator) to get you down to the underground level and there is a glass wall so you can gain an excellent view.

Access to the lower level is closed in the evenings, mostly to stop the rough sleepers going down there.

Nearby Budget Hotel: Tune Liverpool Street