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Thread: Mass Grave in Old Swan

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    Re-member Ged's Avatar
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    Default Old Swan.

    Does anyone remember that when they were demolishing the opposite side of St. Oswalds street, they came across a mass grave site. My mate lived in Elm's House Road so I was forever getting the number 10 in Norton Street. I was born in Holly Street, the flats similar to Eldon Grove and later moved to Gerard Gardens when Holly Street had to make way for the new St. Anne Street Police station. I loved that community and era - no playstations or X boxes, no interacting via a joystick, screen or keyboard - proper face to face games. Does anyone have any photos of Rose Hill Police station which preceded St. Anne Street station?

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    Still alive snappel's Avatar
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    I'd heard about the graves from a Tom Slemen story, but I've no idea. There's an interview with him where he mentions it...

    "There were 3,561 bodies buried according to age group in a huge square, in coffins of an unknown type of wood that would not burn."

    They were found in October 1973 while clearing space for a Roman Catholic primary school. No maps or parish records show this graveyard.

    "The mystery deepens as the Home Office soon cordoned off the site, and the bodies were taken to be cremated and buried at a cemetery in Anfield."

    Archaeologists from London were furious, but the Home Office refused to comment until the 1990s and then admitted the entire files were lost.


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    All sounds a bit dodgy if true doesn't it. A Tom Slemen story recently appeared in the Bootle Times about a reptile monster type creature that's supposed to have popped in and out of the rubbish chutes in Gerard Gardens much to the horror of the local residents and was well known. Weill I lived there from 1968 to 78 and heard nothing about it. Now i'm not saying any of his stories are 'made up' but 11 books of ghostly happenings? I've heard that someone will come up to him at his book launches and say have you heard this one Tom, whether they then appear in his next book and how much verification can actually be made is open to question but if nothing else the paying public seem to like them enough.

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    PhilipG
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    There is some truth about the mass grave in Old Swan.
    I first read about it years ago (well before Tom Slemen's books).
    Can't remember the details, but they were thought to be the casualties of some mass sickness in the city centre, and they were all buried together outside the Town.

    It sounds like more details have been added to the story to make it more "interesting".

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    Still alive snappel's Avatar
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    That's a more likely explanation than a mass-genocide by members of the occult. Or whatever.

    Would be interesting to find out more about it...

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    I wonder if they may have been plague victims like those buried in Addison Street which was formerly called Sickmans lane because of it?

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    PhilipG
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    Quote Originally Posted by snappel View Post
    That's a more likely explanation than a mass-genocide by members of the occult. Or whatever.

    Would be interesting to find out more about it...
    I've found the source.
    It was Derek Whale's "Lost Villages of Liverpool" Part 1 (1984).

    The graves were first discovered in April 1973, so a trawl through the newspapers at the Record Office might reveal contemporary accounts.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snappel View Post
    That's a more likely explanation than a mass-genocide by members of the occult. Or whatever.

    Would be interesting to find out more about it...
    Plague victims usually were buried without coffins. Most, if not all, were in coffins. Plague and cholora tended to take many victims.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilipG View Post
    There is some truth about the mass grave in Old Swan.
    I first read about it years ago (well before Tom Slemen's books).
    Can't remember the details, but they were thought to be the casualties of some mass sickness in the city centre, and they were all buried together outside the Town.

    It sounds like more details have been added to the story to make it more "interesting".
    Hi all

    There appears to be a strong school of thought that the bodies may have been those of Irish famine victims. I remember Waterways was asking recently where Irish famine victims were buried. The following is from
    Manchester Irish.com in April of this year:

    FAMINE IRISH: MASS MURDER IN LIVERPOOL

    A fascinating piece by Peter Berresford Ellis recently appeared in the Irish Post. In 1973 a mass grave was found in Old Swan in Liverpool. In total the remains of 3,561 bodies were found. Journalists were kept away from the site and the Home Office ordered the immediate cremation of the bodies.

    Merseyside criminologist Keith Andrews has investigated the case and believes this is a case of mass murder,

    "...'Containment Squads' moved in on the diseased and starving immigrants, removed their children, then herded the Irish men and women to a containment camp in a field on the outskirts of Liverpool. They were then systematically shot and buried in unmarked coffins".

    Berresford Ellis states:

    "If Andrews can prove his contention, we are talking about one of the greatest murders of Irish men and women since Cromwellian times".
    Christopher T. George
    Editor, Ripperologist
    Editor, Loch Raven Review
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    PhilipG
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    As if!

    Really.
    Some people.

    Etc., etc.

    Presumably the Irish Famine victims died in Ireland and were buried there.
    Yes, I know the Famine caused many to emigrate, but I don't think they emigrated to die wholesale at their destinations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilipG View Post
    As if!

    Really.
    Some people.

    Etc., etc.

    Presumably the Irish Famine victims died in Ireland and were buried there.
    Yes, I know the Famine caused many to emigrate, but I don't think they emigrated to die wholesale at their destinations.
    Most who died in Liverpool died of Typus, etc. The overcrowded unsanitary conditions caused disease. The vast number of Irish strained the water services. Most Irish left Liverpool for Manchester, London, America, etc.
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    Hi Waterways and Philip G.

    I am just reporting what was on ManchesterIrish.com and don't know one way or the other what caused the deaths of those 3,561 people buried in Old Swan. They could have been Plague victims from centuries ago. On the other hand, they might have been Irish who died of typhus. That they might have been Irish put in some sort of internment camp and shot is obviously a serious charge and forensic examination of the remains should have been able to determine how old the remains were and whether there were gunshot wounds. Although the claim seems to be that the remains were cremated and reburied without such an investigation which seems odd, if not suspicious. I know that Merseyside criminologist Keith Andrews has worked with Tom Slemen on the matter of Ripper suspect Claude Regnier Conder so possibly they are working together on this mystery as well. There is information on Tom Slemen's forum on the Old Swan mass grave and Mr Slemen does say in reply to a query from a forum member, "yes it is possible that they [the Irish] were herded from the ship to the site of the alleged mass murder."

    Chris
    Christopher T. George
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisGeorge View Post
    Hi Waterways and Philip G.

    I am just reporting what was on ManchesterIrish.com and don't know one way or the other what caused the deaths of those 3,561 people buried in Old Swan. They could have been Plague victims from centuries ago. On the other hand, they might have been Irish who died of typhus. That they might have been Irish put in some sort of internment camp and shot is obviously a serious charge and forensic examination of the remains should have been able to determine how old the remains were and whether there were gunshot wounds. Although the claim seems to be that the remains were cremated and reburied without such an investigation which seems odd, if not suspicious. I know that Merseyside criminologist Keith Andrews has worked with Tom Slemen on the matter of Ripper suspect Claude Regnier Conder so possibly they are working together on this mystery as well. There is information on Tom Slemen's forum on the Old Swan mass grave and Mr Slemen does say in reply to a query from a forum member, "yes it is possible that they [the Irish] were herded from the ship to the site of the alleged mass murder."
    Possible, however highly unlikely. There was not any proper investigation. It took at time to clear the bodies, and would guess they would have pinned down the date of the deaths in that time.

    If they were shot because they wanted to get rid of the Irish (Irish were not forigners then) would they put them in coffins and laid them out in order of age? I doubt it.

    In the past there were so many epidemics in Liverpool of cholora, the plague, etc. So much so the city went on a hygine project and led the world in public health, with many cities around the world copying - Liverpool had the first wash houses, etc. This formed much of the public health systems of today.
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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Local Mysteries with Tom Slemen, Maghull & Aintree Stra

    LAST week I related how 3,561 bodies were found in a mass grave by council workmen who were digging up scrubland to lay the foundations of a school off St Oswald's Street in Old Swan.

    To deepen the mystery, the Home Office told Liverpool City Council to cordon off the mass grave with 10-foot-high security fences and to cremate all of the corpses.

    In 1995, several historians contacted Whitehall, hoping to discover why the Home Office had given orders to cremate the unknown dead of Old Swan, and a spokesman said he couldn't trace any records of the incident.

    The puzzle then, of how 3,561 bodies came to be buried off St Oswald ' s Street, remains unsolved.

    Victims of plague and cholera were dumped in pits often filled with quicklime, but the thousands of bodies found at Old Swan were not only placed in coffins, they had been buried in groups according to their age, which suggests all of the internments took place simultaneously.

    So, were over 3,000 people massacred at Old Swan in the 1840s or a decade before?

    If there had been some uprising, and the authorities had dealt with the revolt by massacring the dissenters, would they have afterwards buried the victims in coffins?

    Thousands of poor people were disembowelled and hanged by the authorities in England during the Peasant's Revolt of 1382, but news of a massacre could not be contained, and would soon have spread across the country.

    The only clue that seems to provide a solution to this mystery lies in several curious reports from council workmen who claimed that a few of the coffins did indeed bear name-plates.

    If these reports are true, then this could point to an intriguing possibility never considered before; that the coffins were moved from another graveyard and reburied at Old Swan.

    In 1838, the foundation stone to St George's Hall was laid and the site excavated for the hall's foundations lay adjacent to St John's Church.

    For work to proceed, many of the 27,000 coffins in St John's Churchyard had to be removed to make space.

    The army of builders and civil engineers working on the St George's Hall project also suggested the unsightly St John's Church itself should be demolished. Now there was the problem of the church graveyard to contend with, and herein lies the clue to the origin of the mass grave.

    http://icseftonandwestlancs.icnetwor...name_page.html
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    First note that the Tom Slemen article posted above is not from today but I believe appeared before the following which appears to put paid to the speculation that the bodies could be executed Irish people.

    'I gave order to burn bodies'

    Mar 2 2006

    Maghull & Aintree Star


    AS WITNESSED by the huge amount of correspondence received at Merseymart & Star , Tom Slemen's article on the Mass Grave discovered in Old Swan in 1973 drew reaction from many readers.

    One letter that took issue with criminologist Keith Andrews's claims of a systematic massacre of Irish immigrants at the site in around 1848 was written by Liverpool's former principal environmental health officer, Ken Williams, who was in charge of the 1973 exhumation.

    Printed here, it relates to this specific event - not the broader issues regarding the military and the treatment of the Irish.

    Speaking to Merseymart & Star , he said: "I held my position from 1949 to 1989 and the first thing to note is that if you wanted to build or extend on sacred ground you had to consult the Home Office, which would in turn speak to the town clerk, who would then instruct me.

    "The reason there were hoardings was that the Home Office's principal instruction is total decorum, and in this case there were houses on Montague Road overlooking the site.

    "One comment was that these people had been shot and the Home Office were covering it up.

    "The order to burn the bodies came from me and me alone - there were so many that after getting permission to put more than one in a single coffin, and re-inter them in Anfield I had to request permission for cremations.

    "There were no bullet holes in the skulls, and there were already gravestones at the site - it was a marked grave..

    "This discovery was simply beyond the boundary of that graveyard, extending much further than was realised - thousands more bodies.

    "Contrary to one comment in the article, there were indeed coffins containing children discovered.

    "There is also the obvious point that if this was the massacre of three-and-a-half-thousand people - why were they all in coffins with plaques and buried in such an ordered fashion?

    "This was not people who had been thrown in a trench.

    "Also, the date quoted for this 'massacre' was 1848, but some of the coffins had plaques with 1859 on them."

    Key role in the mass exhumation

    I HAVE followed with great interest the recent articles in your paper with regard to the mass grave unearthed in St Oswald Street, Old Swan.

    The principal officer delegated to be in charge of the entire operation was me.

    When the original gravestones had been removed and the bodies re-interred the excavation continued beyond this boundary and it was at this stage other coffins were found. Some plaques on the coffin lids had dates of 1859, however this should not be considered to be a mass grave at any one time.

    I do not recall seeing bullet marks in the skulls and the authorisation to cremate the bodies was implemented by the Home Office as the result of my request - that it should be done in the interest of public health. I know all this to be true - 'cause I was there!

    K. A. WILLIAMS, Gateacre, Liverpool. (Former principal environmental health officer for Liverpool 1949-1989)

    Source
    Christopher T. George
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