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Forgotten Spaces: Cross Bones Memorial by Benjamin Wilkes and Joanna Maguire

[SOUTHWARK] A memorial building and garden

A small patch of urban land near Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral little hints at the colorful history of the area. ‘Cross Bones’ is a post-medieval burial ground believed to have been an unconsecrated graveyard for 15,000 prostitutes, known locally as the ‘Winchester Geese’. The plot lay outside the city, and it grew into a haven for prostitutes and brothels as well as animal fights. The graveyard was closed in 1853 because it was full and further burial were deemed ‘inconsistent with a due regard for the public health and public decency’.

Despite its dilapidated condition, Cross Bones is now established as a site of local importance with Southwark Council who nominated it for a blue plaque in 2005. The gates on Redcross Way are permanently decorated with an messages, ribbons, flowers and other tokens left by an informal local group, Friends of Cross Bones, who meet for monthly vigils and who’ve campaigned for a permanent memorial and public garden.

Benjamin Wilkes/Joanna Maguire’s proposal is to create an enhanced place for such rituals to continue with a direct design relationship to the site’s previous use.

Forgotten Spaces: All 20 shortlisted entries feature in a public exhibition at the National Theatre until 4 July www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

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