St Bride's collection (1650-1700)

Crania from St Bride's

Crania from St Bride's

A collection of post-medieval crania uncovered from a graveyard used by St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.

They date to the latter half of the seventeenth century (1650-1700).

Origins of the collection

These remains were presented by the Home Office in 1937 to the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), London.

According to the College's records, a series of remains were excavated at a site in Shoe Lane during an extension to the building occupied by the Evening Standard newspaper.

The burial site was in use by St Bride's Church in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 

A note in the 1937/38 Annual Report of the Royal College of Surgeons Museum states that the majority of the remains were removed for reburial - but the Acting Medical Officer for Health to the Corporation of London, Charles White, retained a number for the RCS collection.

Some specimens are retained by the RCS, but these crania were transferred to the Natural History Museum in 1948.

Individuals of note

Dental calculus - PA SK 914

Cranium of adult female . This individual suffered from poor health, manifested as increased vascularity in both eye orbits and healing porosity on the cranial vault. Their dental hygiene was also poor and consequently there was a heavy buildup of dental calculus (hardened dental plaque) on the buccal (cheek) aspect of the teeth.  

Cranium with dental calculus on the teeth

Cranium with heavy buildup of dental calculus on the teeth

Metabolic disease - PA SK 926

Incomplete cranium of adult male who suffered from metabolic disease or non-localised infection.

This manifested as active porosity on the ectocranial surface of the cranial vault and increased vascularity on the endocranial surface.

Cranium of adult male with active porosity

Cranium of adult male with active porosity on the ectocranial surface visible

Both occipital condyles also have a bony ridge lateral and anterior of them that leads to small intercondylar tubercles. There is porosity and slight erosion on the articular eminence of the right temporal bone.

PA SK 930 

Incomplete cranium of adult of indeterminate (ambiguous) sex. This person has pathological changes related to metabolic disease. The ectocranial surface has a vast amount of active porosity.

On the frontal bone in particular there is marked porosity, vascularity, pitting and striations as well as swelling of the bone around multiple foramens.

There are also areas of diploe swelling, causing a ballooned appearance to the bone's surface. There is also porosity and increased vascularity in both orbits and on the endocranial surface.

Cranium of an adult with porosity

Syphilis - PA SK 934

Incomplete cranium of adult female. There is diffuse porosity on the endo- and ectocranial surfaces. This is coupled with an increase in vascularization on the endocranial surface of the parietals.

There is also irregular thickening and new bone formation, especially on the occipital and parietals. There is woven bone deposition on the right parietal at the squamosal suture and around the supraorbital regions of the right frontal, tracking into the right lateral orbit and into the nasal area. Given the focal nature of these bone changes, it is possible that this is early-stage syphilis

Cranium with marked porosity

Cranium of an adult with marked porosity on the frontal bone

Arthritis - PA SK 928

Cranium of probable adult female. On the basal cranium there is a large bony protuberance lateral of the right occipital condyle - pathological changes from the ossification of soft tissue. Probably as a consequence there are arthritic changes on the occipital condyle, presented as porosity, lipping and osteophyte formation.

Both occipital condyles also have a bony ridge lateral and anterior of them that leads to small intercondylar tubercles. There is porosity and slight erosion on the articular eminence of the right temporal bone. 

Cranium with large bony protuberance

Cranium of probable adult female with arrow pointing to large bony protuberance

Looking for a specific specimen?

The London human remains collection have been digitised

Collections team

Principal Curator

Dr Heather Bonney

Curator

Dr Rachel Ives

Curatorial assistant

Jennifer White

Any questions?

If you would like to use any specimens for research, please get in touch

Related information

visitor-accessing-collections-hti-single

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.