The Winchester Geese
A graveyard for 'single women' from the 16th Century
'Cross Bones' is a post-medieval disused burial ground in The Borough, Southwark, south London, in what is now known as Redcross Way.
It is believed to have been established originally as an unconsecrated graveyard for 'single women', a euphemism for prostitutes, known locally as 'Winchester Geese', because they were licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to work within the Liberty of the Clink.
The liberty lay outside the jurisdiction of the City of London, and as a consequence it became known for its brothels and theatres, as well as bull and bear baiting, activities not permitted within the City itself.
The age of the graveyard is unknown. John Stow (1525-1605) wrote of it in A Survey of London in 1598 calling it the 'Single Woman's churchyard'. By 1769, it had become a pauper's cemetery servicing the poor of St. Saviour's parish. Up to 15,000 people are believed to have been buried there.