The impact of the discovery
Helen Wass, HS2’s Head of Heritage, explains the impact of the discovery:
“The discovery of Captain Matthew Flinders’s remains is an incredible opportunity for us to learn more about the life and remarkable achievements of this British navigator, hydrographer and scientist. Captain Matthew Flinders put Australia on the map due to his tenacity and expertise as a navigator and explorer.
“Given the number of human remains at St. James’s, we weren’t confident that we were going to find him. We were very lucky that Captain Flinders had a breastplate made of lead meaning it would not have corroded. We’ll now be able to study his skeleton to see whether life at sea left its mark and what more we can learn about him.
“This discovery is particularly exciting for me as an archaeologist working on the site as Captain Matthew Flinders was the grandfather of renowned Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, commonly known as the ‘Father of Archaeology’.
The scientific study of human remains from St James burial ground will better our understanding of life and death in London’s 18th and 19th centuries, shedding light on health and disease, social status and lifestyle. Those buried in the long since demolished chapel and burial ground include individuals from all walks of life: paupers and nobility, artists and musicians, soldiers and sailors, inventors and industrialists, as well as victims of accidents, disease, suicide and murder.