Search on to find remains of Captain Matthew Flinders among 60,000 as part of HS2 project

Helan Wass, HS2 lead archaeologist, with the statue of Captain Matthew Flinders at Euston Station, London.
Helan Wass, HS2 lead archaeologist, with the statue of Captain Matthew Flinders at Euston Station, London.

The search is on to find the remains of Donington-born explorer Captain Matthew Flinders as work begins on a vast archeological dig in London in support of the HS2 high speed rail project.

Archaeologists have begun excavating the area where Captain Flinders is believed to have been buried.

Matthew Flinders' statue in Donington.

Matthew Flinders' statue in Donington.

The site of St James’s Gardens, a former burial ground next to Euston station in London, is required for the new HS2 terminus station and a team of more than 200 archaeologists and related specialists have started the careful archaeological work of preparing the site for construction.

In all, the remains of 60,000 people buried at the site are to be exhumed as part of the dig.

Captain Flinders was a British navigator, hydrographer and scientist. He was the first to circumnavigate Australia in 1803 and gave the country its name. His surname is associated with many places in Australia, including Flinders Station in Melbourne, Flinders Ranges in South Australia and the town of Flinders in Victoria.

Helen Wass, HS2 lead archaeologist said: “Captain Matthew Flinders is a widely celebrated figure in Australia and it will be very exciting if we were to discover his remains at St James’s Gardens.

Many believe that he is buried under platform 15 but we hope that our careful archaeological work in the rest of the burial ground will be able to able to provide an answer as to his location.

“The exact location of his remains is not known as a portion of the burial ground was used for the expansion of Euston station in 1880s. Many believe that he is buried under platform 15 but we hope that our careful archaeological work in the rest of the burial ground will be able to able to provide an answer as to his location.

“However, given the number of human remain buried at St James’s, it’s not going to be an easy task. If we do discover his remains, it will be an incredible opportunity to celebrate his life and his contribution to our history, here in the UK and in Australia.

“It is particularly exciting for me as an archaeologist to be working on the site as Cpt Matthew Flinders was the grandfather of renowned Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, commonly known as the ‘Father of Archaeology’. The Flinders name is synonymous with exploration, science and discovery and HS2, through its archaeology programme, will ensure that we maximise the opportunities for further academic and scientific study.”

A spokesman for the HS2 project said it has not yet been decided where Captain Flinders’ remains would be laid to rest if found.

The burial ground at St James’s Gardens in London is one of 60 sites of archaeological importance on the HS2 project.

Over the next two years, more than 1,000 archaeologists, period specialists, scientists and conservators from across the UK will be exploring and recording more than 60 archaeological sites from London to Birmingham.

Ranging from the prehistoric period to Roman Britain, the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval ages, the Industrial Revolution and Second World Ward, HS2’s archaeology programme will be Europe’s biggest dig.