Have you ever had a visitation from a medieval goose?

John Constable has and the goose told him about a nearby unkept graveyard in Redcross Way, Southwark that contained over 15,000 pauper graves dating back centuries. This included many prostitutes that had been licensed to ply their trade in the area, then called The Liberty of the Clink that was outside the walls – and so the laws – of the old City of London, by the Bishop of Winchester and were known as Winchester Geese.

John’s vision has inspired him to create stories, songs and verse about the Geese and the other “outcast poor” buried under this London patch. He and his partner Katie and other friends have successfully campaigned to claim the land as an open space of gardens and shrines that commemorate and celebrate those whose final resting place is here. It is now known as Crossbones. John leads regular vigils and other events to pull a community together around the burial ground and keep the memory of the ancient deceased alive.

I had no idea this place existed until I stumbled upon it after I had been wandering around the London Bridge area taking photos of old buildings.

An event was in full flow as I arrived; I think it was somebody’s birthday, possibly John himself. He has wavy grey hair and wore a long old fashioned blue coat with a theatrical pointy collar. An acoustic guitar was slung across his shoulder and he sang Bob Dylan inspired folk-tinged songs celebrating the goose who came to him,  the Liberty, the graveyard and Mother Earth. People joined in with poems, songs and dramatic pieces of their own, some rather good including a couple by a man called Guy. One of his was called “So Called Life” and the other, whose title I missed, described June and July as twin sisters – an image which I rather liked.


The happening

The crowd

One of the shrines

The Shard peeps over the wall


Memorial gate

A skull

Water and tree

The story of the Winchester Geese on a wall

Another shrine

Don’t dick with a goose’s curse