Vast Quantities of Urns and Other Roman Utensils
The first solid printed reference we have to the Eastern Cemetery comes from Strype who recorded:
In Goodman’s Fields, without Aldgate, was a Roman Burying Place. For, since the Buildings there, about 1678, have been found there (in digging for Foundations) vast Quantities of Urns and other Roman Utensils, as Knives Combs, &c. which are likwise in the Possession of Dr. Woodward. Some of these Urns had Ashes of Bones of the Dead in them, and Brass and Silver Money: And an unusual Urn of Copper, curiously enamelled in Colours, Red, Blue, and Yellow.
Strype was a local man, born in Houndsditch, the son of an immigrant cloth worker. His proper family name was van Stryp and like thousands of other men and women at this time, his parents had come to the East End of London in search of work and a safe place to live. Strype’s family was Huguenot, Protestants who suffered religious persecution in France and the other parts of Catholic Europe. Like many other Huguenot families, the Strypes settled just East of the City wall, outside of the official ‘City’ but close enough to make a living. John’s family clearly thrived in the 17th century Spitalfields silk weaving industry and John was educated at St. Paul’s School and Cambridge. Like many antiquarians, he was a curate in the Anglican Church and many of his works concern ecclesiastical history. He is perhaps most famous for his reworking of John Stow’s great masterpiece the Survey of London, originally published in 1598. The revised edition contained much new information such as the record of the Eastern Cemetery and was published in 1720.
Strype’s work has a mysticism and romance that is hard to find in modern accounts of the archaeology and history of London; he describes a Roman sculpture:
and among the rest, an Head of Janus, cut in Stone, that is still preserved, being placed over the Door at the Entry of one of those Gardiners Houses. Money was offered for this Janus Head, but it would not be taken; being kept superstitiously, as tho’ it were found by Revelation in a Dream; a Woman, about the Time it was found, dreaming she was brought to Bed of a Child with two Faces.
Thomas Allen in his The City and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark and Parts Adjacent: Volume 1 describes:
Various sepulchral remains were discovered in digging the foundations of the new church in Goodman’s Fields; and when the Tenter Ground there was converted into a garden, in the year 1787, several fragments of urns and lachrymatories were dug up about seven feet below the surface…
Allen also recorded an inscription which he identified as a “sepulchral stone”:
“D. M. FL. AGRICOLA MIL. LEG. VI. VICT. V. AN. XLII. D. X, ALBIA. FAVSTINA CONINGI. INCONPARABILI. F. C.”
A wife’s dedication to her “incomparable” husband.