A mass grave of victims of the 1830s cholera epidemic have been uncovered by archaeologists as part of the preparation for the Luas-cross city line, just north of Parnell Street, at Broadstone, in Dublin city.

In the early 1830s an outbreak of the killer disease Asiatic cholera left millions dead across India, China, Russia, Europe and England before it arrived in Ireland. The disease wreaked havoc in the tenements of Dublin, where it spread quickly. It’s believe that hundreds of thousands may be have been killed in a very short time.

Maria Fitzgerald, principal archaeologist for Luas (tram), said that as part of the environmental impact assessment they had identified the possibility of a burial ground being found near the area.

The majority of Dubliners killed by cholera were buried at Bully’s Acre, a cemetery near the Royal Hospital, in Kilmainham. However the cemetery was over capacity and so this site between Grangegorman and Broadstone was used as an overflow.

The experts are currently examining how much the planned construction on site will impact the burials. They will not know how many people are buried on the site and said “If we can possibly preserve them where they are, we will.”

She added “Everybody’s preference would be not to disturb them, so we will be working closely with the construction designers now to see if we can minimize the impact.”

The most likely outcome from this discovery will be that the remains which have already been disturbed will be examined and reinterred in a nearby patch of ground, in a walled area.

Fitzgerald told the Irish Times that none of the burials are intact or laid out.

She said “It’s just all the bones placed in what we think is a trench going down the center of the site.

“There seems to be quite a few burials; we have come across quite a number of skulls.”

The skeletons had all been mixed up and put in the trench.

The remains at Broadstone were found by workers at the Bus Éireann Garage. Architects, James Hessian and Siobhán Ruddy, from Rubicon Heritage, are examining the site under license from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The plot of land in question will be used as a footpath between the new Grangegorman Dublin Institute of Technology campus and the Broadstone Luas stop. The new Luas line will run from St Stephen’s Green through the city center, Phibsborough and Cabra, to Broombridge. It will link up the two existing green and red lines.

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