Bucks Archaeological Society voice concerns about HS2 archaeologists excavation of 800 year old bodies

The Buckinghamshire Archaeological society[BAS] has raised concerns about how the human remains will be exhumed by HS2.

Tuesday, 26th February 2019, 10:36 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th February 2019, 10:45 am
Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society open day 2014 at the site

THE BAS said that it is vital HS2 and the Church of England come to an agreement, to ensure bodies buried on consecrated grounds are returned to the same.

Mike Farley said: "Archaeologists working for HS2 will shortly be completing the excavation of Stoke Mandeville’s old churchyard and what remains of the church.

View of Church site in woodland after HS2 initial site clearance

"The necessity for this course of action has been known for many years but it has still not been decided where the excavated burials and the surviving monuments and architectural items from the old building will finish up.

"Although the Church of England sold the old church and churchyard site to the parish council for use as a nature reserve and parish amenity a few years ago, the excavated burials, whichwere placed originally in consecrated ground, will need to be returned to consecrated land.

"As the present parish churchyard is full, a new burial location will need to be consecrated."

But there is another, more important issue to be considered, say the Buckinghamshire Archeological Society.

The remains which will be recovered are from a burial ground where local villagers have been interred over a period of eight hundred years.

A statement from the Society said: "This provides a unique opportunity for studying the history of a community over a very long period of time.

"Specialists will have some opportunity to record excavated remain before they are reburied, but one thing is certain about such investigations: whatever scientific techniques are used today (and there have been some dramatic advances in the past decade or so – for example the analysis of DNA), in the future more sophisticated methods will be developed.

For this reason the society wants a significant proportion of the burials should be retained within an above-ground structure which, with the agreement of the authorities, could be re-opened for further scientific study in the future, however distant that may be.

This proposal would not apply to burials that can be identified as named relatives from local families who should be re-buried in an appropriate and permanent manner.

They continue: "The Society hopes that without further delay, HS2 Ltd recognises that reaching a decision on this matter in conjunction with the Stoke Mandeville parish council and Church of England is a high priority.

"It is good to note in a recent Bucks Herald that a ‘Garden Parish’ plan is being developed for the village; the proposed ‘Legacy Garden’ would fit happily into such a scheme."

A HS2 spokesperson said:

“The excavation of the derelict church and burial ground of St Mary the Virgin in Stoke Mandeville presents a unique opportunity to study the buried population dating from at least the 12th to the early 20th century.

"This will allow archaeologists, scientists and historians the opportunity to retell the 1,000 year story of the development of a village and its inhabitants as they survived some of Britain’s most important historical events.

“All the human remains from the burial ground will be treated with dignity, care and respect at all stages of our works. The buried population of St Mary’s will be reinterred together in consecrated ground in another location, and we’ll announce this in due course.

"This work is being undertaken in consultation with the Parish Council and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.”