Workmen rebuilding Penwortham churchyard wall warned to watch out for human remains

Contractors ready to rebuild a graveyard wall in Penwortham have been warned they could come across human remains dating back hundreds of years.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 9:30 am

An expert archaeologist will be asked to supervise the work on the east boundary of St Mary's churchyard to prevent damage to any unmarked graves which could lie in the vicinity.

The project to re-erect a crumbling and unstable 100-metre stretch of wall has been recommended for approval at Wednesday's South Ribble planning committee.

But the likely presence of remains outside the graveyard perimeter - some possibly from burials as far back as the 14th century when the church was first built - means work on digging deep foundations on the steeply sloping ground will have to be carried out with extreme care.

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A 17th century gravestone on the inside of the boundary wall.

A report by Archaeology Lancashire into the history of the churchyard says the stone wall was only built in the second half of the 1800's and was a realignment of the original boundary.

Historians say maps show the previous graveyard was bigger than the one laid out today, so any excavations could disturb remains on the outside of the church boundary.

"The graveyard is likely to contain a very significant number of burials which may well extend beyond the line of the wall that is proposed for construction," says the report.

"It may be considered possible that the excavations for new foundations and for platforms to drive piles through to support the new structure will disturb burials or parts of burials and reveal amounts of disarticulated bone."

Workmen have been told to take great care when digging foundations for the new wall.

Archaeology Lancashire says the excavations should be monitored with provision to properly excavate and record any burials unearthed and identify any that would be suitable for proper analysis, so bones can be collected and re-interred after the work is completed.

It is known that there are some 17th century graves just inside the line of the wall - one of them, for local ferryman Edward Hollinhurst - is marked by a gravestone showing he died in 1686.

Historians think there could be graves on the sloping ground outside the churchyard wall.