AROUND 3,000 bodies will have to be dug up from a medieval graveyard and reburied due to ongoing HS2 rail link work.
Thousands of human skeletons are currently buried at the site of the old St Mary’s Church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire.
It could take six months to dig up the 3,000 bodiesCredit: PA
The medieval church dates back to 1080 but was abandoned in 1866.
A new church was built in the 1880s and the last recorded burial in the graveyard was in 1908.
However, local accounts revealed a child was killed by falling masonry there in the 1930s and the building was turned to rubble in 1966.
It could take a team of archaeologists six months to dismantle what’s left of the church structure and remove all the bodies.
The church was just rubble before excavations started a few years agoCredit: PA
This is a CGI rebuild of what the church may have looked like before it was knocked down in the 1960sCredit: HS2 Ltd
They need to do this so the controversial new HS2 rail line can go over where the remains of the church currently stand.
The railway project that’s costing billions has received a lot of backlash and a lot of people are worried about the amount of trees needed to be cut down.
The aim is to enhance rail capacity and create a better connection between major UK cities.
The HS2 project has also led to a lot of archaeological excavation that may not have previously been done.
Spooky ‘witch carvings’ were also found at the site and are thought to have been designed to ‘trap evil spirits’
You can see the circular marking to the bottom right of this church stone
Last year, medieval graffiti that people once carved to try and ‘ward off evil spirits’ was discovered at St Mary’s Church.
Experts think they are 12th Century “witches’ marks”.
These marks look a bit like a circular web filled with lines and drilled holes.
Historians think medieval people wanted to trap evil spirits within the web or maze they had drawn.
Some people also interpret the carvings as sundials.
The church is now just rubble but what’s left of the structure will be carefully removedCredit: PA
A new home for these spooky artefacts and the thousands of bodies yet to be dug up has not been decided upon.
Wherever, the remains end up they’ll be given a special monument to commorate them.
Dr. Rachel Wood, Project Archaeologist for Fusion JV, said: “The excavation of the medieval church at St Mary’s will offer real insight into what life was like in Stoke Mandeville for over nine centuries.
“Those buried there will be remembered once again and the lives they lived over 900 years understood.
“The best way to honour the dead is to understand their stories and how they lived their lives.
“Ultimately, this is what the works at the site of Old St Mary’s church will do, providing a lasting legacy to the present community of Stoke Mandeville.”
What is HS2?
The railway project is controversial…
The high speed rail line will increase capacity on Britain’s railways – slashing journey times and giving passengers a place to sit with thousands of extra seats every day.
It is the largest infrastructure project in Europe and is meant to connect northern cities with London and Europe.
HS2 trains will reach a top speed of 250mph, connecting Manchester to London in just over an hour and was been branded a “game changer” by ministers because many services are “full to overflowing”.
A second route has also been proposed through Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds.
Once the project is completed, the number of passengers between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds per hour could treble to 15,000.
There should also be 48 commuter and intercity trains an hour between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds – a 65 per cent rise from the current 29.
In other archaeology news, scuba divers found a huge 50 pound mammoth bone in a Florida river.
An unearthed stone slab dating back to the Bronze Age may represent Europe’s oldest map.
And, a new study claims to finally provide some answers to why a 17th century bishop was buried with a foetus.
What are your thoughts on the HS2 plans? Let us know in the comments…
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