BONES FIND IS A SHOCK
DISCOVERY of a medieval burial ground outside St John’s Church in the city centre has left archaeologists baffled.
Builders dug up more than they bargained for while working on the multi-million pound regeneration of St John’s Square and found four 500-year-old skeletons.
There are no records of a burial ground so close to the church and architects are trying to find ways to build while protecting the find, which could scupper hopes of the works being finished by September.
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have been confounded by the shock discovery of a medieval burial ground containing human remains outside St John’s Church in Peterborough.
Builders working on the creation of St John’s Square as part of the multi-million pound regeneration of the city centre dug up more than they bargained for on Tuesday when the 500-year-old skeletal remains of four people were discovered just outside the west entrance.
The discovery could scupper hopes of the works being completed by September with architects currently discussing a re-design so that the stairs leading down to the church do not disrupt the burial site.
But the delay could be a side issue when set against the potential revelations it could bring about Peterborough’s heritage, as historical records make no mention of a burial ground in the immediate vicinity of the church and more remains could be found.
Adam Yates, project manager for Northamptonshire Archaeologists, which is overseeing the regeneration work, said: “It was very much a surprise.
“Records make no reference to a grave yard next to the church, so it was a surprise all round to find burials had taken place there.
“The burial ground itself probably dates back to the early days of the church, in or around the 15th century.
“They are consistent with churchyard burials as they are all lined up.”
Julian Limentani, the Peterborough Cathedral architect who is representing St John’s Church, said that it is the church’s wish that the remains are not disturbed, which rules out exhuming the graves.
Archaeologists will instead carry out a “soil scraping” to get a better look at the bones as well as looking to discover what other ground has been disturbed by potential burials.
Little work has been done on the site yet, but a human skull and leg bones can clearly be seen in the shallow holes dug by builders, who will now have to protect the bones when the stairs are built.
Dave Gibson, site manager for builders Osborne’s, said: “We don’t want to disturb the remains any more than we have to so we are meeting with designers to look at how we can build the stairs and ramps down to the church while protecting the bones beneath.”
Paul Middleton, secretary of the Peterborough diocesan advisory committee, said there was nothing to indicate there was a burial site around the church, with the church’s previous graveyard situation on what is now the Crescent Roundabout, by Queensgate.
FOUND: Site manager Dave Gibson examines the area where human remains were found. Inset, an artist’s impression of St John’s Square.
find: Site manager Dave Gibson showing the area where bones have been found outside St John’s Church. (METP09-06-10RH70)
discovery: A skull fragment found on the site. (METP-09-06-10RH55)