Workmen find human bones in Blackburn

Workmen find human bones in Blackburn

Workmen find human bones in Blackburn

First published in News
Last updated
This Is Lancashire: Photograph of the Author by , Local government reporter

TWO shocked building workers told of their horror at finding coffins containing child and adult bones as they excavated the grounds of Blackburn Cathedral.

Pipe-layer Karl Grant and digger driver Paul Coulson, both from Padiham, had worked together for 17 years and had never made such a grisly find.

In just a few days, they discovered half a skull, two infant coffins and three adult caskets containing two small child bones and 18 adult bones.

Within minutes of the find, Blackburn Cathedral archaeologist Graham Keevill was on hand to record the discovery and ensure the remains were carefully removed and securely stored for decent reburial in the sacred precincts.

He had already discovered 15 gravestones, including famous Blackburn family names, buried under grass and hardstanding, after being used by the Victorians as pathways when building the new parish church in the early 1800s.

These will now be displayed when the new clergy court and cloister garden are completed by the end of next year.

Mr Grant, 38, who lives in Adamson Street in Padiham, said: “I was just telling Paul last Thursday we had never uncovered anything interesting in 17 years working together.

“The day after, we found half a skull and on Tuesday the five coffins - two for babies and three for adults with bones in.

“It was a bit of a shock but we’re over it now. We have been told there might be more.”

His 46-year-old colleague from Ruskin Avenue, Padiham, said: “I was a bit stunned when uncovered the skull and again when I saw the coffins.

“Karl went down and then we found the bones. It was definitely a shock. I’ve never found anything like this before in years of working on building sites.”

Mr Keevill, who is archaeologist for three other cathedrals including Salisbury, said: “The workmen were fairly shocked but I was not surprised.

“The area they were excavating near the River Blakewater and towards the railway station had been the medieval church’s burial ground.

“In 1858 Queen Victoria decommissioned it after the building of the new Parish Church, now the Cathedral, in the early 1800s. “All the bodies were removed to the new municipal cemetery on Whalley New Road.

“Some coffins and small bones remained which is not unusual.

“There were five coffins, all with lids on, which had been preserved by the damp from the Blakewater, which will now remain.

“As well as the half-skull, there were 18 bones from two adults and two small child bones in the coffins. I immediately recorded the find and carefully removed the human remains which are now under lock and key in a safe place in the Cathedral grounds.

“The grave, or ledger, stones, were hidden and had been turned into a pathway.”

Mr Keevill was appointed as Blackburn Cathedral archaeologist in 2003 for just this sort of eventuality and he added: “I am here for the three weeks of the main excavations. This has been one of my most interesting jobs.”

Cathedral canon Andrew Hindley, in charge of the £33 million development, said: “The bones will be decently reinterred in the ground with a proper church service and the ledger stones displayed in he new clergy court.”

Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “It is fascinating to see the building of the future of the town centre uncovering so much of its past. I fear the Victorians were a little less careful with human remains than we are today.”

Ray Smith, chairman of Blackburn Local History Society, said: “I am glad that this process is being properly supervised by an archaeologist.

“I am not surprised at the find which are a real glimpse into the town’s past. They could yet find whole skeletons as no-one has ever been sure where burials were made over hundreds of years.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council regeneration boss Maureen Bateson said: “This is developing the new town centre enabling the current generation to learn about our history. I am glad it is all being done carefully and properly.”

Comments (26)

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6:36am Thu 19 Jun 14

Marsdogs says...

Err, what did they expect digging up the grounds of a cathedral church? Lollipops?
Err, what did they expect digging up the grounds of a cathedral church? Lollipops? Marsdogs
  • Score: 126

7:12am Thu 19 Jun 14

child44 says...

Shock and horror, bones found in graveyard.
Shock and horror, bones found in graveyard. child44
  • Score: 106

8:33am Thu 19 Jun 14

glossopkid says...

child44 wrote:
Shock and horror, bones found in graveyard.
Lol!
[quote][p][bold]child44[/bold] wrote: Shock and horror, bones found in graveyard.[/p][/quote]Lol! glossopkid
  • Score: 55

8:37am Thu 19 Jun 14

frank says...

Marsdogs wrote:
Err, what did they expect digging up the grounds of a cathedral church? Lollipops?
my thoughts exactly, was it really what they felt or over enthusiastic reporting?
[quote][p][bold]Marsdogs[/bold] wrote: Err, what did they expect digging up the grounds of a cathedral church? Lollipops?[/p][/quote]my thoughts exactly, was it really what they felt or over enthusiastic reporting? frank
  • Score: 49

8:56am Thu 19 Jun 14

Darwentrublue says...

What next, " Large cross found on top of Blackburn building"
What next, " Large cross found on top of Blackburn building" Darwentrublue
  • Score: 66

9:34am Thu 19 Jun 14

ossym says...

RIP ?
RIP ? ossym
  • Score: 47

9:39am Thu 19 Jun 14

mmickk says...

Mr Keevill was appointed as Blackburn Cathedral archaeologist in 2003 for just this sort of eventuality. Well you certainly must have been taking advice from straw employed 11 years before the job starts thats forward thinking! You go hand in hand with the council then for wasting money!
Mr Keevill was appointed as Blackburn Cathedral archaeologist in 2003 for just this sort of eventuality. Well you certainly must have been taking advice from straw employed 11 years before the job starts thats forward thinking! You go hand in hand with the council then for wasting money! mmickk
  • Score: 39

9:54am Thu 19 Jun 14

abetterblackburn says...

What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge?

Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it!
What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge? Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it! abetterblackburn
  • Score: 34

9:58am Thu 19 Jun 14

chammy says...

This is hardly news
This is hardly news chammy
  • Score: 41

10:17am Thu 19 Jun 14

mikebuk says...

Police are searching for people around 200 years old to help them with their enquiries.
Police are searching for people around 200 years old to help them with their enquiries. mikebuk
  • Score: 46

11:01am Thu 19 Jun 14

thoroughbred says...

Shocked? Numpties!
Shocked? Numpties! thoroughbred
  • Score: 37

11:28am Thu 19 Jun 14

rudis_dad says...

abetterblackburn wrote:
What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge?

Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it!
Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!!
[quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge? Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it![/p][/quote]Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!! rudis_dad
  • Score: 27

11:32am Thu 19 Jun 14

ConcernedOssy says...

Darwentrublue wrote:
What next, " Large cross found on top of Blackburn building"
Possibly an Onion LOL
[quote][p][bold]Darwentrublue[/bold] wrote: What next, " Large cross found on top of Blackburn building"[/p][/quote]Possibly an Onion LOL ConcernedOssy
  • Score: 42

11:47am Thu 19 Jun 14

peely says...

I do hope these workmen are receiving counselling and support workers are available to help them !!
I do hope these workmen are receiving counselling and support workers are available to help them !! peely
  • Score: 33

12:03pm Thu 19 Jun 14

A Darener says...

My gt gt gt grandfather who died in 1847 must have been one of the bodies moved in1858 to Blackburn cemetery, his grave is now one of the first on the left as you enter. It states he was interred at the parish church Blackburn.
My gt gt gt grandfather who died in 1847 must have been one of the bodies moved in1858 to Blackburn cemetery, his grave is now one of the first on the left as you enter. It states he was interred at the parish church Blackburn. A Darener
  • Score: 28

12:08pm Thu 19 Jun 14

ossym says...

rudis_dad wrote:
abetterblackburn wrote:
What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge?

Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it!
Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!!
Hope they not going to em stand up in the bus shelters.
Ding ding, settle down now.
[quote][p][bold]rudis_dad[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge? Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it![/p][/quote]Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!![/p][/quote]Hope they not going to em stand up in the bus shelters. Ding ding, settle down now. ossym
  • Score: 26

12:23pm Thu 19 Jun 14

ConcernedOssy says...

ossym wrote:
rudis_dad wrote:
abetterblackburn wrote:
What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge?

Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it!
Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!!
Hope they not going to em stand up in the bus shelters.
Ding ding, settle down now.
Must be going for City Status again then if they are trying to make the town look busy. On the other hand though, it could backfire as strangers might think they will have to wait too long for a bus or train and leave quickly if they can find their way out !! lol
[quote][p][bold]ossym[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]rudis_dad[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge? Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it![/p][/quote]Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!![/p][/quote]Hope they not going to em stand up in the bus shelters. Ding ding, settle down now.[/p][/quote]Must be going for City Status again then if they are trying to make the town look busy. On the other hand though, it could backfire as strangers might think they will have to wait too long for a bus or train and leave quickly if they can find their way out !! lol ConcernedOssy
  • Score: 24

12:55pm Thu 19 Jun 14

woolywords says...

mmickk wrote:
Mr Keevill was appointed as Blackburn Cathedral archaeologist in 2003 for just this sort of eventuality. Well you certainly must have been taking advice from straw employed 11 years before the job starts thats forward thinking! You go hand in hand with the council then for wasting money!
11 years? I thought it was longer than that...
'He had already discovered 15 gravestones, including famous Blackburn family names, buried under grass and hardstanding, after being used by the Victorians as pathways when building the new parish church in the early 1800s...'
[quote][p][bold]mmickk[/bold] wrote: Mr Keevill was appointed as Blackburn Cathedral archaeologist in 2003 for just this sort of eventuality. Well you certainly must have been taking advice from straw employed 11 years before the job starts thats forward thinking! You go hand in hand with the council then for wasting money![/p][/quote]11 years? I thought it was longer than that... 'He had already discovered 15 gravestones, including famous Blackburn family names, buried under grass and hardstanding, after being used by the Victorians as pathways when building the new parish church in the early 1800s...' woolywords
  • Score: 29

12:56pm Thu 19 Jun 14

Henry71 says...

rudis_dad wrote:
abetterblackburn wrote:
What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge?

Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it!
Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!!
Err yes they can and have done.... Ask the workmen who " moved" the remains from the cemetery under the Morrisons site!!
[quote][p][bold]rudis_dad[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge? Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it![/p][/quote]Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!![/p][/quote]Err yes they can and have done.... Ask the workmen who " moved" the remains from the cemetery under the Morrisons site!! Henry71
  • Score: 27

2:02pm Thu 19 Jun 14

rudis_dad says...

Henry71 wrote:
rudis_dad wrote:
abetterblackburn wrote:
What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge?

Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it!
Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!!
Err yes they can and have done.... Ask the workmen who " moved" the remains from the cemetery under the Morrisons site!!
Alright clever clogs - perhaps I should have said, you can't just chuck it away legally. Developers are under legal obligation to notify the Home Office of the discovery of any human remains and to obtain a proper license to perform an exhumation.
[quote][p][bold]Henry71[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]rudis_dad[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge? Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it![/p][/quote]Er, probably removed after a lot of hoop-jumping and form-filling at the Home Office, then properly reintered elsewhere? You can't just dig a body up and chuck it away you know!![/p][/quote]Err yes they can and have done.... Ask the workmen who " moved" the remains from the cemetery under the Morrisons site!![/p][/quote]Alright clever clogs - perhaps I should have said, you can't just chuck it away legally. Developers are under legal obligation to notify the Home Office of the discovery of any human remains and to obtain a proper license to perform an exhumation. rudis_dad
  • Score: -18

4:22pm Thu 19 Jun 14

alf-abett says...

I heard it had something to do with the short supply of the food bank rations of last week! Any truth in this LT.
I heard it had something to do with the short supply of the food bank rations of last week! Any truth in this LT. alf-abett
  • Score: 21

10:26pm Thu 19 Jun 14

blackburne67 says...

My God, you lot are like a rottweiler with a bone(lol)seriously though cut em some slack I think its no surprise but its all quite interesting :)
My God, you lot are like a rottweiler with a bone(lol)seriously though cut em some slack I think its no surprise but its all quite interesting :) blackburne67
  • Score: 6

8:19pm Fri 20 Jun 14

John05 says...

abetterblackburn wrote:
What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge?

Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it!
Nothing yet. Archaeologists will be digging trenches to see what's there and then all the bodies will be moved and reburied somewhere else. The work seems to be running late though. Relatives of mine are buried there somewhere, though I don't know exactly where and I don't think they have a gravestone.
[quote][p][bold]abetterblackburn[/bold] wrote: What happened to all of those coffins and bodies that were dug up to make way for the new continuation of the road under The Wainwright Bridge? Nothings sacred in Blackburn is it![/p][/quote]Nothing yet. Archaeologists will be digging trenches to see what's there and then all the bodies will be moved and reburied somewhere else. The work seems to be running late though. Relatives of mine are buried there somewhere, though I don't know exactly where and I don't think they have a gravestone. John05
  • Score: 3

8:22pm Fri 20 Jun 14

John05 says...

My grandma tells a story about how, when work was done at the cathedral as she was a child in the 1930s, coffins were dug up then. One of those dug up was a glass topped coffin with the body of a little girl in a white dress perfectly preserved inside. People were standing around the grave looking at her when someone dislodged a stone which fell through the glass and shattered it. As soon as the girl's body was exposed to the air she disintegrated to dust.
My grandma tells a story about how, when work was done at the cathedral as she was a child in the 1930s, coffins were dug up then. One of those dug up was a glass topped coffin with the body of a little girl in a white dress perfectly preserved inside. People were standing around the grave looking at her when someone dislodged a stone which fell through the glass and shattered it. As soon as the girl's body was exposed to the air she disintegrated to dust. John05
  • Score: -2

12:55am Sat 21 Jun 14

Steven11 says...

ConcernedOssy wrote:
Darwentrublue wrote:
What next, " Large cross found on top of Blackburn building"
Possibly an Onion LOL
No **** in those days .
[quote][p][bold]ConcernedOssy[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Darwentrublue[/bold] wrote: What next, " Large cross found on top of Blackburn building"[/p][/quote]Possibly an Onion LOL[/p][/quote]No **** in those days . Steven11
  • Score: 6

5:28pm Sat 21 Jun 14

ossym says...

Maybe capita have been having a clear out?
Maybe capita have been having a clear out? ossym
  • Score: 4

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