Exhumation of graves

Whilst not an everyday occurrence, Ellis Belk Associates has been involved with the exhumation of graves as part of site appraisal and subsequent development.

Brian Ellis has been involved in these procedures since the early 1970s in the City of London, where plague pits are common and can cause huge delays and costs to building projects.

Our most recent involvement with this issue was during the redevelopment of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Lifeboat Support Centre in Poole. The development site was a former chemical works, whose car park was built on an early 18th century Baptist cemetery.

Ellis Belk commissioned an archaeological excavation on behalf of the RNLI and were entrusted with the project management of the scheme in association with Wessex Archaeology (of Channel Four’s “Time Team” fame). This included co-ordination with the Coroner’s Office to ensure the successful archaeological part of the overall project.

All or part of 81 inhumation graves were excavated containing the remains of 83 burials and 100 identified individuals who were members of the West Butts Street Baptist Congregation Church. Research revealed that this congregation was established in 1735 and the cemetery appears to have continued in use until its formal closure in 1855.

The general wealth of documentary information regarding 18th Century Poole and its Nonconformist and Baptist inhabitants, together with excavated evidence, has provided an informed impression of the world in which they lived and worshipped. Further archaeological details can be found on the Wessex Archaeology website www.wessexarch.co.uk and the report by Jacqueline McKinley “The 18th Century Baptist Church and Burial Ground at West Butts Street, Poole, Dorset” makes for fascinating reading.