On the 7th May 2007, English Heritage opened the doors once again of St Peter’s church after a long period of excavation. The excavations within the church were extensive and had been carried out over several years and also included excavation of a large part of the Castledyke cemetery. St Peter’s has a long and interesting history and is a church much studied for the remarkable survival of its baptistry and tower, one of the most extant Anglo- Saxon towers in the country. The skeletal remains excavated from the cemetery are an important assemblage of over 2,800 individuals dating back at least a millennium. They have already begun to reveal an insight into the lives of the past inhabitants and their burial practices.

Visitors were encouraged to learn about the project and what it had revealed by seeing and handling some of the artefacts and stone masonry retrieved during the excavation. There was the opportunity for visitors to speak directly to archaeologists involved in the project and two Ossafreelance osteologists (Jelena Bekvalac & Dr Stephany Leach) to explain and show some of what may be learnt from skeletons. Skeletons are a rich repository of information and the open day provided an ideal opportunity for the osteologists & archaeologist to work in tandem. There was also the chance to speak to a Victorian, learn about Viking ships & fighting and hear a story from a wandering monk!

Final preparations were still being made to a designated area in the church in which the skeletal remains will be archived and curated. The curation of the skeletal remains within the church will provide a rare opportunity for their return to the locale of burial but at the same time allow for continued research on a uniquely rich and varied resource. At present, the remains are held at Bristol Royal Infirmary but analysis of the skeletal remains has already begun in earnest revealing exciting information about the diversity of the population and the lives of past inhabitants of Barton.

The skeletal remains available to show those visiting the church were not from those excavated but part of a teaching collection from the Museum of London. It enabled the osteologists to demonstrate how an individual may be aged & sex, stature estimated and the changes observed in bones if chronically affected by a variety of diseases. Adults and children were able to ask questions about the bones and handle the collection, gaining first hand experience in examining a skeleton and learning directly from the bones.

Skeletons are always very popular and the collection was greatly admired by the visitors to St Peter’s, who were fascinated by how much information could be learnt from the bones themselves. The children were particularly keen on the diseases and some of the more gross bone changes observed which were enhanced by a power point presentation with glorious colour pictures!

The open day was an opportunity for the people of Barton-upon-Humber to see at first hand the results of the extensive work and more fully appreciate the churches long history from the archaeology and human skeletal remains. It was a very successful day and welcomed by those who lived in Barton and particularly those who had a familial attachment or affiliation to the church.



St Peter’s church, Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire

- English Heritage Open Day -



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