Church work unearths bones

THE discovery of ancient bones has added a rather gruesome twist to the reordering work at Ottery Parish Church.

Work to restore the Dorset Aisle to its original open-plan format as part of the reordering unearthed a charnel pit.

Team Rector the Rev. Preb. Simon Franklin said: “There was a pit full of skeletons, just shoved down there in any old manner.”

The area was part of the original churchyard and the bones, thought to be medieval, have now been reburied. The week before the reburial, a wedding was held and the bride was a doctor; she and her medical colleagues conducted a tongue-in-cheek forensic examination of the bones before they were returned to the earth.

Project foreman Martin Buckler, of Ellis and Co Restoration and Building, said it was quite common to make such finds during church work, but the unusual thing about this time was the group of skulls found together.

“It’s likely that when the Victorians or Georgians came along and built their tombs, they happened upon them and just lumped them all together,” he said.

The work also includes a new shop area in the south aisle and a new central heating system, part of which will be underfloor. The Dorset Aisle should be completed by Christmas. It will be made available to the community as a space for exhibitions and functions.

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“We’ve taken out a whole lot of pews, making it into a community space,” said Rev Franklin. “It makes the area more flexible.”