It is not unusual in churchyards to find that many old graves have had their markers or headstones moved. Plans of the positions of the graves are often hand drawn over long periods of time and so are not always accurate. This poses a problem for graveyards that are approaching capacity as the church cannot always be certain that apparently empty areas are not already occupied.
Phase was called in to one such graveyard where the records indicated that graves were present in an area where no markers were visible. There was also some evidence in church records that a communal pauper’s grave was present in the graveyard but again this was not marked.
A ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey was undertaken on a closely spaced profile interval. The GPR survey identified two different types of response which indicated the presence of either a grave cut / coffin or a buried headstone. A large area of strong disturbance, approximately 7. 5m by 3 m, was also identified in the GPR data which was strongly suggestive of a large communal grave.
The survey was accurately tied in to the adjacent church and to modern headstones and we were also able to scan in the old hand drawn plans and overly these onto the survey as a ‘best fit’ so that all of the available information could be displayed together. The church can now proceed with much more confidence when assigning plots within the graveyard that they are not going to disturb any current residents.