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Lancashire's Murky Past?

Blog by David Holding, author of many non-fiction and local history titles for Words are Life.

An interesting feature appeared in the Lancashire Press in 2016 with the heading:


Archaeologists have unearthed the bodies of around 800 children under the age of six at St. Peter’s Burial ground in Blackburn, Lancashire. The bodies were exhumed ahead of the construction of a road. They are among the 1,967 bodies exhumed at the burial ground which opened in 1821. Archaeologists believe the large number of child bodies found could be attributed to the lack of good sanitation and medicine.

Darwen Borough Council said that the bodies were exhumed from 30% of the burial ground, which was in regular use up to the 1860s. The work undertaken by ‘Headland Archaeology’ believes that most of the children had died from infection of the lungs and stomach.

In addition to the bodies, the excavators also found a time capsule hidden in the cornerstone of the church foundation stone. It contained a single sample of each of the 16 coins in circulation at the time of the construction of the church. The coins were the full set of 1820 George III coins. The post-excavation team is now working to learn as much as possible about the life, health and death of Blackburn's Victorian population.

A spokesman for the team said, “The research will include specialist DNA analysis and examination of church records and other historical documents”. One grave had 13 bodies in it which shows the poverty and poor health of the people before the introduction of clean water, and demonstrates the terrible level of infant mortality during the period.


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