… and other venues, with Tori Herridge and Raksha Dave.
This Channel Four series, which consists of five episodes, begins at Stoke Quay on the town’s Waterfront where a long-forgotten (St. Augustine’s) burial ground was fully explored before some new buildings were constructed. Three bodies in particular were examined:
1) A wealthy man buried in the nave between about 1250 and 1400. Provisionally identified as John de Holtby, he evidently suffered from the painful, but not deadly, Paget’s disease and suffered some spinal cuts. These could not have resulted from surgery or torture because of their post-mortem nature so he must have suffered dissection, in an era that the Church forbade such a practice.
2) A boy or youth, born abroad, who died between 880 and 1040, in the late Anglo-Saxon era.
3) A young African-born woman, who travelled via Denmark or Germany. She is likely to have suffered from tuberculosis and kyphosis, as the late Mark Ormrod revealed.
The other episodes revealed “Ava”, a mysterious young woman who was buried in Caithness, now adjacent to the A9, and Norton Priory, a monastery near an industrial estate in Runcorn. The museum on this site holds hundreds of skeletons, including:
1) A well-preserved male, who died aged 50-60 in 1150-1250. He died by a vertical sword wound whilst not wearing armour, which was evidently not an execution, to be buried near the nave. He, another Paget’s disease sufferer with thicker bones and some hearing loss, is likely to be a knight and a member of the Dutton family, who were in the Earl of Chester’s retinue and were major benefactors to Norton. Sir Geoffrey Dutton, with John de Lacy and Ranulph Earl of Chester, went on the Fifth Crusade, principally to Egypt, in 1220. Documents from seven years later show that he returned, donating land from great Budworth to the Priory, as well as a fragment of the “True Cross”.
2) Yet another wealthy Paget’s sufferer from that era, buried in the east part, who is possibly Canon William Dutton.
3) Another layman who died in the following century, in his forties. He had a fractured clavicle and a rotator cuff injury that may have resulted from jousting. This took place at nearby sites such as Beeston Castle.
The fourth episode moved on to Amesbury Down, where a housing estate was built in 2013. As a result, some 250 graves were examined, finding 291 bodies, including:
1) A socially prominent man, found with coins from c.375 AD as the Roman era ended. He had been decapitated and stabbed after his death, but why? This was not a “Valley of the Kings” style grave burial as his grave goods were still present. A Bronze Age ditch divided the settlement from the cemetery. A visit to the Temple of Minerva explained that the raid was possibly carried out to prevent the deceased from causing harm to living people.
2) A woman and child in a stone sarcophagus. Their shoes and some fabric remained but the style of burial caused their bones to decay more than others. The remains do show her to have been gracile and to have died at a similar time to the man.
Unlike Ipswich and Runcorn, there are no suggestions of their identities.
The series concluded in Bristol, in the grounds of St. George’s Concert Hall, formerly a church, where 300 bodies were buried, mostly between 1820 and 1870. These included:
1) A boy of about nine months, from an era of high infant mortality. Identified as Edmund Chambers Moutrie (1833), the youngest of eight siblings from an affluent family, was found in a family vault and dissected, as were about a dozen other of the cases.
2) A man of at least fifty who had a hard physical life as shown by his broken bones and joint disease. His autopsy was carried out crudely, probably at the teaching hospital Bristol Royal Infirmary, visible from the churchyard.
3) A man of about forty, who was a pipe-smoker and had a leg amputated but replaced in his coffin.
BRI’s lead surgeon was one Richard Smith, who was involved in the body-snatching craze of the early nineteenth century, until executed criminals were made available for the purpose.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series
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