Skeleton advice issued

02 November 2006

DEVELOPERS whose work is hampered by the unexpected discovery of human skeletons can now turn to a new code of practice unveiled this week by the Church of England and English Heritage.

The new guidelines, described by the Bishop of Sodor & Man, the Rt Revd Graeme Knowles, as "much needed", set out the legal and practical steps to be taken when human remains are unearthed in Christian burial sites.

Thousands of skeletons are discovered this way every year, either unexpectedly by developers or in known burial sites that are being used for research, excavation or reburial, said a spokesman for the Council for the Care of Churches.

At a redundant church, St Peter's, Barton-upon-Humber, 2500 skeletons have been found. Under a pilot scheme, following the code of practice, the human remains are being held in the organ chamber in the church.

Bishop Knowles, who chairs the Council for the Care of Churches, said that dealing with human remains was a very emotive issue, yet could not be ignored in the current climate, when more and more churches needed to develop their site. Of the 16,000 C of E churches, most had graveyards, a spokesman said.

A national advisory committee, to help with problematic cases, is also to be set up jointly by English Heritage and the Church of England.

Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: "The feelings of family members, ethical considerations, and the value of scientific study of human burials have all been taken into account."

Guidance for Best Practice for Treatment of Human Remains Excavated from Christian Burial Grounds in England can be downloaded free at or ; or telephone 0870 333181.

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