THE remains of a Saxon child have been reinterred after being unearthed in a corner of the churchyard where they were first buried, about the time of the Norman Conquest.
The child, who died aged no more than ten, was found by contractors repairing an unstable boundary wall at a 200-year-old church, St Augustine’s, in the north Yorkshire village of Kirkby-in-Cleveland, near Stokesley, in north Yorkshire.
Members of the Kirby, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group, who had already discovered stonework in the churchyard which they believed was an earlier Saxon building, were hoping for fresh evidence to support their theory.
They funded radiocarbon dating at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, near Glasgow, which suggested that the remains were of a child aged between seven and ten, who had lived some time between 1025 and 1155.
One of the group, Geoff Taylor, a former churchwarden at St Augustine’s, said: “We realised we had a child here who was around at that traumatic time when Britain’s history changed. They were unable to determine its sex, but we felt it was a girl.
“The church treasurer, Mike Sockett, made a lovely little oak coffin, and our Vicar, Anne Heading, conducted a full burial service for her. It was the circle of life brought to a proper, reverent end, and we are very pleased about that.”
The grave is currently marked with a wooden cross, but a local stonemason, Neil Collinson, is to donate a memorial stone with the inscription “In memory of a child aged about ten who lived between 1025 and 1155 AD. Reinterred on the 25th January, 2016.”
“It will be the newest tombstone for the oldest skeleton,” Mr Taylor said. “We feel it has been an entirely positive story, and it has helped to validate the age of the church. It’s a nice ending to our work. She was some distance from the Saxon site, but it could have been a reburial by a medieval gravedigger; sadly, we shall never know now.”