Mysterious graves found near Hertfordshire church, St Mary Magdalene’s

25 August 2017

ARCHANT

Investigation: Brian Munnery uses a camera to look into the opening of the burial chamber

Investigation: Brian Munnery uses a camera to look into the opening of the burial chamber

A PREVIOUSLY unrecorded burial chamber has been discovered beside a medieval village church.

The eight-foot-long brick tomb at St Mary Magdalene’s, Caldecote, in Hertfordshire, was found by Brian Munnery, a member of a Friends group that cares for the redundant building. As he was clearing overgrown plants in the graveyard, he pulled out a large root, and exposed a small hole and some brickwork.

At first, he thought it was a drain, but when he and the landowner lowered an infra-red camera into the void, they saw what looked like two lead coffins and some bones.

The chamber has now been sealed temporarily while expert advice is sought on how it can best be explored and conserved. “We haven’t been able to find any reference to this chamber anywhere in the church records,” Mr Munnery said.

“Most of the graves here come from two families, the Flints and the Inskips, which intermarried, but nobody we’ve spoken to has any idea that this was here.”

ARCHANTWhat the camera revealed: the interior of the unrecorded burial chamber near St Mary Magdalene’s, Caldecote

Caldecote, near Baldock, dates from the Norman Conquest, and the parish’s first rector was appointed in 1215. The present Grade II* listed church was built in the 14th century. The village was largely abandoned when the Black Death struck in 1349, but a handful of cottages remained in occupation, making it one of the smallest villages in the county, having a population of just 19.

The church continued in use until 1974, when it was declared redundant, and, in 1982, it was put in the care of the charity Friends of Friendless Churches.

Excavations in the village between 1973 and 1977 unearthed artefacts from the Bronze and Iron Ages, but gave no hint of the tomb. Mr Munnery believes that it dates from the late 18th or early 19th centuries, based on the style of brickwork and the fact that neighbouring graves date from 1798 and 1801.

“The history of this place is just amazing,” he said. “You can put your hand down on the original pews from the 14th century, and just think of all who have come before. We just hope others will be able to shed some light to help us solve this mystery.”

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