Final resting place for town’s oldest residents

Father Paul Martin with skeletons found at The Church of the Immaculate Conception,Bicester during car park works.'110214M-A527
Father Paul Martin with skeletons found at The Church of the Immaculate Conception,Bicester during car park works.'110214M-A527
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SOME of Bicester’s oldest known inhabitants were laid to rest in a special church service last week.

A group of Saxon skeletons unearthed at the site of the new parish rooms at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in The Causeway were reinterred in the church’s Foynes Memorial Garden on Saturday.

The Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend William Kenney, led a requiem mass as the skeletons were laid to rest together in a wicker coffin.

Parish priest Father Paul Martin said: “It’s possible there were satellite cemeteries administered by the Saxon minster. We’re working on the assumption they were Christian.

“They appear to be shroud burials, and the graves are sited very close to where they believe the original Saxon minster was.”

He added: “The bones were not in excellent condition, and only of local interest. The feeling was they should be returned to the earth with the same dignity and respect we would accord to everyone at the end of their earthly lives.

“It was a wonderful celebration.”

Fr Martin said an inscription would be cut into the memorial garden’s wall, bearing the message, “640 to 770 AD Saxon remains.”

Hundreds of people caught a glimpse of the skeletons when they were put on display earlier this year.

The remains were discovered in November last year by archaeologists carrying out investigation work ahead of the construction of the parish rooms, and were excavated to protect them from damage.

The skeletons were found buried in an east-west alignment indicative of Christian burials. Seven of the skeletons were female and were fairly advanced in age, but experts were unable to find out more due to the poor condition of the bones.

The new community centre was built over a burial ground thought to be linked to a Saxon minster near the site of St Edburg’s Church.