On a sad note, we have had our first theft. A rather splendid sculpture (see left) which was laid against the Heaton/Smith gravestone was taken in July. If anyone sees anything like this on sale on the internet or anywhere else, we (and the Police) would be glad of the information.
We have reached the end of the Lottery-funded project which officially closed at the end of February. There is much paperwork still to do and work to finalise in the Ground, but much progress has been made. Key achievements include:
Following the excavation last summer, we have been trying to place the Mortuary in some context with others of the same type At present, it looks as if the Mortuary may be the only remaining subterranean one in the country. Research is ongoing but if this is right, then we are looking at something very exciting and if funding can be raised, it may be possible to return for a further excavation. Finds from the work have now all been logged, measured, photographed and drawn. A forthcoming publication in the Council of British Archaeology’s “Forum” journal will detail just what we found.
Due to the Ground’s age, some of the gravestones had either fallen over or were in danger of doing so and part of the project was to make these safe. For example the Riley family table tomb. Table tombs were so called because they had “legs” at each corner of the grave, with the “table top” having the engraved names on it. A photograph taken in the 1940's shows the top stone still on its four legs, but by the time the Friends came to be formed, it had collapsed. Our specialist team were able to lift the top stone and replace this on the grave slab. Unfortunately, only two of the legs were found.
Some existing trees had to be removed as they were diseased or had fallen in high winds. A tree planting day was organised in November to supplement these. The trees have kindly been supplied by the Woodland Trust and these were planting around the Ground. More details on the trees on site can be found here.
In order to improve the ecology and increase insect diversity on site, following the mammal survey, a bug hotel has been constructed and sits alongside the east wall. We await with interest to see what guests we attract!
We are planning to have a wildflower planting scheme. Having taken advice, it has been suggested that we plant Yellow Rattle as this will restrict grass growth and thus help the wildflowers to establish. Yellow Rattle can only be introduced in Autumn, and so the wildflower planting will follow later and into 2016. Where diseased trees have been felled the ground now recieves more light and we are hoping this will encourage self-sown wildflowers to establish. We seem to have more snowdrops this year than last. More details on the flora on site can be found here.
Research in to the ground’s residents continues; the findings will be published this year. For example we have identifed the oldest resident as Hannah Sheffield who died in 1850 at the remarkable age of 91, which means she was born in 1759. It is all the more interesting because she died in the Workhouse, not always a place associated with longevity!
Some of the Friends have attended training sessions on Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). An imaging technique developed at York University that may allow some of the faded and currently illegible inscriptions to be read. It works on the basis that as long as there is some indentation in the stone, this can be captured and computerised to enable them to be read. This is exciting and should help us to identify some more of the residents.