Final committal takes place for 110 of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors

The hearse makes its way from Bamburgh Castle to St Aidan's Church. Picture by Ian Glendinning
The hearse makes its way from Bamburgh Castle to St Aidan's Church. Picture by Ian Glendinning
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The final committal of 110 Anglo-Saxon skeletons into the crypt of St Aidan’s Church in Bamburgh took place last week.

A poignant and moving ceremony to mark the final committal of the Anglo-Saxon Bowl Hole skeletons was held at the church on Friday.

The grille designed by Red Row blacksmith Stephen Lunn. Picture by Ian Glendinning

The grille designed by Red Row blacksmith Stephen Lunn. Picture by Ian Glendinning

Encased in individual zinc charnel boxes, the skeletons have been laid to rest in the small second crypt beneath the 11th-century chancel.

The specially-created ossuary is the culmination of years of work by Bamburgh Heritage Trust and the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership.

The skeletons were excavated between 1998 and 2007 from the sand dunes to the south of Bamburgh Castle by Bamburgh Research Project.

Years of research by the project and Durham University in partnership with Bamburgh Castle Estate has resulted in an unrivalled wealth of information about our Anglo-Saxon ancestors who were living in the area 1,400 years ago.

A beautiful, antique horse-drawn hearse brought 10 of the charnel boxes from Bamburgh Castle to the church and the skeletons were accompanied on their final journey by staff from the castle and archaeologists.

The ceremony was led by the Canon Rev Brian Hurst with the Venerable Peter Robinson, Archdeacon of Lindisfarne.

Rev Hurst said: “It seems very fitting that these individuals have found their final resting place in the crypt of St Aidan’s – they who may have known King Oswald and his gentle bishop, Aidan; they who would have known a church on this site and may have known that here it was that Aidan died. It is almost as if the crypt has been waiting for them to come and offer them this peaceful resting space.”

The service also included a talk by the author Max Adams about the wider historic importance of Anglo-Saxon Bamburgh and Graeme Young, the director of Bamburgh Research Project, covered the archaeological significance.

Jessica Turner, of the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership, said: “It was all incredibly moving and very beautiful. We are immensely grateful to all those who helped make today possible.”

Others who were involved in the day

The skeletons are now secure in the second crypt behind a stunning grille designed and made by blacksmith and artist Stephen Lunn, from Red Row. Stephen’s design is a modern interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon knot with animal heads reflecting the zoomorphic tradition in ancient Celtic art and the 3D knot work reflecting the Anglo-Saxon – the two artistic traditions that merged in St Oswald’s Bamburgh and resulted in the Golden Age of Northumbria.

North East-based funeral directors Go As You Please specialise in providing a bespoke funeral service and are able to accommodate the most unusual of requests – such as an the interment of 110 Anglo-Saxons in zinc charnel boxes. They worked with the North East Carriage Company to provide the antique horse-drawn hearse.