Remains of Wallingford's oldest inhabitants to be reburied

The Oxford Times: Some of the skeletons discovered during the dig Some of the skeletons discovered during the dig

THEIR remains have been undisturbed for hundreds of years. But today the skeletons of what are thought to have been Wallingford’s earliest residents will be reburied.

The remains of more than 500 people dating back to the 900s were discovered next to St Martin’s Street – the Waitrose site – during an archaeological dig 10 years ago.

The bones were excavated when the old 1960s shops were being demolished to make way for the new Waitrose in 2003.

Today the full set of 211 skeletal remains, and bones from the partial remains of about 300 other people, will be reburied in Wallingford Cemetery in Castle Street. Archaeologist Iain Soden, who oversaw the excavation, said: “People talk about closure and today is a very personal sort of closure. They were real people and it is very important they end up somewhere they would want to be.”

The remains – which date from soon after King Alfred founded Wallingford in about 980 to 1412 – were found in what was the churchyard of St Martin’s Church.

The church no longer exists but its foundations are thought lie towards or under Market Place. The bones will be laid to rest in the old part of the cemetery.

Father David O’Sullivan of Wallingford’s St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church will lead the service, which is due to start at 2pm.

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Curator of Wallingford Museum Judy Dewey said: “These are the oldest inhabitants of Wallingford as a town.

“They have been very important in telling us about this Saxon and Medieval town and the people who lived in it.”

A book about what experts have been able to learn from the skeletons has been put together, and the results of the excavation are to go on show in a new exhibition at Wallingford Museum in March.

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