Can you help BOHIS solve a mystery which could have major consequences for Phase 2 (Sampling) – Funding & Permissions ?
As you know, having discovered features (ie. possible reinterment sites etc..) at St. Mary’s, we are now trying to gain permission & funding in order to sample these to see whether the bones are of Saxon origin.
Very interestingly, during those Phase 1 field operations operations (conducted by our archaeological partner MERCIAN) in November 2015, I was approached in the field abutting the church by a gentleman called Alex Brewster.
Alex explained that Saxon artefacts (sword pommel hilts etc..) had been found at St. Mary’s as a consequence of a, “YOPS type scheme” to clear part of the churchyard in the 1960’s (so at least c. 9 years after the subsidence operations uncovered 3 or 4 mass burial pits in 1950/1).
However, a little research soon revealed that “YOPS” (Youth Opportunities) schemes only existed between 1978-83, but it could have been a predecessor scheme.
Alex dated these finds to 1960 or ‘61 and thought that he had read about them in a Mansfield CHAD article whilst travelling on a bus from Worksop to Mansfield.
He furthered that it could possibly have been the Worksop Guardian (although he thought this unlikely).
Intriguingly his story was corroborated by another gentleman that Alex introduced (whom we shall call Jim) who thought that it could extend to having been reported in the Derbyshire Times and be as late as 1964.
Jim added that he thought these artefacts were discovered near or under a hedge (but we have to remember that this recollection relates to events over 50 years old).
As neither Alex nor Jim had a copy of the article, Jennie Johnson (our New Vice Chair) very worthily proceeded to spend around 100 hours (initially examining the CHAD and Worksop Guardian between 1960 – 65) but without success in locating the article.
Around late September 2016, I recounted Alex’s tale to a long standing Cuckney resident.
She was adamant that the church yard had been partially cleared between her temporary departure from Cuckney (in May 1965) and her return (in Feb. 1967).
This was extremely interesting because it tallied with Alex’s churchyard clearance tale and provided a rationale for the discovery of artefacts.
Of course, we are aware that the 2 themes (of clearance and artefacts discovery) may not be linked at all.
This led Jennie to extend her CHAD search to 1966 & ’67 and as a consequence she found 2 articles dated the 10th and 24th March 1966. The earlier article says that a Faculty had been “asked for” (in the week preceding 10th March).
The Faculty was duly awarded in May 1966 for a partial clearance of St. Mary’s church yard, but unfortunately it does not appear to reside at Notts. C.C. Archives although the Diocese say that it would have been deposited there.
Thankfully, St. Mary’s Parochial Church Council (“P.C.C.”) have provided a map, detailing the proposed works.
This shows the location of 5 gravestones prior to their removal as part of the clearance in 1966.
If we refer to Jim’s previous comment (re. the discovery of artefacts near or under a hedge), then at face value, this is puzzling as none exist within St. Mary’s boundaries.
However, if taken less literally, this might also mean or even have stated, “under a bush or tree” (and there are some of those).
Disappointingly, there were no further articles in the CHAD in 1966 detailing any finds.
One might believe that having carried 2 Faculty related stories in 1966 that there would be a follow up story if anything was discovered.
One has to observe or ask :
• Who passed the story to the newspaper(s) ?
• In clearing the church yard in 1966 was this carried out by or with the help of a, “YOPS” type scheme ?
• That it is likely that any artefacts would have passed into the possession of a museum or other facility (although Mansfield Museum said they did not have any Saxon Artefacts – c. 2 years ago).
• That BOHIS have not yet researched the Derbyshire Times at all (mainly due to access restrictions).
Have you access to this paper, especially for 1966 – and could you help with some research ?
In conclusion, (and possibly with YOUR help) we think that it would be superb if this mystery could be resolved and amazing if it led to the re-discovery of artefacts.
If they were then dated and found to be associated with the early Saxon period, then this may provide much greater impetus to our imminent requests for another Faculty and further H.L.F. funding.
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From All the Team