Monday, 3 October 2011

The Plague pit.

Yesterdays post about the building works reminded me of a time about 10 years ago when I was a worship leader and also the church secretary. Our vicar was part time. He arrived on Friday and went home on Monday his absence the day to day running of the parish was left to me.
One Friday morning I got a phone call from the vicarage.
"You'd better come and see this.” the vicar off I went.
At the time we were renovating the back of the church and having a loo installed. In order to gain access to the sewer the village street was closed  whilst new drains were laid. Just by the back door of the church the workmen had made a grisly discovery.
"Look! " said the vicar pointing downwards with  theatrical gestures . “Just look!”
There was a square hole in the ground, dug out of rock and soil. Along the side of the pit were four skeletons. One was lying down, the other three were sitting up their backs against the rough wall.
The vicar was ringing his hands in horror until I reminded him that he was more used to death than most...having been a doctor for the vast bulk of his working life.
The first worry was that we had discovered some sort of ghastly murder but the truth became obvious. It was a plague pit . During the Black death people had taken themselves out of their village to save their loved ones from catching it and these people looked as if they had climbed into the pit and then died.
We decided that they should have a Christian burial but the thing that was exercising the vicar was that on Sunday we had an open day, the entire village had been invited in to look at the church and its new building works. 
“What are we going to do with these bodies?” he asked. 
We found some black dustbin liners and he went down into the pit. Each body occupied one liner. He handed them up to me with horrid bone noises clinking. They would need investigation before they could be re buried so in the interim the problem was what to do with them.
In the end we put them in the robes cupboard in the vestry. 
On the open day I was put in charge of the vestry to repel boarders....
No one went in but the day after when I opened the cupboard they all rolled out onto the floor......but we were the only ones to witness it.  Eventually they were given Christian burial with a special little plaque to commemorate them!  Their long wait was over.  


  1. You couldn't make it up!
    What a fascinating life you lead Jean. Have you ever thought of writing your memoirs?
    And no, the blog is not the same thing.

  2. I have thought about it Ray but doubt if I could get a publisher!

  3. This sort of things seems quite common when working on churches. Just before I joined my Parish, they had a new porch with ablutions etc built into it. During initial excavation they uncovered two unknown graves. No records of them could be found, but the formalities you described followed and they were re-interred in a new grave with a Christian service a month later.

    Apparently it was the cause of great excitement at the time, but for the surveyor involved who deals with loads of church work, it featured in most of the major works undertaken in older church buildings.

    Your description of hiding the bones in the robing cupboard just fills me with laughter. I can imagine a visiting priest coming to take a service and being introduced to them as the PCC!

  4. I admit to enjoying the situation with a certain amount of humour!....and now you mention the PCC.......