Archeological talk and picture presentation precedes reburial of Herm’s skeletons

THE skeletons discovered in Herm during 2011 have been reburied near St Tugual’s Chapel, following a service by Canon Paul Mellor and Father Michael Hoare.

A service led by Canon Paul Mellor and Father Michael Hoare has seen skeletons discovered in Herm during 2011 reburied near St Tugual’s Chapel.
A service led by Canon Paul Mellor and Father Michael Hoare has seen skeletons discovered in Herm during 2011 reburied near St Tugual’s Chapel.

THE skeletons discovered in Herm during 2011 have been reburied near St Tugual’s Chapel, following a service by Canon Paul Mellor and Father Michael Hoare.

The reburial followed a talk and picture presentation by States archaeologist Dr Philip de Jersey, who spoke to a group of schoolchildren, residents and guests about the findings of his team.

Approximately 40 bodies were found in around 16sq.m. of garden. Often skeletons were found with other groups of bones piled on their legs. The archaeologists found that often, if earlier graves were disturbed, the original bones would be picked up and put on top of the legs of the new body because that was where there was the most space in the grave.

The skeletons discovered covered 300 years of Herm history, with the earliest dating to the second-half of the 10th century. They were buried in line with the chapel and the original wall of the manor house, indicating there may have been a walled or fenced cemetery at one time.

There seem to be no burials in the half of the garden that goes past the original wall of the house.

The 10th-century bones are some of the earliest to be found in the Bailiwick and much can be learned from them.

Among some of the most interesting findings is that one died from leprosy, one possibly had Perthes disease, a disorder of the femur, and a woman with particularly rotten teeth probably died from blood poisoning. There was even an indication of a child being carefully buried with its mother, but several years apart.

Around half the bodies found were children. Until now, it was not known for certain that there was a working community on Herm so many years ago and Dr de Jersey is hoping to look at other parts of the island for traces of their existence.

Although St Tugual’s is generally used as a Church of England chapel, the bodies discovered would not have been Protestant, hence both the Dean of Guernsey and Father Michael holding the service together.

It was a lovely and rare opportunity to see both religious communities come together in a caring and respectful service.

The service was held over the grave, which was in a trench dug adjacent to where the bones were discovered. The bones would have had to be moved anyway due to the building work and only these skeletons were removed. The rest were accounted for, but left undisturbed.