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King’s Lynn residents call for action after skull found in dyke

Terry Smith, of Argyle Street, King's Lynn, next to the river bank where a skull was found.
Terry Smith, of Argyle Street, King's Lynn, next to the river bank where a skull was found.

Residents of a street in Lynn are calling on the borough council to ensure preventative measures are in place after a skull was found in a dyke close to their homes.

Terry Smith is one such resident of Argyle Street, which is bordered by Hardwick Road Cemetery, who does not want to see this happen again.

Mr Smith said the skull was discovered a couple of weeks ago, and was removed the next day by Mintlyn Crematorium staff before being re-interred.

He said it is believed that the skull was pushed through to the dyke by burrowing animals.

“We are concerned that there may be other parts – who’s to say what may be under the water,” he said.

“We’ve been told it’s very highly unlikely that other parts came through, but there’s a lot of children in this street and if children had seen that skull then they would have been terrified.

“We don’t want this happening again. I was truly horrified – that’s someone’s relative. We feel the bank needs to be reinforced or wired.

“What prevention is the council going to take to stop it from happening again?”

Mr Smith said this has highlighted a further concern of who is responsible for the maintenance of the river, the condition of which he says has worsened over the years.

Dr Julian Litten, founder and chairman of the Friends of Hardwick Road Cemetery, said: “It is always distressing when situations such as this occur, but where one has an old cemetery or an ancient churchyard close to a river bank, burrowing animals such as badgers, rabbits and, occasionally, muntjac, do tend to disturb bones.”

He said rivers, streams and drains also do widen over the years and it is not unusual for an altered watercourse to wash away and erode soil from the banks.

But he added: “The right thing was done at the time and, in informing the burial authority of the situation, I am sure that they will be taking it seriously.

“I also understand that there has been some concern as to whether or not the disturbed remains will be returned to its original grave.

“Of course, every attempt will be made by the burial authority to identify the grave from which it came, but if this is found to be exposed by erosion, sense and sensibility will dictate that the skull be best re-interred adjacent to the grave rather than placing it back in it, where further erosion might see it ending up in the stream again.

“It is all rather sad, but then burial grounds bordering water-courses have always been exposed to such risk.”

A West Norfolk Council spokeswoman said: “A skull was found in the drainage ditch by Argyle Street, and reported to the police, who passed the matter to the borough council.

“After investigation, we were confident that it had originated from the historical part of the cemetery where interments date from the 1800s, and that it had been disturbed by animals as there was clear evidence of disturbance/burrowing.

“Borough council staff recovered the skull, and re-interred it with dignity and respect, and recorded the location, following official guidance on the best practice when dealing with human remains.

“The coroner was not informed as the official guidance is that there is no need to if the remains were properly interred in recognised burial grounds, or if there is reason to believe they were buried more than 100 years ago.

“The discovery has highlighted some concerns about the drainage ditch, and we are currently assessing where responsibilities lie, and what measures might be taken to prevent this happening again.”

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