Potentially double the amount of neglected graves at abandoned graveyard for Northampton asylum after discovery

The number of neglected graves in an abandoned graveyard for an old asylum in Northampton could be as much as double what was previously thought.

Monday, 29th July 2019, 5:41 pm
Sandra Bemrose (right) and her team tidied up about 20 of the headstones in the rain on Saturday. Photos: Mark Leggett and Claire Potts

A small group of hardy volunteers braved the rain to start tidying up the approximately 150 forgotten headstones from the 1940s to 60s behind the former chapel of St Crispin Hospital on Saturday (July 27).

Just before they were about to leave, one of the group had a go at trying to find headstones in the neighbouring patch of grass and found one a few feet below the surface dated 1966.

Sandra Bemrose, who has written a book about St Crispin, believes there could be up to 300 graves if the second graveyard is full, which was previously thought to be empty.

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Sandra Bemrose (right) and her team tidied up about 20 of the headstones in the rain on Saturday. Photos: Mark Leggett and Claire Potts

"I don't how how many are in that section as we didn't have time to explore any more rows," she said.

"But we're going again on August 10, and hopefully we'll have 20-odd people that can then do some digging - it's a mystery."

It is now understood that Northampton Borough Council owns the land in question off St Crispin Drive and has been maintaining it since the hospital closed in 1995.

But most of the headstones in the main graveyard are covered in dirt and grass, some are even buried in soil, so any passer-by would be unlikely to know there were even any graves there at all.

The headstones before and after being cleaned. Photos: Mark Leggett and Claire Potts

So Sandra has taken it upon herself to bring them up to scratch, firstly by building a team to clean the stones and cut away any grass.

Dedicated volunteers Mark Leggett and couple Claire Potts and Del Smith joined Sandra for the rain-soaked session on Saturday, and got through around 20 headstones - 'they turned out a really nice colour'.

When Mark found the surprise grave, Sandra said there was a real excitement as it dawned on them how many more people could be buried there who were previously forgotten about.

"If we can present the names then we can see if anyone says, 'it's my great auntie, or that's my granny.' It's such a shame for them to stay ignored," she said.

Mark Leggett looking for graves in the second part of the site. Photo: Claire Potts

Sandra has had an offer from a professional gravestone cleaner and landscape gardener for help, with a potential fundraiser further down the line to pay for the headstones to be raised slightly for £2.50 each.

Anyone interested in helping out on Saturday, August 10, should meet at the chapel at 1pm, or email Sandra on [email protected].

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The grave found a few feet in the ground. Photo: Claire Potts