Electronic hunt for space in graveyard

A MULTINATIONAL company that specialises in oil and gas exploration has been employed by a town council to look for long forgotten graves.Brightlingsea Town Council has commissioned Hemel Hempstead-based Fugro Ltd to send electromagnetic pulses deep below the graveyard surface at the town's 800-year-old All Saints Church to find new burial space.

A MULTINATIONAL company that specialises in oil and gas exploration has been employed by a town council to look for long forgotten graves.

Brightlingsea Town Council has commissioned Hemel Hempstead-based Fugro Ltd to send electromagnetic pulses deep below the graveyard surface at the town's 800-year-old All Saints Church to find new burial space.

Town councillors voted to approve the move, which will cost between £1,000 and £1,500, at a special meeting on Thursday night.

A two-man team will spend most of Mondayusing radar and non-intrusive ground probing equipment looking for unmarked graves.


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It is the next step in the escalating row with their parish vicar, the Reverend Richard Salenius, who wants to close the churchyard because he claims it is full.

The issue has split the local community with families currently forced to bury their loved ones outside their town.

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Mr Salenius and the town's Parochial Church Council insist it is time to find a brand new cemetery rather than squeeze new coffins into areas they claim are used for vehicle access.

Earlier this week the EADT reported that the vicar had consulted church lawyers after a team of clean-up volunteers “deliberately” left an eight-foot pyramid of spoil to give the impression of extra space in one corner of the yard.

Although organisers denied the allegations, the row has continued to simmer and a public meeting has been called to discuss the controversial issue on March 19.

Mr Salenius said: “The problem is that the town think the churchyard belongs to them, but it does not. In law, it belongs to the church and myself.

“I just cannot understand why councillors are so opposed to a private stone-masons buying up the land next to the church and allowing graves to be dug there.

“In that way, there would be no cost to the town council or the church - it's an obvious solution.

“It is sad that by its actions, the council is causing distress to bereaved families.”

But town and Tendring district councillor Peter Patrick said: “The area the vicar is talking about is protected woodland and councils cannot just simply remove that protection to make a cemetery.

“Anyway, there's no need for additional land because I believe there's still some space within the churchyard.”

Meanwhile, Satar Hasan, the head of Fugro's geophysics department, said his team was “excited” by their imminent and unusual task.

He said: “We've had to do a few cemeteries in this country before, but we normally deal with helping design oil rigs.

“However, our company was asked to look for a dead body as part of a murder investigation in Holland not so long ago and we'll be using the same techniques we employed then,” he added.

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