Turnchapel 17th Century Remains

Reburial of 400 year old remains

It's not every day someone gets invited to attend a reburial of 400 year old remains, but that's exactly what happened to Turnchapel residents Harriet and Nina. The remains of the 23 bodies were actually discovered three years ago behind a car park near the historic dockyard in Turnchapel. SW Archaeology unearthed the skeletons during groundworks associated with residential development. Their analysis identified them as men and boys between the ages of 16-60 engaged in hard manual labour, many with signs of disease and sickness. They are thought to be dockyard workers from between 1660 and 1690. Another fascinating detail was that the bodies were buried in two distinct groups, for reasons as yet unknown. More tests have been carried out as part of a national research project and will hopefully shed more light on their origins and circumstances.

So, after some delay due to Covid, the bodies have been reburied at Ford Park Cemetery. In attendance for a brief ceremony were two Ford Park Cemetery Trustees, the Director of SW Archaeology, a funeral minister and Nina and Harriet from Turnchapel History Group. Flowers were laid and some carefully chosen words were said by the minister. A plaque is to be added to the grave site in due course and we hope to hold a larger gathering to commemorate this reburial after lockdown has eased.

This is just another chapter in the unfolding story of Turnchapel's heritage. Over the last few years the village has been actively involved in researching its history from the 17th century onwards. As a site originally considered for the Plymouth Dockyard (now Devonport) and for building the biggest warships in a private shipyard during the Napoleonic Wars, Turnchapel occupies a special place in Plymouth's maritime history. The quarry, as well as other industries such as fishing and until 2013, the Ministry of Defence, have all added to the rich tapestry of its past. This is all the more important given that this unique conservation area is under threat from future development at Turnchapel Wharf.

For more information about Turnchapel and its intriguing heritage, you can follow us on Facebook.com/turnchapelpast or Twitter @turnchapelpast.

Published: 23 Mar 2021 Last edited: 24 Mar 2021 11:04