New film reveals Churchyard Secrets

Fewston Wall HangingA film, a book and a series of heritage walks have been launched this week at the Washburn Heritage Centre adjoining St Michael and St Lawrence church in Fewston, near Harrogate, following   a major scientific study of the lives of 154 local people from the 19th century who were buried in the churchyard.

For the past two years the University project team have been working on a book which presents the research and findings,  a film that tells the story of the project and a series of walks so that people can experience the local landscape for themselves.  This week, the Deputy Mayor of Harrogate, Cllr Christine Ryder officially launched the Churchyard Secrets book, film and walks with many of the descendants of those whose remains were uncovered there to be part of the launch celebration.

Last year a special service was held to mark the reburial of artefacts and remains known as the ‘Fewston Assemblage’  which has been carefully moved and examined during the building of the Washburn Heritage Centre. Local descendants of those whose remains were discovered, were involved throughout the project and took part in the service  for all those whose remains have now been returned to burial plots beside the church.

An exhibition documenting the findings has already been opened, and a series of illustrated talks have been given at the  Washburn Heritage Centre by some of the team involved in the research.   A  special wall hanging, (pictured) created by a team of volunteers, to commemorate the 154 Assemblage individuals has also been unveiled and is on show. (Pictured, Textile artist Maureen Fackrell of Knaresborough, Washburn Stitcher, Liz Carnell of Harrogate and project leader Sally Robinson of Fewston, with the Fewston Assemblage Project panel)

Dr Anwen Caffell , a bio-archeologist from  York University, who spoke on ‘From bare bones to biographies – investigating life in the Valley’ said,  “Having the support of the local descendants was very important.  We have been coming back here quite regularly and giving talks about the results of our findings over the past five years, so they have been with us every step of the way. But it’s been a two-way street and they have been telling us information about the local context, there are lots of volunteers here doing historical research on the identified individuals… from our perspective that has been very rewarding.”

The book, film and exhibition have been made possible with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation.  The exhibition can be viewed on Sundays from 11am-4pm when the tea-room is open.

More information and details at