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Clear up of paupers' graves

PUBLISHED: 20:10 06 December 2005 | UPDATED: 06:20 02 March 2010

FOR more than 200 years their graves have been virtually neglected.

Simple wooden crosses marked only with a number.

In their lives they were among the poorest in society, residents of the Stow Lodge workhouse, near Stowmarket, which opened in 1798.

FOR more than 200 years their graves have been neglected.

Simple wooden crosses marked only with a number.

In their lives they were among the poorest in society, residents of the Stow Lodge workhouse, near Stowmarket, which opened in 1798.

When they died their bodies were laid in shallow, pauper's graves with little ceremony and nothing but a simple cross left to show they were there.

But today volunteers are one step closer to turning this ancient Suffolk burial ground into a wildlife haven after getting their hands dirty at woodland clean-up event.

A working party was held at the Pauper's Graves area in Onehouse.

A group, headed by Onehouse Parish Council chairman Mike Chase, are clearing and restoring the woodland through a series of working parties.

The parish council bought the site in 2000 amid fears it would be released to Mid Suffolk District Council and developed with houses. Since then, they have been encouraging the community to get involved with sprucing it up.

Mr Chase said: “The site's got a lot of potential and we are getting close to finishing now.

“Over the summer it was hard to get the momentum going because we didn't want to disturb nesting birds and it got a bit overgrown again so there was a lot of clearing to do.

“It's a good project for the community and we thank everyone who helped.”

The graves area is at a former home for paupers and it is thought most of the plots belong to smallpox victims.

Several are marked by small wooden memorial crosses but most of the records relating to the burial ground have been lost or destroyed.

It is known the site's infirmary was pulled down in 1960 and it is since then the site has become overgrown.

WEBLINK:

www.onehouse.org.uk/html/paupers_graves

Most burials on the site were for smallpox where the body was usually sown into a sheet, laid into the grave and covered with quick lime and then soil.

A small wooden cross bearing a small metal number was then put at the head of the grave.

Metal numbers were used up to one hundred and after that painted numbers were used.

Many of the metal numbers have been found over the years but some collected in the 1980s, when the first tidy-up took place, have now been lost.

Unfortunately none of the painted numbers have been found.

The last burial at the site was in 1933.

Over the years a number of relatives have contacted local councillors, most recently someone from Canada was enquiring about the burial of their mother.

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