HC Deb 01 April 1873 vol 215 c398

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to an alleged desecration of an ancient burial-place at Monkhill, Pontefract, where, it is stated, that human remains have been disinterred and carted away as rubbish, skulls and other bones being scattered about and made into lanterns and playthings by thoughtless boys; and, whether he has caused any inquiry to be made into the matter, or taken any steps to secure the re-interment of the remains thus disturbed?


; I received, Sir, a complaint from the Roman Catholic priest at Pontefract stating that a quantity of bones had been removed from what was supposed to be an ancient cemetery. I communicated with the local authorities as to the person who was charged with this desecration, and ordered them to inform him that if the place in question was actually a cemetery the offender rendered himself liable to be prosecuted for a misdemeanour, and to pecuniary penalties under the Burials Act, unless he was acting with a licence. The proceedings were stopped, and further inquiries were made, the result of which I have just received. From this it appeared that the land in question was bought by a gentleman at Pontefract, without any knowledge or suspicion that it had ever been a cemetery. Indeed, it appears to be very doubtful whether it ever was one. The ground was bought for building and garden purposes, and in clearing it for the foundation of a kiln, the workmen came across a considerable deposit not only of human bones, but also of bones of animals. The belief is that the former were the remains of persons killed during the siege of Pontefract during the Parliamentary wars. How that may be, it is impossible for me to say, but in the meantime no further removal of bones has taken place, and a policeman is stationed on the ground for the purpose of preventing desecration. Some skulls have been removed out of idle curiosity, but I have suggested that the bones already removed should be conveyed to the old churchyard and buried there.

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