When a Warwickshire couple were having their home extended the last thing they expected to find were bodies buried under the patio. The grisly finds were made by their builders but Stephen and Nicky West are keen local historians and had the presence of mind to call in experts from Warwickshire County Council.
Archaeology Warwickshire’s Manager Stuart Palmer visited the site in Ratley, a village between Kineton and Edgehill in south Warwickshire, and determined that any foul play was committed long ago and that the find was of considerable historic importance.
Intrigued and keen to find out more, Stephen and Nicky commissioned Archaeology Warwickshire to excavate under the patio and undertake scientific research on the skeletons uncovered. The archaeologists identified the remains of at least four bodies which included two adult females, a young male and a juvenile aged between ten and twelve. Radiocarbon dates from two of the skeletons show that they died around 650-820 AD in what is known as the middle Saxon period.
England at this time was divided into a number of kingdoms and Ratley may have been in a frontier warzone between the Saxon kingdom of the Hwicce and the eventually dominant Anglian kingdom of Mercia.
Stuart Palmer said: “The discovery of this previously unsuspected burial ground is an extremely rare and important addition to what has previously been an archaeologically invisible period of Warwickshire’s history.
“Detailed analysis of the skeletons has revealed an insight into the health of the middle Saxon population who clearly suffered periods of malnourishment and were subject to a wide range of infections indicative of lives of extreme hardship and often near-constant pain.”
Asked how they felt about living over an ancient burial ground, Stephen and Nicky West responded “sleeping so close to the dead – it’s a privilege living so close to so much history – providing they don’t wake up!”
Warwickshire County Councillor for Kineton division, Cllr Chris Williams, said: “It’s fascinating to know what lies beneath our feet and homes in this part of Warwickshire. It makes you wonder what else could be out there? It’s encouraging to know that here in Warwickshire we have such a team of experts to deal with these discoveries.”
Source: Warwickshire County Council