THE MYSTERIES of a Redditch cemetery are set to be revealed as part of new research project.
Birmingham University student Andrew Wedgbury is planning to map out and document the history of Plymouth Road Cemetery as part of his studies for a masters in research in archaeology.
The project will take at least two years to complete and focus on a data survey of the graves of the 17,000 people buried in the Victorian cemetery which opened in 1855.
The information will be used to create a map of the site showing how it grew and developed over the years, whether social class made a difference to where people were buried, why the war graves are scattered around the cemetery rather than clustered in one place and even why the pathways are laid out as they are
There are also plans to produce a 3D computer model of the site and potentially find some forgotten graves.
The Lakeside resident stressed no burials would be disturbed and once completed the research would be donated to Worcestershire’s Historic Environment Record. It is also hoped it will be used nationally to help record and map out Victorian cemeteries which are increasingly being used for development – although site owners Redditch Borough Council has no intention to develop the site and is instead focusing on promoting its natural beauty and as a conservation spot.
Mr Wedgbury told the Standard: “I’m very excited by this project. I grew up around here so this cemetery is the place that inspired me to do historical archaeology in the first place.
“Archeology of the 19th and early 20th century isn’t very fahsionable, it’s becoming more fashionable, but although a lot of history was recorded in those times there are still things people did not write down.
“Cemeteries as we know them today did not really exist until the 1830s, before that everyone was buried in churchyards and it became an overcrowding problem. There will be a lot more history to this site than people appreciate.”
Early research suggests the cemetery grew out of two churchyards, one linked to a Church of England chapel – which although boarded up still stands today – and one belonging to a non-conformist chapel which has been lost to history.
Council leader Bill Hartnett said: “It’s a very important historic cemetery and I’m sure Andrew will find all sorts of untold things. Some of the graves are well over 100 years old and this will give us a permanent record of them, where they are and hopefully we’ll find out lots more about them as well.”
Volunteers are needed to support Andrew’s work. Visit www.andrewwedgbury.com for more information or to get involved.