6,000 bodies could cause cathedral to collapse

The burying of 6,000 bodies at Bath Cathedral in the city of Bath in south west England may cause it to collapse....

Burial site: An estimated 6,000 bodies were 'jammed in' to shallow graves under the stone flooring of Bath Abbey (pictured) which is now beginning to collapse because the bones are rotting

An ancient city centre church is on the verge of collapse after the bones of 6,000 bodies buried underneath it have rotted away and left holes.

For more than 300 years thousands of people have been buried just below the stone flooring of Bath Abbey in Somerset.

It is estimated that up to 6,000 bodies have been 'jammed in' to shallow graves under the church's grave ledger stones.

Now as the floor of the 500-year-old building begins to lift and collapse, the abbey has discovered 'huge great voids everywhere' beneath its flooring.

'It's where previous burials and graves have settled down and left voids,' said Charles Curnook, from the abbey.

'We were quite surprised the floor hadn't collapsed already on us.'

Bath Abbey, which dates back to 1499, sits on the remains of a massive Norman cathedral.

Three different churches have occupied the site and since the early 1500s, thousands of people have been buried under the building.

'There were burials here all the way through to about 1840,' said Mr Curnook.

'But at that point the place was full and they opened the Victorian cemetery at Ralph Allen Drive and stopped burying people here.

'I've had lots of estimates of how many bodies are buried here, but somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000, but they just jammed them in and jammed them in - it would have been very unpleasant to put it mildly.'

But it was not until trial digs at the beginning of 2011 and 2012 that the effect the bodies were having on the long-term stability of the building was discovered.

'We were looking for the foundation walls of the Norman cathedral on which we could lay a new floor,' said Mr Curnook.

'But we didn't find any - what we found instead were huge great voids underground in every place.

'And when we went in underneath one of the medieval pillars there was fresh air underneath it, at which point we stopped work.'

The honeycomb of huge voids, created by burials shifting and decaying, was a problem the Victorians had also discovered more than 100 years earlier.

Project: Work is now underway to move every bit of furniture in the abbey along with its huge grave ledger stones in an effort to stabilise the ground underneath

The ancient Somerset city of Bath was founded by the Romans in around 60AD. They named it "Aquae Sulis" ("the waters of Sulis"). The Romans built a baths over a natural hot spring (which are still there, above) to worship the deity Sulis, whose votive objects and inscribed lead tablets suggest that she was conceived of both as a nourishing, life-giving mother goddess and as an effective agent of curses wished by her votaries

But under Sir George Gilbert Scott, who from 1864 to 1874 completely transformed the inside of the abbey, it was a problem that had been tackled in the 'most shocking' way, according to Mr Curnook.

'They basically churned up the graves that were there and broke them up to try and consolidate the floor,' he said.

'They were very much more robust than we are - the burials had not been in the ground for more than 30 or 40 years.'

Now a century and a half later the abbey is again lifting every bit of furniture in the place as well as its huge grave ledger stones in an effort to stabilise the ground underneath.

And, as part of its ambitious £18m Footprint project, it is also planning to install new under-floor heating which taps into the city's hot springs

Read more: Bath Cathedral could collapse from weight of bones from 6000 bodies | Mail Online
Last edited by Blackleaf; Aug 16th, 2013 at 07:58 AM..
#2  Top Rated Post
Great metaphor for England.

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