Human remains and graves lost in 1960s landslide re-discovered beneath reservoir

Tombstones and suspected human remains have been discovered at the bottom of a reservoir in Guernsey.

Police officers were called out to the flooded Longue Hougue quarry in St Sampsons on Friday 11 November.

The remains are believed to have been part of the old parish graveyard, which collapsed during a landslip in the 1960s.

Some graves were exhumed at the time and re-buried in the cemetery, but some had slipped 30-40 feet down a slope and were left in situ.

While some bodies were re-buried, the 250-foot landfall meant some of the graves could not be moved. Credit: Guernsey Press

Following the landslide, quarrying stopped and Longue Hougue quarry was turned into a reservoir, submerging the remaining graves.

This year's long, dry summer led to lower-than-usual water levels in the island's reservoirs.

An aerial drone survey to assess water levels revealed a number of new graves and remains exposed when the footage was being reviewed.

Paul Le Pelley, the Chairman of the St Sampson's Cemetery Committee, remembers the day the landslide happened:

"I was a student working for the Co-op in one of the warehouses nearby. I can remember a very loud bang and rushing out with all the other youngsters that were working there and seeing the actual rock face slip... The actual cause of it I couldn’t be sure, it was a long time ago!

"The area has been suspect for quite some time and as the land dries out, we are going to have movements in the rock, there’s going to be earth that’s going to slip and seep through the various fissures."

  • St Sampsons Senior Constable, Paul Le Pelley, explains how the graves and remains were unearthed.

"At the time, I think it was far too dangerous to try to remove the graves and the feeling was it was just best to leave them at rest, but of course, those graves then were in a section of land which fell as an integral piece, and it was still flat and level with the other surface, so the graves hadn’t been broken, it was just that they had sunk.

"Now it looks like there has been a further settlement and those graves in one or two cases have actually been breached.”

Part of the rockface collapsed into the quarry on 29 August 1969, taking a number of graves with it. Credit: ITV Channel TV

No burials have taken place at the site since the landslide, but Guernsey Police are currently working to identify the names from the newly re-discovered headstones to inform any family members:

“Officers attended a water-filled quarry in St Sampsons to conduct enquiries alongside relevant colleagues from across the States of Guernsey in response to this incident, which is not being treated as suspicious.”

The area is obscured from public view by security fences and dense undergrowth. Credit: ITV Channel TV

Guernsey Water, which runs the reservoir, says work is being carried out at the site today (Monday 14 November):

"At this stage, it is believed to be the result of an historic landslip, which has been uncovered due to the lower-than-normal depth of water within the reservoir.

"A visual survey of the area will begin today, to help establish whether there has been any recent land subsidence and identify any further action that may be required."

"Guernsey Water is assisting Guernsey Police with its enquiries and has been in contact with the St Sampson’s Parish Cemetery Committee and the Dean of Guernsey, to inform them of the steps being taken."

The leader of the Church of England on the island - the Dean of Guernsey - Rev. Tim Barker, told ITV News he was 'deeply concerned' by the discovery and feels for the families who are affected.

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