Human remains found in Bristol under ruined church in Castle Park

A three-day survey of the church was run by Wessex Archaeology Credit: Wessex Archaeology

Human remains have been found buried under the ruined church at the heart of Castle Park in Bristol.

A team from Wessex Archaeology have been carrying out a three-day survey at the site, which is due to finish today (22 July).

The team of archaeologists have been digging trenches at the site of St Peter’s Church to learn what lies beneath the ruin’s floor.

It is all part of efforts to restore the bomb-blasted site, which dates back to 1106.

A brief history of St Peter’s Church in Castle Park

While the stone tower of the church was constructed in 1106, the rest of the building dated to the 15th Century.

Sadly during World War Two it was destroyed by a fire during the Bristol Blitz of 1940, with just the exterior of the church left standing.

Its current concrete floor was added during the 1970s - but it is now beginning to subside.

The church has remained locked for years, but Bristol City Council hopes to restore the building for the public to use.

To do so, its crumbling floor must be repaired.

The Wessex Archaeology team spent the past three days digging trenches across the site, which exposed burial places dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Radar surveys show hints of further structure predating this, but the trenches were not quite deep enough to confirm.

Bristol City Council hopes to restore the building to public use Credit: Wessex Archaeology

Senior fieldwork archaeologist Cai Mason worked on the excavation.

He said: “Our ground-penetrating radar survey discovered earth-filled graves throughout.

“There were also tantalising hints of other structures, perhaps an Anglo Saxon church below this one.

“We haven't quite got deep enough to see what these structures are at depth. It’s really a quick survey to see how the engineers can bring the building back into use.

“For the time being, it remains a bit of a mystery."

He said the inside of the church is full of brick and stone-lined graves and burial vaults, but it looks like they were mostly emptied after the war.

"That’s what’s causing subsidence," he added. "They were filled with soil and rubble, which is now settling. It’s possible that it was done as part of development plans which never came to be. There may be paper records detailing the reasons somewhere, but we haven’t found them.”

The excavation team discovered medieval tiles, stonework, and a small number of human bones, which will be reinterred where they were found.

Wessex Archaeology encouraged visitors to learn about the history of the church Credit: Wessex Archaeology

There are no plans to dig deeper into the church foundations, as the team has all the information needed to start making the floor safe.

As part of the project, archaeologists invited members of the public to visit the church and learn more about what was going on.

“We got an incredible response,” Cai said. “Whenever we get to open excavations to the public there’s a huge appetite and it’s such a great way for people to engage with the history."