Square Independent Graveyard : Removal of Graves [2016]

When the Square Independent Chapel closed, some of the graves / gravestones were moved from the Graveyard to Stoney Royd Cemetery for reinterment.

In September 2016, the Halifax Courier published an article entitled

Ancient remains removed from Square Chapel graveyard

describing the removal of the remains from the Square Independent Graveyard, Halifax to Stoney Royd Cemetery for reinterment

Archæologists have removed and examined over 200 skeletons from the Square Chapel graveyard, as part of the Piece Hall transformation project in Halifax.

The excavations were undertaken by Archæological Services WYAS as part of the £19 million transformation project funded by Calderdale Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The exhumations were necessary before the construction of a new access road on the site as the graves were identified as soft spots, where soil had been removed and then infilled during the burials. At such places, there was a risk that the land would not be able to bear the weight of the new road and could collapse.

A total of 217 skeletons were removed and 203 underwent osteological analysis, which examined the bones to reveal information about the diet and lifestyle of the people living in Halifax over 200 years ago.

The burials date from 1772 until the early 1860s, and include the skeletons of 132 adults and 71 children.

The analysis shows that many of the children died in their early childhood. It is likely that this was due to diet and the traditional childhood illnesses which were common at this time.

The team was surprised to find that one skeleton, of a young woman, had had the top of the skull removed and there are cut marks which show that it is likely that an autopsy was carried out to establish the cause of death, which was very unusual during this period.

The osteologists found that, if people had survived their childhood, they often lived to a good age, although young women were four times as likely to die as young men, which may have been due to complications during childbirth. The names and dates listed on the gravestones also suggest that this was the case.

Generally the population of Halifax appears to have been healthy, with women outnumbering men in the community. Overall people seem to have had a good diet, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and enjoyed good living conditions, unlike the overcrowded slums of nearby Leeds or Manchester at this time.

However, the research showed that people did have a sweet tooth, as a large number suffered from tooth decay, suggesting they chose a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.

The skeletons revealed that women were also more likely to suffer from infectious diseases, whilst men were more prone to traumatic injuries, possibly because of the working conditions of the time.

The burial register and the gravestones show that many of the people buried at Square Chapel worked in the wool and cloth trade, but other recorded occupations include attorney at law, architect, painter, joiner, shoe maker, wine merchant, property owner, porter, draper, tinner, hatter, apothecary, waterman, card maker and wool stapler.

After the research was completed the skeletons were reinterred at Stoney Royd Cemetery in Halifax


Later, it was decided to remove 115 of these graves and break the stones up for hardcore. These stones were rescued and taken to Lister Lane Cemetery – as described in the Foldout

Some of the monumental inscriptions in the graveyard are shown in the CD entitled Halifax Monumental Inscriptions #3

© Malcolm Bull 2024
Revised 08:44 / 28th May 2024 / 5770

Page Ref: X421

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