Yorkshire amateur archaeologists landed with £3,000 bill for 'illegal' burial of 700-year-old bones
Pontefract and District Archaeological Society was allowed to conduct a dig at the base of Pontefract’s new hospital before its construction in 2010. The site was host to an ancient friarage and volunteers discovered bones believed to be 700 years old. As human remains have to be reinterred, society members made arrangements to have the bones buried in the graveyard at All Saints Church, Pontefract.
The work was completed in 2015 and members paid for a stone to mark the site in 2019. But in January 2022 it transpired the churchyard was ‘closed’ and could not accept new burials. In fact, it had been out of use since as far back as 1857. This meant the burial was illegal and the society was landed with a legal bill of more than £3,000.
Society treasurer Anne Hawkins, from Normanton, said this would have been enough to almost bankrupt the organisation.
She said: “When we received the bill I thought – ‘you what?’. I was incandescent. The society was something we’d all be doing as friends. We do it to meet people to be out there. Over the years we’ve raised some money as well. We all thought we had done the right thing. We are all amateurs. We hadn’t expected to be landed with a bill like that.”
The society looked into appealing through legal channels but found the costs would be even more than the bill. Eventually the fees were waived after the “precarious financial position” of the society was recognised, as well as the benefit of its work to the people of Pontefract. The ruling meant the society avoided having to pay £3,388.
Anne said: “We’re relieved that sanity has prevailed. It’s a relief to put it all behind us and get on with the stuff we enjoy doing.”
The society is open to new members at a cost of £18 a year. The society’s website – pontarc.org.uk – shows details of where meetings take place. Membership charge on the website is higher to cover Paypal fees.