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A Stoke Mandeville Legacy Garden


THE CHURCHYARD of St Mary the Virgin was the resting-place for the people of Stoke Mandeville for 600 years. Now, if the construction of HS2 goes ahead, the churchyard will be destroyed, along with the probable site of the former village and manor house, and a watermill site.

It would be best if HS2 avoided this nationally important historic site altogether, and the society has put the case for poreservation strongly to HS2 Limited. However recent changes to the line here have made the likely damage worse.

In the absence of any positive response from HS2 Limited, a clear mitigation strategy must be put in place.

This is a sensitive issue. Although burials in the old churchyard ceased after 1908, the descendants of families buried there still live nearby today. Discussions on what measures should be taken by HS2 to address the likely loss of the churchyard have involved the parish council, as owners of the site, and local clergy as well as the Bucks Archaeological Society.

Gravestones in Stoke Mandeville old churchyard

Gravestones in the old churchyard at Stoke Mandeville.

It is agreed that if HS2 offers no option but destruction the whole area must be investigated archaeologically well in advance, so that this historic site is fully recorded.

Calculations based on the parish registers for 1699-1840 indicate that at least 2,700 people could have been buried in and around the old church over the centuries. Following full investigation the only satisfactory way of dealing with thed recovered human remains will be through the creation of a Stoke Mandeville Legacy Garden.

This should include a new building to house the remains, set in a ‘wildlife garden*rsquo; as a replacement for the old churchyard that will be lost. This will also contain any existing gravestones and any significant architectural features from the old church.

This solution would serve as an appropriate memorial to the old Church of St Mary the Virgin which served Stoke Mandeville for more than 800 years. It would also go some way towards replacing its ancient natural setting, which the parish council have been carefully tending for the past several decades.