Photo gallery: Remains of 7th century man are reburied at Norfolk village church

PUBLISHED: 15:32 10 October 2012

The skeleton of the 7th century man as it lay in the cellar at the Chequers Inn in Bressingham

The skeleton of the 7th century man as it lay in the cellar at the Chequers Inn in Bressingham

To passers-by, the burial service taking place at a Norfolk village church today would have seemed no different to any of the other regular funerals.

However, the body being buried in the churchyard at St John the Baptist Church in Bressingham, close to the busy A1066, was the reburial of the skeletal remains of a 7th century man, known affectionately by churchwardens as “Dear John,” who was discovered in the cellar at the Chequers Inn pub opposite the church in 2010 by contractors restoring the pub following a devastating fire.

Little is known about the body, other than it belonged to a man who was 5ft 10ins tall and possibly middle or older aged. The remains were buried in a small white casket, bearing the plaque “Male remains found at the Chequers Inn, reburied on October 10th, 2012.”

However, scientists in Glasgow were able to use DNA testing to date the bones to the year 665AD with a margin of error of 37 years either side of this date, a time when England was divided into regions with East Anglia being ruled by King Raedwald.

For Canon Tony Billett, rector of Diss who led the service, the burial presented him with a challenge to try and find out more about how services were conducted during the “Dark Ages,” so-called because little is known about the period.

To try and gain an insight, he used historical documents including Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, but he said a certain amount of guesswork was needed.

He added information was available about burials during the Norman and post-Norman periods in Britain, over 400 years later, but not about the 7th century.

For more, see tomorrow’s EDP.

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