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Hidden secrets revealed in makeover of village's historic graveyard

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Volunteers at work at St Michael and All Angels Church
Volunteers at work at St Michael and All Angels Church

A PROJECT to restore gravestones at Lyndhurst has led to a new path being laid which leads to the last resting place of Alice Liddell – the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland.

Volunteers and experts came together to clean and repair gravestones at the St Michael and All Angels Church.

More than 80 headstones were recovered from a path, steps and ditch where they had been discarded.

They were cleaned and photographed before being joined together to form three striking new seats which now overlook the ashes burial ground.

Ideas for using the newly created space include open-air summer concerts, outdoor services and community art installations.

Monuments were restored during the recent work, and the new path laid which leads to Alice Liddell’s grave. The name engraved on her headstone is Hargreaves, her married name. She had a strong connection to the church and her grave has become a tourist attraction.

After restoring historic gravestones, the team photographed them using equipment which reveals worn inscriptions.

Alice Liddell's grave
Alice Liddell's grave

James Brown, community archaeologist at the New Forest National Park Authority, which managed the project, said: “The headstones were recovered from steps and a ditch, cleaned, recorded, and recycled to avoid them being thrown away.

“We have revealed names and dates of burials, so even though the headstones had already been moved from their original location, it’s possible to relate them back to burial registers to tell the full story of Lyndhurst.”

The Rev David Potterton said”The work has had a very positive effect on the value given to an important open space in the community. The churchyard has become a popular place to relax as well as to eat a packed lunch, and the gardens are now a tranquil, diverse space appreciated by the general public.

“We have been surprised by the number of conversations that the restoration work has initiated.”

All the information and images captured by the project have been made available online, allowing easy access for local history groups and family researchers.

The conservation scheme was formally approved by Winchester Diocese and granted planning permission by the national park authority.

It was funded by New Forest Leader, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, as well as the £4.5m Our Past, Our Future landscape partnership scheme, which is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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