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JNP were delighted to provide design services to HS2 contractor Forkers on a site where archaeologists have uncovered an ‘astounding’ set of Roman sculptures on the HS2 rail link route.

With its graveyard positioned directly on the route of HS2, St Mary’s Church, which dates back to 1080 was disused, and in ruins after being declared unsafe.

The services we provided include:

  • A ground investigation, comprising boreholes, trails pits, CBR tests, and ground water monitoring.
  • Design of foundations for the tent structure.
  • Design of safe cut slopes for the archaeological excavation within the tent structure.
  • Design of walkways and a viewing platform for use by the public.
  • Design of the access track, compound, and working platform.
  • Hydraulic flood modelling, 3 no. watercourse crossings and drainage design.
  • Spoil management assessment.

As part of the enabling works archaeologists were to conduct a dig and relocate the many bodies that were suspected to exist. To date around 3,000 bodies have been removed from the church and will be reburied elsewhere.

Forkers were contracted to construct the temporary works to allow a safe and dry place for the archaeologists to excavate. This was in the form of a large tent-like structure. In order to build this, an access track was required for the construction plant, which included large cranes with a working platform required for safe operation. Along with a large compound constructed to house the contractor, the archaeologists, and their astounding finds.

Since work began in 2018, the well-preserved walls and structural features of the church have been revealed, along with unusual stone carvings and medieval graffiti.

Dr Rachel Wood, Lead Archaeologist for HS2 contractor Fusion JV, said they were “really rare finds in the UK”.

The discoveries at the old St Mary’s Church in Stoke Mandeville have been sent for specialist analysis. It is believed that the location was used as a Roman mausoleum before the Norman church was built.

Dr Wood added: “They are so significant and so remarkable that we would certainly hope that they will end up on display for the local community to see.”

Roman sculptures on the HS2 rail link route