|The site blocked off from public view|
Neighbours became suspicious about what was going on behind the big blue hoardings at the Station Road and Priory Orchard site after work on an affordable housing development seemed to abruptly come to a halt recently.
When routine archaeological surveys were carried out, a number of skeletons that were thought to be human were discovered.
Work has now been halted as the necessary surveys are carried out to establish exactly how many are interned in the ground and how the development can proceed.
Alison Pattison, of Godalming Museum, said: “I know a large amount of skeletal material has been discovered.
“My understanding is that they are orientated as though it is a Christian burial set-up.
“The find is very interesting indeed as the location is of course very close to the church but not close to the graveyard.”
She did not rule out the possibility that the site could be a ‘plague pit’, a mass grave in which victims of the Black Death were buried, but said she thought it unlikely due to Godalming’s small size.
|One of the exposed burials|
She said she did not know how many skeletons had been found, but skeletal material has been identified in several pits across the site.
She said that according to the museum’s Victorian maps, before the car park existed, the site formed part of the garden of a large house.
Rob Poulton, of the Surrey County Archaeological Unit, confirmed that it had done the work on behalf of Waverley but did not wish to comment further.
A Waverley Borough Council spokesman said: “In October last year, the council closed the car park at Station Road, Godalming, to develop a new affordable housing scheme to provide 14 council-owned homes for rent for local people.
“Work began immediately to prepare the site for development, including securing the site, liaising with the utility companies and commissioning routine surveys, including an archaeological survey.
“This survey is still ongoing and has uncovered a variety of items dating back across several centuries including bones, pottery and flintwork indicating local settlement activity, as is common with this type of survey.
“The survey will need to be completed before the bulk of the building work proceeds.
“However, the demolition of the Priory Orchard building on the site is due to start shortly and this will assist with the timely completion of the survey.”
A Miss Whiteman, who works at Scully Scully hair salon in the High Street, said her family lived there for six months while their current house was extended.
During that time she said they had a number of strange experiences, which she believes were supernatural. She also suffered recurring dreams of a person being buried at the house.
She said: “I have seven brothers and four sisters, and while living at the house we experienced some very strange things.
“The first time I noticed something I was in the house alone while the rest of my family were out at school and work.
“I could hear children laughing, talking and moving about upstairs and I knew none of my siblings were at home to make the noises.
“It scared me and I told my parents when they got home but didn’t really think much of it. But then more and more unexplained things happened.
“There was one bathroom where the tap continuously was turned on full when no one was in there but we knew there was nothing wrong with the plumbing as my dad checked it regularly.
“My younger brother’s heavy cot in my parents’ room continuously appeared in the middle of the room, moving from its original position, and one night I woke to find all the windows in my bedroom wide open when before I fell asleep they were all properly closed.
“What scared us the most was when my younger brother, who is three, fell down the stairs.
“When my mum picked him up and comforted him, he told her that a ghost had pushed him.
“There were several more things that happened on a daily basis and what really sends shivers down my spine, after reading about the skeletons, is that I had a recurring dream about someone being buried at the house, which would really play on my mind the next day.
“Before we moved in we were very sceptical about ghosts but experiencing all these strange happenings at Priory Orchard has changed all of our minds and we have no problems at the new house.”
Godalming author John Janaway has written multiple books on the town’s history, including The Haunted Places of Surrey.
He said: “I don’t know of that site being haunted in particular and I remain agnostic when it comes to ghosts.
“However, the nearest reported haunting I know of is at Brook House, just up the road, and its garden does reach right down near that site.
“I have my own theory about how those bones ended up where they did.
“The site is near the church and that church has gone through many stages of development over the centuries.
“It started out with the Saxon core, pre-1066, and has been extended over the centuries.
“I think what may have happened is when the various developments have taken place, graves have been displaced, with the bones ending up in the positions they were found in.
“It appears the bones discovered are anything from Saxon to 14th century, so my theory would fit with this. All we can do is await the dating of the bones.
“I know nothing about haunting in Priory Orchard but the site does indeed have a very interesting history.”
Priory Orchard is set to be demolished as part of the affordable housing scheme.
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A view of the site before the hoarding was put in place.