New film reveals Churchyard Secrets

Fewston Wall HangingA film, a book and a series of heritage walks have been launched this week at the Washburn Heritage Centre adjoining St Michael and St Lawrence church in Fewston, near Harrogate, following   a major scientific study by archeologists and volunteers into of the lives of 154 local people from the 19th century who were buried in the churchyard.

Around ninety people attended the launch including descendants of some of those whose lives had been investigated before they were reburied in the churchyard.

For the past two years work has been taking place  on a book which presents the research and findings,  a film that tells the story of the project and a series of walks so that people can experience the local landscape for themselves. 

The Deputy Mayor of Harrogate, Cllr Christine Ryder officially launched the Churchyard Secrets book, and said, "Some people might think that all the main visitor attractions are in Harrogate town centre, but we know that the Washburn Valley also has a lot to offer, wonderful walking, beautiful landscapes and the Washburn Heritage Centre, now with this fascinating project about the Fewston Assemblage.

"It seems unique to me, and is certainly a very unusual addition to the list of visitor attractions that the Harrogate district has to offer."

The book Churchyard Secrets Revealed, which tells the story of the project and what was discovered, is now on sale in the heritage centre at £4, and there are now also walks leaflets for the Fewston Assemblage Trail available for £1. The film will be uploaded to the Washburn Heritage Centre website at

Last year a special service was held to mark the reburial of artefacts and remains known as the ‘Fewston Assemblage’  which has been carefully moved and examined during the building of the Washburn Heritage Centre. Local descendants of those whose remains were discovered, were involved throughout the project and took part in the service  for all those whose remains have now been returned to burial plots beside the church.

An exhibition documenting the findings has already been opened, and a series of illustrated talks have been given at the  Washburn Heritage Centre by some of the team involved in the research.   A  special wall hanging, (pictured above left) created by a team of volunteers, to commemorate the 154 Assemblage individuals has also been unveiled and is on show. (Pictured, Textile artist Maureen Fackrell of Knaresborough, Washburn Stitcher, Liz Carnell of Harrogate and project leader Sally Robinson of Fewston, with the Fewston Assemblage Project panel)

Simon Hill, whose firm Vidar Media was commissioned to produce the book and film, said that the enthusiasm of the volunteers far exceeded that of many other organisations and institutions with whom his company had worked in the past.  "It is this, perhaps more than any other factor, that has made the Fewston Assemblage such an exciting and thrilling project with which to be associated," he said.

The Fewston Assemblage has a permanent exhibition in the heritage centre foyer and more detail in other displays until the end of April. All the research is available in the Centre’s archive.

The book, film and exhibition have been made possible with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation.  The exhibition can be viewed on Sundays from 11am-4pm when the tea-room is open.

More information and details at

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