THE new burial site for at least 33 suspected paupers discovered on the site of the Health Village in Banbridge will be marked in some way to preserve the memory of those who died in the workhouse here, the Southern Trust has confirmed.
A Banbridge man had contacted the Leader after our story revealing the discovery of the bodies of men, women and children, and called for a memorial stone to be erected in order to preserve this part of local history.
“These people, quite possibly whole families, died in poverty and in such tragic circumstances,” said the man. “They have spent more than 100 years in a paupers’ grave and I would like to think the site of their new grave will be marked so we can show them some respect.”
The bodies were discovered while the site for the multi-million pound village is prepared ahead of construction work set to begin in June. Some of the remains discovered so far have been removed by local undertakers and placed in a new plot in Banbridge Council Cemetery.
A spokeswoman said, “Planning consent for the construction of a new Community Treatment and Care Centre included a condition for the archaeological monitoring of ground works. The Trust will be looking at marking the site in a respectful and appropriate way.”
While no official records exist in relation to the bodies at the site of the former Union Workhouse, it is thought they date back to the mid nineteenth century - around the time of the famine.
The local man said that, while the council has already erected a memorial to the workhouse near Linenhall Street, he is hopeful the new burial site for victims will be used as an educational tool for local people.
“I would sincerely hope this does not become a lost link in our history,” he said. “I would like to think teachers can bring schoolchildren there to bring their history lessons to life.
“And maybe at Christmas or Easter somebody might lay some flowers at the site in memory of local people who perished.”
The Trust said everything had been carried out according to proper procedure, including contact being made with local PSNI and the coroner. Construction work for the Health Village is still expected to begin in early summer.