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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Skeleton collection goes on show
More than 3,000 skeletons are to be returned to the church where they were discovered after being studied by researchers for more than 20 years.

The bones, dating from the 11th to the mid-19th Century, were unearthed at St Peter's Church in Barton-upon-Humber, North Lincs, between 1978 and 1984.

They are one of the largest collections found on a single site in England.

The bones, which have been used in disease research, will be housed in a purpose-built depository.

Few places in the UK have such a compelling tale to tell
Simon Thurley, English Heritage

The church was made redundant in 1972 but will open from Saturday, with the bones on show, after a 600,000 revamp.

English Heritage said the church roof had been restored, the Victorian pews reinstalled and wall memorials reinstated.

Before the church was made redundant it had been a centre of worship for people in the Barton area for about 1,000 years.

The earliest skeleton, of a man aged more than 50, is thought to date back to the reign of King Canute (1016-1035) and has been restored to its original oak coffin.

Disease clues

English Heritage Chief Executive Simon Thurley said the bones had already provided experts with clues on the development of diseases, such as arthritis, in a bid to improve modern day treatment and diagnosis.

The bones reveal that polio was prevalent at Barton, along with many forms of arthritis.

Mr Thurley said: "Although for many years St Peter's has kept a low profile, in reality it is one of the most important historic buildings in England.

"Its unique Saxon tower and baptistery and the extraordinarily important burials have helped re-write the history books. Few places in the UK have such a compelling tale to tell.

"With great local support, we have restored this beautiful place and created a fascinating new exhibition. It will now be accessible to thousands more people a year.

"Our agreement with the Church of England to restore the bones to St Peter's, while permitting continued access to the collection, will also make the church an international centre of research."

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