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Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Wednesday, 16 June 2010 14:25 UK
Archaeologists dig up the past at Wakefield Cathedral
Phil Weston
Archaeologist Phil Weston hopes to discover the Cathedral's Medieval roots

Archaeologists are taking a trip back in time at Wakefield Cathedral to see what they can dig up before a major renovation project can begin there.

The renovation, known as Project 2013, is expected to be finished in time for the Cathedral's 125th Anniversary.

Jonathan Greener, Dean of the Cathedral, says he is delighted the archaeologists have started their work.

He says: "The project has been a while in the planning so it's marvellous that it's finally unfolding."

Jonathan Greener
Jonathan Greener, Dean of the Cathedral, says the dig is exciting

Before the £5million renovation can get started properly, it is a matter of taking a step back into the history of the Cathedral to make sure that anything precious is preserved.

Archaeologists will be at the Cathedral for a month seeing what they can unearth beneath the floorboards.

Phil Weston, one of the archaeologists working at Wakefield Cathedral, says the reason that he and his team have been called in is simple.

He explains: "The plan is to lay a new floor 600 millimetres deep so that is going to impact on any underlying archaeology such as burials.

"Also the structural engineers want to know the depth of the foundations of the building because it will be relevant to how they are going to put in the new floor."

And Jonathan Greener says he hopes the archaeologists will find some exciting things in the dig.

He jokes: "We would love them to find some gold or something to pay for the project!

"There was a lead coffin last week which was a bit of a surprise because that means it was someone with more money and a bit more genteel."

Wakefield Cathedral
Wakefield Cathedral has been a city landmark for many years

The archaeologists have already found a few skeletons and they are hoping to find much more as the month goes on.

Phil Weston says: "We were always expecting to find burials but also we are hoping to find earlier phases of the Medieval church, maybe even Saxon phases."

Phil says that once the artefacts have been taken out of the ground, they will be closely examined.

He explains: "The human bone that we have found will be catalogued, examined for sex and age and then it will be eventually returned to the church and re-interred."

The Dean of the Cathedral hopes that some of the artefacts will be able to be displayed somewhere in the Cathedral.

He says: "I was given an old prayer book just this morning that was dug up from under the floor.

"Anything precious they are taking away to analyse first, but if there are other interesting things presumably we can put them on display in due course.

"People understandably want to analyse what it tells us about the history of Wakefield before we get our hands on them."

Archaeologist Phil Weston says the team are thoroughly enjoying being at the Cathedral.

He says: "It's really interesting for us and quite tantalising in a way. If the entire nave has to be stripped and taken down it is a big job to be involved in."

I was given an old prayer book just this morning that was dug up from under the floor.
Jonathan Greener, Dean of Wakefield Cathedral

However, the Dean is keen to point out that they will not be changing the shape or size of the Cathedral.

He says: "We are not allowed to change it to that extent. What it will do, though, is open up the main seating area in the Cathedral."

"It is the biggest space in the city but you can't tell that at the moment because it is crammed with pews."

The Dean fully believes that the project is at the heart of the regeneration of Wakefield.

He says: "If we are to rebuild and regenerate the city, we need a Cathedral that is bright, light, modern and user-friendly.

"A lot of people have wondered whether we would actually ever get off the ground with the project so it's with pleasure that I can say the wheels are now in motion."

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