Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Don Allerston gives an account of clearing the graves to make way for the new dock.
“In 1957 work started at St. Mary’s Birkenhead, by the firm of J. Doyle Demolition of Liverpool. Its contract was to move all the dead from St. Mary’s graveyard, Birkenhead and re-inter them at Landican Cemetery, near Arrowe Park. Notices were put in local papers of the fact, and anyone who had relatives buried there and wanted to make alternative arrangements were asked to contact the company, on site.
Work began in 1957 and was to finish in 1958. The removal and re-burial was carried out by 58 local men, men from Birkenhead and Liverpool. They ended up moving 5,500 bodies.
When work started each gravestone was marked with a number, the stones were then removed and a wooden stake was knocked into the same location, and the same number was put on the stake. A ramp was started about 30 feet away, which sloped down from ground level to a depth of six feet, thereby allowing the men to dig into a six foot high (grave) wall.
Next the last one to be buried (on top) was the first to be removed. It was put in a carry-off box and taken to the site mortuary, where it was put into a new coffin and its location number was put on. It was then ready for transportation to Landican cemetery where its previously marked gravestone was waiting.
On the other side of Cammell Laird’s a dyke had been built out from the shore, then it continued at right angles, then back to the shore. The site waste from St.Mary’s was then used to infill this inverted U-shape, so reclaiming the land back from the river.
The photograph shows the gravestone with its marker number still readable nearly 50 years later.