Church Monuments Society


The Human Remains Project at Liverpool University

By CMS in Heritage

Our All Hallows series of online lectures began with Thomas Farrow’s fascinating study of late medieval charnel practices. The talk will be available on our YouTube channel soon.

Meanwhile –

Thomas Farrow has been working with the Human Remains project at Liverpool University. The project leaders have now sent us this summary of their work – more details on the website (link below).

The Human Remains: Digital Library of British Mortuary Science and Investigation is a UKRI FLF funded project (2019 – 2026) located at the University of Liverpool in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology. Lead by Dr Ruth Nugent, Principal Investigator and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, the project team comprises (as of January 2024) Dr James Butler (Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Research Assistant), Dr Glenn Cahilly-Bretzin (Medieval Research Assistant), Dr Adam Daubney (Archaeology and Heritage Research Assistant), Katherine Foster (Project Administrator), and Thomas Fitzgerald (PhD Student).

Our project focusses on evidence of burial disturbance and burial management strategies inside cathedral and church buildings since the 7th century AD. Our research traces what has historically been considered ‘respectful treatment’ of the dead, contextualising and guiding how we ‘respectfully’ conduct and record necessary disturbances of the Christian dead today. The project is interested in exploring the ethical questions surrounding the church dead by finding ways to empower church and cathedral staff as well as local communities to better understand the identities, beliefs, and lives that these individuals might have lived without excavation or disturbance.

During the Church Monuments Society’s most recent ‘All Hallows’ lecture, our PhD student, Thomas Fitzgerald (Farrow), presented his fantastic paper ‘Bone and Stone for the Many and the Few: Charnel and Associated Individual Monuments in Late Medieval England’. This paper is just one example of the extensive charnel research that Tom has carried out since his PhD began, developed by an interesting collection of postcards, photographs, and contextual resources from both his own collection and archival collections. Tom’s doctoral work investigates how charnel and charnel collections were curated and encountered in postmedieval England (c.1500 – c.1900AD) and, as this is a relatively unexplored aspect of mortuary history, Tom’s research has garnered a lot of attention and anticipation as a result. Please do keep an eye out for Tom’s forthcoming paper ‘Charnel-Associated Burial and Monuments in Late Medieval England: Henry Barton’s Effigy and its Afterlife at Old St Paul’s Cathedral’ (forthcoming in Church Archaeology, volume 23) to learn more!

We have worked in collaboration with Chester Cathedral, St Magnus Cathedral (Orkney), St Collen’s Church (Llangollen), St Patrick’s Church (Toxteth), St Anthony’s Catholic Church (Vauxhall), Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, St Albans Cathedral, Exeter Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral, and the University of York’s Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture, to name a few, and we are always keen to collaborate and offer support to any church, cathedral, or individual who might want to learn more about the project or have a burning question needing an answer!

If you would like to be a part of the network, we have created The Human Remains Collaboratory: a cross-sector network of professionals, heritage organisations, churches, academics, and other groups involved with the management of historic human remains in British churches and Christian contexts. Members of the Collaboratory can keep abreast of new research, curate public interest, and collaborate on new lines of enquiry generated by the project’s digital library and other members. By supporting local interest we aim to reinvigorate religious archive use while expanding local histories, create exhibitions, increase public interest and education, and underline a church’s contribution to Britain’s prominence in mortuary investigation and science.

If you would like to learn more, collaborate, or be added to the network list, please contact or visit our website


Comments (0)

  1. There are currently no comments.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Order a past-printed publication

Click here for details on how to order back-issues of our journal from just £5 per volume (£7.50 for non-members).

Journal and newsletter indexes

Here you can access a full index of content from our journals dating back to 1985 and our newsletters dating back to 1979.

church monuments society haversham

How to contribute

We welcome contributions on a range of topics related to monuments and commemoration. Initial enquiries about substantial articles for possible publication in the Journal should be sent to the Editor. Shorter articles and news items can be published in the Newsletter. We also welcome less formal contributions for Monument of the Month and the Blog.

Additional guides on submissions, copyright and publishing online can be found in this section.