VIDEO: Anger at plans to dig up historic churchyard for HS2

Ivan Spenceley at the old Heath Church which is under threat from the HS2 scheme.
Ivan Spenceley at the old Heath Church which is under threat from the HS2 scheme.

The remains of a Grade II-listed church building and its graveyard could be demolished to make way for the HS2 rail line.

The remains of a Grade II-listed church building and its graveyard could be demolished to make way for the HS2 rail line.

A campaign is on to save Old Heath Church, believed to have been established around 1162, which could make way for the high speed rail network - designed to connect the north of the country and East Midlands to London.

And the current proposal would mean the end for the historic church, as the route would cut through the area.

Member of the ministry team at the church, Ivan Spenceley, said: “I feel like it is authorised vandalism.

“They are not only demolishing what remains of the church they are digging up the entire graveyard.

The old Heath Church and graveyard which is under threat from the HS2 scheme.

The old Heath Church and graveyard which is under threat from the HS2 scheme.

“We are fighting in the hope that we can save the church yard because of its importance historically.”

The main part of the church building was taken down in the mid 1800s and used as part of the new All Saints’ Church in 1852.

Mr Spenceley said they only found out about the plan when it came up incidentally in discussion at an HS2 consultation at Hardwick Hall.

“It was a bit of a blow when we first found out,” he told the Derbyshire Times.

He said that a suggestion that there have been no burials at the church for at least 100 years is wrong and that he is aware of at least two.

He also said that it would be difficult to say how many people are buried in the graveyard but believed there to be at least 250 to 300 graves and some may contain more than one body.

Mr Spenceley added that whatever happened to the graves would have to be done ‘as tasteful as possible’.

“There is at least one family living in Heath now who have somebody buried there,” said Mr Spenceley. “And we are still finding out about things like this. It is amazing how many people around Heath and Holmewood do not know what is going to happen.

“I was talking to two ladies and I told them what was happening and they said ‘why are you letting this happen’ but I said I can only object to it. The site itself is of great importance and it must be saved.”

An HS2 spokesman said: “HS2 will rebalance the economy by connecting eight out of our ten biggest cities, increase rail capacity on the current system and reduce journey times, while also creating thousands of jobs across the UK. It is becoming integral to local plans to drive business growth, create jobs and secure investment in the area years before it arrives, with significant benefits for Derbyshire and the wider Midlands.

“We are aware of the potential impacts to the ruined remains of the Grade II listed Heath Old Church and its burial ground. We are at the very early stages of design for the route through Derbyshire and are committed to working with the local community to look at how we minimise impacts as we progress to the next stage of design.”