Land for sale with 2000 bodies in unmarked graves taken off market after five years

News

The owners of a former burial ground site used for psychiatric hospital patients have been struggling to sell the land.

They’ve spent five years attempting to find the right buyer, but it’s proved difficult and so they’ve finally decided to take it off the market.

As first reported by Wales Online, the owners were offering 1.3 acres in Coity, Bridgend, next to Parc Prison.

The land is currently being used for horses but it has a much darker past than you’d expect.

It’s thought thousands of people were buried there in unmarked graves, all were once patients at Parc Hospital – also known as the Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum.

Parc Hospital opened in 1887 to cope with the increasing demand for psychiatric care.

Patients who died there were often buried in unconsecrated graves, which was seen as a cost-effective method.

Louvain Rees, historian of death and Wales, said burial records show 2,000 people were buried on the site between 1887 and 1958, with some of the graves containing multiple bodies.

The land was previously on the market with estate agents Watts & Morgan, and their head of commercial agency, Dyfed Miles, described it as a “challenging piece of ground”.

The land had been advertised as a possible site for building homes, which would have required a developer to exhume the bodies and inter them elsewhere.

Mr Miles said no offers were received from developers looking to “disturb and develop” the site and while a few bids were made, none met the sum sought by the landowners.

And while we’re sure the landowners are disappointed by the lack of sale, there’s one person that isn’t.

Francesca Woolls-Miles, whose great-grandmother is believed to have been buried on the site, said “it’s brilliant news” that the land was no longer available to buy.

Her great-grandmother, Catherine Saunders, was admitted to the hospital in 1898 and died there in 1902 aged 53.

Francesca said it “would have been radically wrong” if the land was sold and the bodies exhumed.

Instead, Mrs Woolls-Miles, 67, would like to see a “small memorial” installed at the site in tribute to those who are buried there and a guarantee that further development will be prevented by the local authority taking ownership.

She said burial records were missing for the period during which Catherine Saunders died but she would “definitely” have been buried at the hospital site as per common practice.

Mrs Woolls-Miles discovered her great-grandmother’s past when researching her family ancestry. She said the events before her death were “kept a secret” by her family.

Medical records show Catherine Saunders died from cancer but suffered from various health issues, such as pneumonia, “delusions”, insomnia and depression before her death.

She was born in Newcastle Hill, Bridgend, to Irish parents and married a Welshman with whom she had twelve children. Nine of her children died at an early age.

“It’s unimaginable,” said Mrs Woolls-Miles. “She had it very hard. There was terrible poverty then. There are 2,000 stories, Sarah’s is just one story. Some were children, some were very old. They would have had a hard life in the Parc and they deserve to have the same resting place as the rest of us.”

Ms Rees, who is writing a book about the site with historian Anthony Rhys called Angelton: Asylum Lives, said one of the graves made by the hospital contains six people.

“There are men, women and children in them. One gentleman was buried with a stillborn baby.”

Local residents say the graves are still visible when it rains.

Mr Miles added that the current landowners told him there used to be “metal crosses” marking the graves but they were “pinched for scrap” in the mid-20th century.