Funeral held for remains of medieval man found on Hampshire beach

<span>Fifty mourners gathered for the unusual church service in South Baddesley.</span><span>Photograph: Andrew Croft/Solent News & Photo Agency/Solent News</span>
Fifty mourners gathered for the unusual church service in South Baddesley.Photograph: Andrew Croft/Solent News & Photo Agency/Solent News

Nobody knew his name or exactly how he died half a millennium ago but 50 mourners gathered to pay their respects at an unusual church service to lay to rest the remains of a medieval man found on a Hampshire beach.

The funeral and burial for the man, who may have been a murder victim, his body hidden by the killer, took place at St Mary’s church in the village of South Baddesley, near where he was found in Lymington.

Mourners were greeted with an order of service for “the funeral and burial of the 16th-century man known only to God”. Albert Marsh funeral directors in Wareham provided free flowers, saying they had not wanted him to go without. A medieval hymn was sung before the handmade wooden casket was buried in the graveyard.

In May 2022 a local resident, Graham Coulter, had alerted police after half a skull became exposed in the mud near the mouth of Lymington River.

“I was his closest neighbour,” Coulter said. “I wrote to the coroner and said I would like to be there at the funeral. It’s nice people turned up to give him a proper sendoff. It’s very moving.”

Experts dated the remains to between 1450 and 1650. The man is likely to have been in his early 20s. The place and manner of his original, makeshift burial suggested it had been done secretly and so the theory has emerged that he may have been a murder victim.

Gareth Owen, a senior archaeologist at the New Forest National Park Authority who attended, said: “I thought that was a lovely service. It’s always a challenge when you are burying someone and you don’t know their wishes, but the time and energy to give him a lovely burial is lovely to see.”

Also paying his respects was Colin Tabor, a coastguard officer who had been called out when the body was reported. Holidaymakers who had heard about the service also attended.

The churchwarden Pat Mennie said: “I was pleased there was not only people from the historical sides of things but also residents. I think we gave him a good funeral.”