All the graves and many of the major features of St Augustine’s Church Penarth are being scientifically mapped by lasers, cameras and computers in one of four pilot projects currently under way
The job is being carried out by a company called Atlantic Geomatics which specialises in literally finding out ‘where the bodies are buried’ by producing an electronic map and database of the graveyard which is to be cross references with the handwritten burial records.
The graveyard of St Augustines is much older than the present church dates and dates back to -at least – the 12th century when the ancient original St Augustine’s church existed on the site. The old mediaeval church with its saddleback tower was replaced with the much larger St Augustine’s Church in 1865-66.
No one is quite sure exactly how many graves there are in the St Augustine’s churchyard – but from the burial records it appears that more than 8,000 people have their last resting place at St Augustines – many buried in single family graves .
This week the location of every visible grave has been mapped using GPS positioning equipment and Atlantic Geomatics’s high-tech electronic mapping techniques.
It had been intended to fly a remote-control aerial drone – an Aibot X6 hexacopter armed with GPS and camera – to map the graveyard and every grave , but unfortunately the weather ruled out this option.
Instead the team resorted instead to using a narrow four-wheel drive quad-bike also equipped with computers and GPS, to weave its way around the gravestones and monuments to pick up as much data as possible
A team of gardeners had been at work in the graveyard beforehand to bring the lush long grass down low enough to reveal all the memorials and tombstones.
Last year the Friends of St Augustine’s, with the agreement of the Parochial Church Council, commissioned an ecological study of the churchyard. As a result of this study, many species of wildlife and wild flowers have been identified.
To encourage this diversity to flourish, the grass in parts of the churchyard will now only be cut on a rotational basis to preserve the habitat.
Inside the church itself, all the many plaques and memorials on the walls were being scanned and their positions logged using a laser scanning device set up at various positions inside the building – with all the data again being recorded on computer.
The project is being overseen by Tim Viney of Atlantic Geomatics working with Linda Guilfoyle of St Augustine’s.
A series of plaques representing the 14 stations of the cross were installed in memory of Joseph and Mary Damaris Rose
Atlantic Geomatics have also electronically scanned all the handwritten burial registers of St Augustines .
Friends of St Augustine’s teams of volunteers will now transcribe the burial register data – which goes back to 1813 – and compare the gravestone data with the burial records to establish exactly who is buried where.
The Diocese of Llandaff supported the project and paid for the survey carried out. The electronic map itself will take about four weeks to produce but the key task of cross-referencing the burial records to the physical graves will be done manually and could take many months.