Oliver Cromwell’s Battle of Dunbar Victims

The remains of Scottish prisoners of war who died after being captured by Oliver Cromwell’s troops nearly 400 years ago will be re-buried in Durham.

The skeletons of between 17 and 28 people – some as young as 13-years-old – were discovered in 2013 in a mass grave close to Durham Cathedral and Castle.

Analysis had shown the bones belonged to soldiers taken prisoner by the English at the 1650 Battle of Dunbar, some 111 miles (179km) north.

There had been hopes the bones could be returned to Scotland, but following consultation over the issue, the bones are now to be buried in a churchyard close to where they were originally found.

A plaque featuring stone from Dunbar will be erected at the original grave site, and further research will be carried out on the remains, expected to finish late next year, before they are reburied.

Canon Rosalind Brown, of Durham Cathedral, said: ‘The hope of both Durham Cathedral and Durham University is that interested parties will join us in planning a fitting and dignified reburial and commemoration for the soldiers.

‘We will also be working closely with both the local church and churches in Scotland to plan this.’

The remains of the soldiers were found in 2013 in a mass grave during construction work on Durham University’s Palace Green Library cafe.

Archaeologists at first thought they had uncovered remains of Durham Cathedral’s medieval cemetery, the boundaries of which may have extended further than the present day burial site. But the corpses had been tipped into the earth without elaborate ceremony, suggesting they were part of a mass burial.

Research showed they were the remains of Scottish soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar, answering an almost 400-year-old mystery as to the fate of prisoners from the battle.

The Battle of Dunbar saw English Parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell defeat a far larger Scottish army who were loyal to King Charles II. The victory helped cement Cromwell’s reputation as a ruthless and cunning military leader.
Around 6,000 of Charles II’s supporters were taken prisoner and an estimated 1,700 died and were buried in Durham after being forcibly marched south. This suggests there could be more remains buried in mass graves under buildings close to the cathedral.