Kingston Quakers are looking for relatives of the dead occupying graves they must exhume at the back of their Eden Street site.

The human remains will be removed under the Burial Act 1857 in less than two months, and notices of intention have been published to trace families of the dead.

The Friends’ Meeting House was built in 1773, at a cost of £533 8s 9d, and the first burial was made in 1814, after the Quakers’ London Road burial ground was relocated there.

Graves were arranged in a grid system until the final Quaker was interred in 1950, and all of the surviving headstones are laid around the edges of the garden.

The exhumation will take place as part of plans for the Quakers to move to a new site in Fairfield East, where Kingston Environment Centre is.

The move is subject to planning permission and a finding a buyer for the Eden Street site, which has so far proved unsuccessful.

Rumours Primark was buying the site to extend its premises have been dismissed.

Graham Torr, Friends’ clerk, said: “We haven’t got a buyer for our site yet. Our focus at the moment is getting planning permission there, which we should get next month. But it will be a challenge to find a buyer, especially in this climate.

“It’s quite difficult to answer when we will move. It depends when we sell because otherwise we can’t move. We’ve been trying to move for about 10 years.”

The group originally planned to build a new meeting house in London Road, where Kingston Grammar School built its art centre, but decided to use the proceeds from their London Road site sale to modernise their existing building in Eden Street.

The plans were scuppered when the Eden Quarter development began and there was talk of Hammersons developing the area, and the site possibly being subject to a compulsory purchase order.

Mr Torr said: “We are reasonably confident we’ll get planning permission but having been through this for 10 years, I don’t know how long it will take. However, it’s one more step along the way.”

In the meantime, the search for families continues and a list of those buried there can be inspected free of charge at the Friends’ House in Euston Road, London, until April 23.

The names will go on display at the new site, and a memorial plaque will be placed in Surbiton cemetery, Lower Marsh Lane, where the bodies will be reinterred.

Mr Torr said: “We have to contact families if we can trace them, which we can in some circumstances, then we give them the opportunity to decide whatever they would like the remains to be buried - whether with the other remains or somewhere else.

“I think we only have contact with a handful of families so far because, if you think the last burial was about 69 years ago, unless it’s a Quaker family that has stayed in contact or visited the site, we wouldn’t know where to look for them.

“It’s a special undertaking. One of the things you have to do when developing a site is a desktop archaeological survey but I don’t think it’s going to have any profitable remains, based on excavations in other nearby properties.”

Any heirs, executors, administrators, or relatives of the deceased can object to the exhumation.

Objections can be sent to the Ministry of Justice, Coroners and Burials Division, Burials Team, 102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ.

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