A SAXON child has finally received a proper burial - nearly 1,000 years after she died - after villagers discovered the remains of her small skeleton while repairing a wall.

Members of a local history group had decided in 2013 to stage an archaeological dig to investigate the possible Saxon origins of one of their local churches, St Augustine’s, in Kirkby-in-Cleveland, near Stokesley.

After obtaining special permission from church authorities, the members of the Kirby (correct), Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow Local History Group managed to unearth the foundations of a Saxon church within the boundaries of the existing church yard.

But it was some months later, whilst carrying out routine repairs to a churchyard wall, that a much more poignant and unexpected find was made – the remains of a child’s ancient skeleton.

“It was almost accidental,” said Roy Parsonage, a member of the local history group.

“We had to get an archaeologist overseeing the work to the wall in case something was disturbed. We thought we might come across a piece of pottery or something. But we never expected anything like this.”

It is thought the bones – which were discovered five feet below the base of the wall - had been moved during the medieval era.

The history group’s Jackie Cove-Smith sent the bones for carbon dating at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, at the University of Glasgow.

The centre confirmed the bones dated from between 1025 and 1155 and belonged to a child aged between seven and ten.

The skeleton does not appear to give any clues as to a cause of death, or whether the child was male or female, but some members of the group say they feel instinctively the child was a girl.

The next step was to give the child a correct send-off and to re-inter the bones within the boundaries of the church cemetery.

Church treasurer Mike Sockett created an oak casket and the church’s vicar, the Rev Anne Heading, gave the formal burial service.

“The reinterment was a moving moment,” said history group member Grant Frew.

“We were all stood, observing the church ceremony, pretty much the same as one the child would have seen 1,000 years ago. That time had just vanished.”

The grave is currently marked with a wooden cross, but local stonemason Neil Collinson, from Dales of Thirsk, is in the process of donating an inscribed memorial stone which will read: “In memory of a child aged about ten who lived between 1025 and 1125AD. Reinterred on the 25th January, 2016.”

Geoff Taylor, from Great Broughton, said: “So this child – who passed away 1,000 years ago will have a proper tomb stone. It will be the newest tombstone for the oldest skeleton.”