Wales’ only parish mortuary will be saved from ruin thanks to £50,000 raised by National Lottery players.

The ‘Dead House’– where bodies were kept in Victorian times before burial – is part of St Cynog’s medieval church in Boughrood, which was entirely rebuilt in the 19th century.

The Grade II listed building is currently on the Register of Buildings at Risk, and experts had given it less than 12 months to survive if emergency works were not carried out.

The National Lottery funding will help bring the ‘dead house’ back to life, restoring leaded glass windows, protecting masonry which contains 19th century graffiti and replacing the earth floor with one made from re-used headstones.

Volunteers will also research the significance of the ‘dead house’ and the history of the Victorian parish it served, creating an exhibition in the restored building which will be open to the public for the first time.

County Times:

The then Vicar, Henry de Winton, commissioned a separate building to be constructed alongside the church to house corpses prior to burial, as it was believed following the 1848 London cholera epidemic that the disease had been caused and spread by decaying bodies.

This was visionary thinking in Victorian Britain, at a time when it was still common practice to keep the deceased in the family home until sufficient decomposition had taken place to discourage grave robbing of bodies for medical dissection.

Rev Ian Charlesworth, Vicar at St Cynog’s, said: “This is the first part of a two phase project to upgrade St Cynog’s Church and engage the community in its rich history, as well as that of the parish. Getting this National Lottery funding is incredibly exciting for us, and we can’t wait to begin work to save the Dead House and welcome new visitors.”

A short bilingual film about life expectancy, the Poor Law and medicine in the Victorian period will also be shared on the People’s Collection Wales website, while a reproduction parish coffin for the burial of paupers will also be on display.

Richard Bellamy, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, said: “It is fantastic that this unusual and truly unique building, with such a fascinating social history, is being saved thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

“Its significance to the local area and indeed the whole of Wales – as the country’s only dead house – is well worth protecting, and I’m sure a lot of people will be fascinated by its history while learning more about the very real issues around life and death in the Victorian era.”

Brecon and Radnorshire MP, Chris Davies, added: “This project is a good example of the hard work of volunteers and community groups, which can have such a positive impact on their local communities. The Dead House in Boughrood could be a great attraction for the local area and it is fantastic to see funding made available for historical buildings in Brecon and Radnorshire.”

“I’m very much looking forward to visiting the Dead House and new exhibition once work is completed, which will undoubtedly also be of interest not only to people from the local area but further afield too.”