THEY have been languishing in a storeroom for more than 20 years, but finally nine bodies dug up at Eynsham Abbey are set to be laid to rest.

The skeletons were uncovered during a three-year archaeological dig which started in 1989 at the site of the abbey.

They were then kept in a storeroom at the Museums Resource Centre in Standlake until this year, when a local priest started a campaign to return the bodies to their rightful home.

The bodies will now be given a full Catholic burial – which some have waited more than 400 years to receive.

Father Martin Flatman, of St Peter’s Church, in Abbey Street, Eynsham, said: “About a year ago, I was reading a leaflet about the dig and it talked about the nine bodies that had been found.

“It suddenly struck me that I didn’t know where they were, so I rang up Oxford Archaeology to find out. It turned out they had been kept at the Museums Resource Centre in Standlake.”

The priest started the process of returning the bodies to the land, after requesting permission from the county council. Eynsham Abbey was one of the last abbeys to be founded by the Saxon king Aethelred and was occupied for hundreds of years.

The buildings disappeared after the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in the 16th century.

The bodies are of five medieval monks and a family of two males and two females, believed to have been Catholics, dating to the post-Reformation period.

Fr Flatman said: “They were unwilling to give up their faith for a Protestant burial and so had to do it in secret.”

The bodies will be buried on Saturday, June 23. The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Bernard Longley, will attend the service.

Fr Flatman said: “It was the fact the bodies had never been given a full Catholic burial that nudged it for me. I felt I had to do something.

“I thought we had to give them a proper burial, they deserved it. These people were unwavering in their faith and so we will all come together to celebrate that.”

Research work carried out by Oxford Brookes University, showed the monks lived a luxurious lifestyle, some suffering from diseases caused by over-indulgence.