An overgrown mass grave containing the bodies of dozens of stillborn babies has been found at a cemetery after being forgotten for 50 years.
The huge burial site is believed to hold the remains of more than 40 babies who were stillborn in the 1950s.
It was discovered covered with bracken and branches in an area of Ford Park Cemetery in Plymouth, Devon - which is now preserved as a nature reserve.
Wendy Sophola discovered the burial site while searching for information about her sister Mary, who was born on January 1, 1955, and died just a few hours later.
She obtained documents from the cemetery showing the bodies of 41 babies are contained in an overgrown plot of land at the north end of the site.
Mrs Sophola, 55, said: ‘It’s so sad. There must be lots of parents still alive whose babies are in there.
‘There might be a mother hearing this and thinking, ‘I had a baby in that year, I never knew that happened’.
‘I have asked questions like ‘how are they presented? Are they side by side or what? Were they in little coffins, or were they just wrapped in muslin?
‘The cemetery staff said they are not quite sure but there are some on top of each other. I just said “Oh my God.” It’s disturbing. There is no respect for the dead.’
Mrs Sophola, of Plymouth, grew up knowing she had a sister called Mary, who had died shortly after birth
Until last month, she had had no other information, until her father revealed that Mary had been buried in Ford Park Cemetery.
Staff at the cemetery looked at old records and pointed Mrs Sophola towards a corner of the 34-acre site where her sister was supposedly buried.
But she found the whole plot was overgrown with brambles and branches and she was not able to access Mary’s grave.
The cemetery opened in 1848 and was run by the Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Cemetery Company until 1999.
When the company went into liquidation the Ford Park Cemetery Trust was formed to manage the site.
The stillborn babies were laid to rest between January and December 1954 after being born at two of the city’s hospitals except one who was apparently born at home.
Trust chairman John Boon said: ‘There are a number of graves in that area that the previous company used to bury babies who were stillborn or suffered neonatal death.
‘They dealt with it in a different way to how we would probably do it these days, there is a greater awareness now.’
Mr Boon said the area Mrs Sophola was asking about has been maintained as a wildlife reserve, but said he would possibly allow her to cut the area back.
He said: ‘I don’t think this is any different to what other cemeteries do in terms of attitudes towards the burial of babies.
‘All cemeteries back in that day did the same sort of thing. It was just a question of attitudes towards things in that day.
‘We now have a dedicated area for the burial of babies where parents can buy freehold graves.’