London: Work began Friday on redeveloping English county cricket side Somerset's picturesque Taunton ground, but taking the unusual step of moving dead bodies to extend the playing surface.
Commercial manager Guy Wolfenden told AFP the diggers had moved in to disinter 50 bodies from the neighbouring Saint James's churchyard just over the outfield that ex-players like Viv Richards and Ian Botham regularly breached.
The bodies were all buried between 1858 and 1888 but no records of their names survive and the coffins have disintegrated. They will be reinterred in one box under a landscaped grass area for spectators on the boundary ropes.
The grass mound will be renamed Gimblett Hill, after Somerset batsman Harold Gimblett, whose arrival at the crease in his career between 1935 and 1954 apparently distracted clergymen from ministering to their flock.
Somerset chief executive Richard Gould said the redevelopment would increase the outfield by 70 yards (64 metres), bringing it into line with international standards.
"This is not because we intend playing Tests here but so as to ensure that some bright spark does not tell us to extend our outfield in the future," he told The Times Friday.
"We have put up notices around the church and have done all we can to notify the public. No one has carried out anything like this on a cricket ground."
The local church diocese did not object and no relative has yet come forward to state their opposition, he added.
Wolfenden said the overall redevelopment of the ground will cost 60 million pounds, with 18 million pounds being spent on buying the consecrated ground and creating Gimblett Hill.