THE history of Harrow-on the-Hill could be changed forever after a macabre mystery was unearthed at Harrow's oldest church.

Human remains were found last week by parish members as they removed rotting pews from inside St Mary's Church - but the remains could predate the Norman church.

Pauline Chandler, a church warden, said: "There is a rumour that there was a Saxon church on the site before the existing Norman church was built, but we are not quite sure so this finding has shed some light on that.

"In the Doomsday Book it was mentioned that there was a priest there so you would assume there was a church also."

Leading local historian Don Walter, who lives in Harrow-on-the-Hill, said: "What I think makes this finding particularly interesting is that I believe there has been a chance for real experts to look at the bones and there is a feeling that it could date back right to the very earliest days of the church's history, so this find really does go back in time."

Work on building the church began in 1087 but services did not start for another seven years.

Mr Walter also explained that because the remains are more than 100 years old the police do not have to investigate, although they were informed.

Ms Chandler explained that if an archaeological item is deemed worthy of investigation, then the finders have to pay. An archaeologist from the diocese has visited the site, and Mrs Chandler is now waiting to find out what will happen next.

She said: "The initial speculation is that the body dates back to the 1200s, because the head goes under a wall that our records show dates back to between 1190 and 1240 - so the body would have to have been buried before then."

And Mr Walters added: "One of the important things to remember is that from 875AD there was an exchange of land between the church and the crown. The Archbishop of Canterbury became Lord of the Manor of Harrow, and you would expect him to make sure there was a church in Harrow. So that is another thing that points in the direction of there being a Saxon church, but at the moment it is all supposition."

The church was extensively renovated by renowned Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott in 1847.