THE railway navvies and their families who lost their lives during the construction of the Settle-Carlisle line at Ribblehead are to be remembered more than 125 years after they died.

The men, women and children were buried in unmarked graves at St Leonard's churchyard, Chapel-le-Dale, between 1870 and 1877.

Now, a brass plaque on a local stone base is to be dedicated to their memory at a special service on August Bank Holiday Sunday.

As part of Chapel-le-Dale's millennium contribution, the plaque will mark the spot where more than 200 railway workers and their families were buried.

Some died in terrible accidents during the construction of the Ribblehead viaduct and the tunnel which runs through Blea Moor to Dentdale. Others, particularly women and children, fell victim to the smallpox epidemics which ravaged the navvy encampments on Blea Moor.

The vicar of St Leonard's, the Rev Tim Ashworth, and the Rt Rev Ian Harland, former Bishop of Carlisle and a keen railway enthusiast, will conduct an open air service in the churchyard and Giggleswick and Settle Brass Band will play traditional hymns of the period.

The names of the dead could only be discovered by enlisting the aid of local historian Bill Mitchell's research into the parish burial records. A Memorial Register will now be available to the public in the church. It tells the stark tale of whole families being wiped out and of burials being an almost daily occurrence when the epidemics were at their height. The coffins were born by mourners walking the two miles from the encampments on Blea Moor, known as Batty Green, Inkerman, Sebastopol, Jericho and Tunnel Huts.

Overwhelmed by the number of burials in the old churchyard, local farmers gave land for additional burial space, but no headstones were erected over what was then a mass grave for all.

The August Bank Holiday weekend, called A Weekend To Remember, will also revive memories of the small church school which once flourished in Chapel-le-Dale between 1862 and 1973.

An exhibition of original school record books and old photographs collected by former pupils will be open in the church throughout the weekend.

The present owners of the Old School, Mr and Mrs Neil Wild, have invited past scholars and their families to a Nostalgic Supper in the old school classroom on the Monday evening.

It is hoped such a reunion will add to the store of personal reminiscences that now feature in a history of the school, A School Bell Rings In The Dale, written by Gerald Tyler for the occasion. The book will be launched at the exhibition and is priced at £5.

There will also be a nature walk led by Dr Peter Welch of English Nature at 2.30pm on Saturday, August 26.