The parents of a 10-month-old girl who died 35 years ago just won the right to remove their daughter’s remains from the “consecrated ground” she was buried in and move them to a different plot.
In a rare move, the church found that it was appropriate to exhume the child’s ashes because she was buried in a sacred site without the parents’ knowledge. The daughter, Lizzie Hugill, died in December of 1982 and was buried in Cheshunt Cemetery (in England) later that same month, according to the Hertfordshire Mercury.
They have only recently discovered that their daughter was mistakenly buried in consecrated ground which conflicts with their strict atheistic views.
Permission for exhumation from consecrated ground has to be granted by the Consistory Court and is rarely given as Church of England philosophy is that a last resting place should be just that, unless there are exceptional circumstances or a mistake has been made.
In this case though the judge bowed to the non-religious beliefs of the parents and ruled that they were not aware that the plot their daughter was buried in was in consecrated ground, which did not accord with their views on religion.
It was therefore held under church law that there had been a genuine mistake and exhumation should be allowed.
This verdict is definitely unusual coming out of a religious court system, but it also makes sense, given the context. The parents asked for the girl to be moved because her mother wanted to have her ashes buried with her daughter, and they found out it would be much more difficult due to the “consecrated ground” designation.
The parents were unaware of the status of their daughter’s burial site because they didn’t make the funeral arrangements. So it’s a pretty typical and straightforward mistake.
[Lizzie’s] parents, Mrs Beverley Wilson and her ex-husband, Michael Hugill, were too distressed to arrange the funeral and that was done by Mr Hugill’s parents…
But she had never realised the grave was in consecrated ground until she decided she wanted to make arrangements for her own ashes to be buried with those of Lizzie.
But when enquiries were made in October last year it was revealed that the ground was consecrated.
As a result Mrs Wilson and her ex-husband re-united to make a plea to the Consistory Court for permission for Lizzie’s ashes to be exhumed and re-buried in un-consecrated ground at Ramsey Road Cemetery in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. Mrs Wilson now lives in St Ives.
The Church is firmly against digging up the remains of dead people, but in this case, their judicial system rightly acknowledged that the beliefs and wishes of the parents would have to override their sacred traditions: they ruled with a conscience rather than by some inflexible doctrine. It’s hard to see how anyone could make a sensible argument for keeping the remains there given the circumstances. Thankfully, it never reached that point. These parents deserve to be buried with their daughter if they want.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)