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The Church of England has granted atheist parents the right to exhumation their daughter ashes

Beverley Wilson and Michael Hughill lost their 10-month-old daughter back in 1982, a hugely traumatic experience. The child (Lizzie) was cremated and her ashes were buried the same month at Chestnut Cemetery in Hertfordshire.

The parents, due to the trauma they were feeling, left the arrangements for the funeral to Mr Huhgill’s farther.

Mrs Wilson, now estranged from her husband, now lives in St Ives in Cambridgeshire and regularly makes the two hours round trip to visit the resting place of her daughter. Then, Mrs Wilson whilst making arrangement for her own funeral (including where she wanted her ashes interred), discovered that the ashes were on consecrated ground. As Mrs Wilson is an atheist, this did not sit well. So, she and her ex-husband (also an atheist) joined sides to get the ashes exhumed, moved and re-buried to unconsecrated ground at Ramsey Road Cemetery in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, near where Mrs Wilson lives.

Their claim for exceptional circumstances (the reason the Church will allow you to exhume ashes) was based on it being a mistake (which is a permeable reason), in that if they had of known the child was to be buried in consecrated ground and what the implications of that were, they would not have agreed to it.

The judge – Lyndsey de Mestre QC, Deputy Chancellor of the Diocese of St Albans and judge of the Consistory Court, has agreed with them and granted permission for the ashes to be exhumed.

She considered that Christian precedent has been upheld and that there had been a “fundamental mistake as to the arrangements made for the interment of Lizzie’s remains”.

She was concerned about the state the ashes and the wooden coffin they were buried in would be in after 35 years underground, although after taking advice from a funeral director it she considered it to be feasible.

So, the case was based on a) the parents being atheist, b) the fact that they did not arrange the funeral c) and were unaware and ignorant of the implications of decisions made on their behalf.

I am pleased for them they must have felt very strongly after all this time to go through such a gruelling and expensive process. One does wonder whether the lawyers are starting to find little ways to chip away the stance of the church and that coupled with the thought that the judges who trying to hold precedent are likely to be sympathetic toward families appealing, will result in a gradual eroding. We shall see.

Original Story –

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