1858: Unmarked cross mysteriously placed in Cuckfield cemetery


Brighton Gazette - Thursday 18 February 1858


CUCKFIELD. The Burial Board. —


On Thursday evening, a very large meeting of the rate-payers was held at the Talbot Hotel, for the purpose of electing three members of the Burial Board, that number going out of office by rotation, the late members being eligible for re-election.


The Rev. T. A. Maberly, Vicar, took the chair, and three gentlemen were proposed and duly elected.


So far, the meeting went off without any comments, but there was still a point to be discussed, that had notoriously attracted the attention of the parish for some time, and the subject was first broached by the Vicar, but as it was carried on in a running conversation, or rather fire of words in a good tempered way, occasionally bringing out sarcastic and witty observations, that elicited peals of laughter, it is impossible to give the proceedings entire, and a brief summary must suffice.


It is well-known that the Burial-Board and the clergymen have been in antagonism for some time respecting an unsightly object erected in the burial-ground, in the shape of a plain, unpainted, wooden cross, without an inscription, which was placed over the grave of a young woman, named Rowland, a few months since, without any application being made to the Board for permission to erect it.

Cuckfield churchyard

The young woman, it seems, was a protege of Mr Cooper, one of the curates, and the daughter of persons residing at Ansty Cross, but it appears she did not belong to the parish. On the occasion of her death, space in perpetuity, nine feet by four,” was purchased in the burial-ground by some of the supporters of our Puseyitic church for her interment, and she was buried with all the forms of choral service in the most approved fashion, but which, however, passed off without comment at the time, much used have people become here to Romish ceremonies, that they are not regarded.


But one fine morning a good deal of surprise was expressed at seeing at the head of the grave a plain wooden cross, that appeared as if dropped there in the night, and it soon became talked of. The father of the girl works for Mr H. Webber, one of the Board, and assured him that he knew nothing of the matter, and that the cross was placed there without his sanction or knowledge. A meeting of the Board soon after took place, and such proceedings are not sanctioned the Burial Act, and in direct contradiction to the published rules of the Board, order was made to apply to the parents of the girl for a removal of the object, it being deemed unsightly.


It must be here observed that the table of fees and payments published contains the following : “For the purchase by a parishioner of a private grave,—space in perpetuity, 9ft. by 4ft., with the privilege of erecting, placing thereon, at his own expense, and with the approval of the Board, any head or foot stones, enclosure, monument, or rails, or of planting the same with flowers or shrubs, the sum of ‘20s.”


Now this sum of 20s. was paid by some one, but not by the parents of the girl, and that some one caused the cross to be put up, but not with the approval of the Board, and in fact without their knowledge. The letter written by the Clerk of the Board, ordering the removal of the cross, was unheeded, and a second meeting took place, when the parents were again applied to, without effect, and the Board finding themselves set at defiance ordered the object to be taken up, which was done early one morning in about as mysterious way it was erected.


This has given rise a good deal of feeling on the subject, and proceedings have been threatened against the Board, but of what nature has not yet come out, nor did the discussion on Thursday night at all enlighten us on the subject.


The Vicar, in most unintelligible speech, certainly alluded to ulterior proceedings, but whether in the shape of a mandamus, or action law, did not transpire, and he seemed to court an arrangement, but in a form that did not at all suit the ratepayers. He seemed to wish to have an amicable fight, and try out in a friendly spirit the question of mastership, but they could not understand how it was possible for parties to go to law in a friendly spirit, especially as his aim seemed distinctly to be to know who had the right to the burial ground, and to have the matter settled at the sole expense of the parish, without the aggressors being made amenable to any of the costs. This was rather too much of a good thing, and would not go down at any price, nor is it likely we are to have the laws and the rules of the Board set aside to meet the views of persons with whom the whole sensible portion of the parishioners disagree.


What steps will be taken in the matter of removal of the unsightly cross on the return of Mr Cooper, who was stated at the meeting to be “head man” in the affair, we are unaware of, —but this we know, —that the Board are determined to defend their prerogative, and the parish firmly determined to support them, and thus we leave this vexed question for the present.


We may just add that the cross that was so mysteriously erected, and as mysteriously taken down, has since disappeared quite mysteriously from the place where it was deposited on the premises of the Clerk of the Board.

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