A Grave Matter

Many moons ago, I attended a ‘forties event’ in the Kibworth Grammar School. I was dressed in my ‘Mellors’ gamekeeper outfit, and found myself sitting next to the late Betty Ward. That lovely lady had her Land Army gear on, just as she had done during WW2.

The conversation eventually veered towards local history, and Betty told me that the local history society had just finished cataloguing all the fading characters on all of the headstones in Kibworth church yard. “We’ve logged them all for posterity now,” she claimed! “Well,” says I, “there’s one you haven’t logged yet, and that’s the one in our garden in Rectory Lane.”

Following on from this, the leader of the local history group came to visit us to put the matter right. This was the late Norman Harrison who was quite thrilled to photograph and research the headstone at my invitation. By studying the relevant census information and procuring a death certificate, a fascinating story was discovered.

William Mitchell was variously described as, initially a ‘scholar’ in 1851, and as a ‘schoolmaster’ in later life. In 1873 he had returned from living in Nottingham, and was lodging with the Harris family in High Street, Kibworth Beauchamp, unmarried and presumably still earning a living as a schoolmaster at a local school.

His death at the early age of 36 must surely have been a terrible tragedy for his family, especially as it was by his own hand, ‘hanging himself whilst in a state of temporary insanity’. His death certificate also stated his occupation as ‘no occupation’, so one wonders what event or act had caused his downfall.

Where was William Mitchell buried?

The headstone in our garden is believed to have been unearthed when a fish pond was dug. It is perhaps no surprise that it was discovered outside the church yard. In 1874 bodies were buried outside the graveyard when suicide was involved. The headstone bears damage marks, possibly having encountered the bucket of a JCB during the construction of our pleasant neighbourhood.

The question is, of course, are William’s remains really located in our garden? Or does that honour befall one of our neighbours in Rectory Lane? Best not dig those runner bean trenches too deep, guys!

Ron Spinks