Covid-19 Archive

Podcast script - Monday, April 27, 2020

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Good Morning Chelveston, Caldecott and Chelston Rise. It’s Monday 27th April and this is Adrian Dale with the daily podcast.

And Happy 51st Birthday Helen in Lincolnshire who is always the first to hear the podcast in the morning and also the first to read the newsletter. This means, she’s also the first to send in corrections and I wait nervously during my morning litter pick waiting for the call that tells me I have dropped a clanger.

There must have been something in the water that year. Helen shares her Birthday with Dame Darcey Bussell of the Royal Ballet and Strictly Come Dancing and also with Tess Daly also of Strictly Come Dancing. All these girls were born on the same day in 1969.

I checked out other birthdays for today. Anna Chancellor (aka Duck Face in Four Weddings) shares their birthday, and so does Jenna Coleman from Dr. Who. Famous men are noticeably absent from the list apart from the King of the Nederlands who is 53 today. Normally the whole of the Nederlands celebrates Kings Day and the country is coloured orange for the day. Today it is officially cancelled because of the lock down across Europe.

Many others in the Village have had special celebrations cancelled during the lock down. I do hope that they can all be relived once normality is resumed.

I had some more interesting feedback on yesterday’s podcast. People clearly listen carefully and comments and corrections come in all day long. I hate being wrong but they are all most welcome.

David Hackett, a former Church Warden, was the first to correct me yesterday. I talked about the bones of horses and men being found at the site of a former coke boiler house. Actually this was wrong. The digging was actually required to create the first boiler house at the start of the 20th century. Previously congregants were expected to shiver in a cold church.

Arthur Wright, one of the current Church Wardens, then contacted me to tell me about the demise of this original heating system. In 1965, old cast iron pipes still surrounded the church outside the west wall fuelled by the original coke furnace. They were terribly unsightly. Canon Roger Davison, the then vicar, contacted the chaplain of Kimbolton School and organised a band of lads to come and smash the pipes up - in an act of organised vandalism!

The Church was then heated by some unsightly overhead electric heaters hung above the pews. Roger Davison thought these were useless too. He switched them on for 24hours and found that the temperature in the Church rose by just 2 degrees. The Parochial Church Council agreed that these should be ripped out too, leaving the congregation of six wearing double coats for the rest of the winter.

The problem was eventually solved by Michael Foulger who lifted the pews up and installed wiring beneath them to supply heaters at ground level.

David Hackett also told me that he has found evidence of holes in the Church Tower caused by musket balls. Perhaps the battle of Chelveston Hall came closer to the Church than we expected. Steph Chadwick shared a photograph of the items found during their dig, which I’ll put into the newsletter today.

We’ve been debating the capacity of the Churchyard for years in this Village. Is the Churchyard big enough for everyone who might want to be buried there? This might sound a strange macabre topic to debate but we did a survey about this a few years ago.

If you remember, I said a few weeks ago that this Village tends to seduce you. You move here because it is cheaper than Bedfordshire, ignore it for a few years, and then end up being sucked in, and never want to leave, even in a box.

The survey revealed that large numbers of residents want to be buried in the Parish. It was a big surprise – surely living here is preferable! However, we suddenly had a problem, was the Churchyard big enough?

So with Caroline Knight from Chelston Rise, I set about doing a detailed Churchyard survey. We documented just over 320 burials in 200 or so graves. Given that this is a 13th Century Church, over 700 years old, the numbers simply don’t stack up. Even today, with our long life spans, we average 1.4 burials a year. Where are all these bodies?

Father Grant Brockhouse was vicar at the time and he explained that gravestones weren’t common until the 18th Century. Prior to that all graves were marked with wooden crosses which eventually disappeared. The location of old graves was only known the Village Sexton and this was passed on verbally from Sexton to Sexton. Maynard Baxter learned it from his father Collis, but no one followed Maynard.

David Hackett told me yesterday that a drainage channel was dug around the Church to alleviate damp, and during this process more graves were uncovered right up to the Church walls. Some were even found under the foundations of the tower. I have to ask the question, what happened to these remains?

During the Autumn last year the Church installed a new driveway and path to the Church door. As part of the permission to do this, the authorities required us to employ an archaeologist at huge expense, present on site during the dig. At the outset, we thought this was a huge waste of time and money.

How wrong we were! Right close to the Church walls at a depth of less than 3 feet we found undocumented graves, just as David Hackett had found. We wondered why you would bury someone under what was clearly a pathway to the Church door? And why only 2ft deep?

We studied the maps and the archaeologist came up with the answer. The Churchyard entrance we use now is not the original one. For the first few hundred years, the Church was accessed through Mommersteeg’s field using the gateway directly opposite the Church door. Every other space in the Churchyard was clearly used as a burial ground. The Church path we have been used to has quite literally been walking on the graves of our forebears.

So I am sure you are wondering what happens when an ancient grave is disturbed. Does lightning strike, does the ground open up? Well traditionally it has all been hushed up and everyone turns a blind eye. Michelle has taken a different view.

We certainly don’t just bury the remains under the compost heap like at the beginning of the 20th Century. Instead, Michelle has re-interred the remains elsewhere in the Churchyard with a dignified service and an apology for disturbing their rest.

Our Church has existed for hundreds of years at the heart of the Village. It’s history is revered and preserved as far as is possible. The Village’s respect for our forebears is absolute. But it is a living Church evolves with us.

Jenny spent some time in the Churchyard recently and found it peaceful and uplifting. I go there every day and even the heathen I am understands the importance of nearly 800 years of living history in that place.

I don’t think we’ll be firing musket balls at the tower, or smashing up heating pipes again soon, but I like the idea of a living and breathing Church at the heart of our medieval Village. Long may it continue. Thank you