Judge paves way for Lowestoft couple to be reunited in death

Gunton St Peter's Church.

Gunton St Peter's Church. - Credit: Nick Butcher

A court ruling has paved the way for a couple from Lowestoft to be reunited in death.

Kirkley Cemetery, Lowestoft.

Kirkley Cemetery, Lowestoft. - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

The Church of England's Consistory Court has given the go-ahead for the ashes of Henry William Ellis to be dug up – more than 20 years after his death – so they can be buried with his widow, Hilda.

Ruth Arlow, Chancellor of the Diocese of Norwich, and a Church of England judge have allowed the ashes of Mr Ellis – which were buried in 1994 in St Peter's churchyard at Gunton – to be exhumed and re-interred in Kirkley Cemetery, where Mrs Ellis was buried after dying in March last year. In giving permission for exhumation, chancellor Arlow has over-ridden normal church rules that a last resting place must be just that and that remains should not be moved, once buried, unless the circumstances are exceptional.

The application for permission for Mr Ellis' ashes to be moved was made by three of the couple's children. They said Mrs Ellis had always indicated when she was alive that she had wanted her ashes to be buried with those of her husband. But when she died, and her will was read, it indicated she wanted to be buried in the Kirkley Cemetery with her parents.

Chancellor Arlow said: 'Prior to her death it was the understanding of the petitioners that it had been Mrs Ellis' long-standing wish and intention that her remains should be interred together with those of her late husband. As well as being blind, Mrs Ellis suffered from dementia in the later years of her life and during that period she spoke constantly of her then deceased husband and consistently stated that she wanted to be with him. It therefore came as a surprise to discover that, during the period of her illness, Mrs Ellis had amended her will to ask that her remains should be buried in the family grave in Kirkley Cemetery. The petitioners are adamant that Mrs Ellis' wish had always been to be buried with her husband.'

In deciding whether there were exceptional circumstances to allow her to over-ride the church rules, she said it was clear to her that in burying Mrs Ellis in Kirkley Cemetery the family were 'clearly operating under the mistaken belief that they were obliged to comply with the terms of Mrs Ellis' will whatever their own understanding of her actual wishes.'

Granting permission, she said: 'I am satisfied that an exception to the norm of permanence should be made in this case. Mrs Ellis was buried in Kirkley Cemetery as a result of a mistake by her family about the effect of the expression of wishes in her will.'

Most Read

? Have you got a Lowestoft story? Email mark.boggis@archant.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter