Something slightly light-hearted for Xmas Eve …..
Tales from the Grave so far have focussed on stories surrounding those who are buried in the Cemetery. But the Cemetery itself has its own tales to tell such as this one from the Western Morning News of Friday 5th March 1880 – a tale of apparent mystery, intrigue and skulduggery which prompted rumours to be spread throughout the town. I have left the story verbatim as reported in the paper to give it the appropriate ‘period’ feel of a Victorian melodrama but I have broken the single paragraph item up into several for ease of reading.
Curious Proceedings in Teignmouth Cemetery
“At the monthly meeting of the Teignmouth Burial Board yesterday, Mr C H Stooke presiding, Messrs J Tothill and N Hudson also being present, a letter was read by the clerk (Mr Jordan) from Mr G A Hole, gardener, of Fore Street, in which the writer complained that he had found on visiting the cemetery, that a shrub had been taken from his mother’s grave, and on enquiry where the shrub was he discovered that it had been planted on another grave.
The lodge-keeper (Mills) said he knew nothing about it.
The Chairman proposed that, taking all the facts of the case into consideration, the monthly visitor (Mr G Jarvis) be written to, requesting him to have Mills replace the shrub at once. He (the chairman) heard Mr Jarvis give Mills particular orders not to touch any shrub belonging to any private individual, and Mills should have obeyed those orders.
Mr Tothill thought it possible that Mills might not have been present at all when the shrub was transplanted. The Chairman thought Mills must have been there the whole of the time. Mr Hudson inquired whether anyone could plant shrubs on the graves of their relatives. The Clerk said they could with a “pass” which Mr Hole evidently had.
The Chairman said it appeared that a rumour had gone through the town about this particular shrub, altogether a false rumour, which was got up for a purpose; there was no doubt about that. He had heard Mills suggest, in Mr Jarvis’s presence, that some of the shrubs in the cemetery should be transplanted, as they were too thick, and were injuring each other, and Mr Jarvis told Mills he must do nothing of the kind with the shrubs planted by private individuals.
Mr Tothill said that might be all very well, but the shrub was removed from a private grave, and placed upon his (Mr Jarvis’s) father’s grave. It was a thing which he (Mr Tothill) would not have allowed to be done. Mr Hudson thought it would have been far more satisfactory if both the visitor and the lodgekeeper had been present. Mr Hudson did not believe that Mills would have allowed the shrub to be removed without Mr Jarvis’s sanction.
It was resolved to order the restoration of the shrub, and to further investigate the matter.
Was Jarvis, the appointed ‘visitor’, the mastermind villain behind this heinous act? Was Mills, the trusted lodgekeeper, the fall-guy? What was the nefarious purpose of the “false rumour”? Did Stooke, the Chairman, have a hidden vested interest and was he attempting to pervert the course of cemeterial justice? Was the further investigation a cover-up, perhaps in the national interest?
We may never know the answers to these important questions – I can find no further report. The statute of limitations may have passed but this Victorian whodunnit remains a mystery.