HC Deb 24 November 1884 vol 294 cc261-3

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he will state what measures he has taken in the matter of the clergyman who sent the dead body of a child to the Home Office, in consequence of a dispute as to the appropriation of a cemetery?


As this matter arose out of one of those unhappy quarrels about burial grounds, I will ask leave to state the facts of the case. The churchyard in the parish of Colsterworth had been closed, and a Burial Board was constituted, on which the Rector had the principal voice. It was proposed to make two burial grounds. There was to be one for the exclusive use of members of the Church of England; while another was to be allotted to the Nonconformists. Upon that proposal I received a remonstrance from Lord Dysart and 90 ratepayers objecting to the burial ground for Noncomformists—firstly, because they wished to have a common burial ground, which seems to me to be the principle of the Act; and, secondly, because the ground allotted to them was a disused quarry. I referred to the Inspector of Burial Grounds, who reported that the arrangement was offensive to the Dissenters, and that the Burial Board ought to have shown more consideration for their feelings, especially as the ground would have been used almost entirely by them. Thereupon, I told the Rector that I would not consent to a proposal which appeared to me to be offensive, and I recommended that some other arrangement should be made. I added that until some arrangement was made which would be satisfactory to people of all religious opinions I should not give my sanction. In the answer which I received on the 29th of October, I was told that I should be attacked in the House of Commons by six influential Members of Parliament; but I have the satisfaction of knowing that that never occurred. The next proceeding was that on Sunday, the 2nd of November, a box containing the dead body of a child was delivered at the Home Office. I ordered inquiries to be made; and it then appeared that a clergyman, the Rev. J. Mirehouse, had been to the house of the parent of a stillborn child and had obtained the body on the promise that he would bury it that night in the presence of the father. The father accordingly went to the clergyman's house, but was put off with some excuse. On the morning of the next day the clergyman drove to the railway station, and carried a box with him. The footman whom he instructed to pack up the box says his master told him to address it to the Home Secretary, as he was sending him a small present. The servant thought it was a box of game. The clergyman instructed the porter not to put a label upon it. He says now that he sent it as a protest, but he desired that a label might not be put on the box in order that it might not be known where it came from. When inquiries were made by the police, Mr. Mirehouse denied that he knew any- thing about the matter—a statement which he now admits to be untrue. Mr. Mirehouse is prepared to make an apology to me. In my opinion, there was no offence committed against me. The offence was against the Church of which he is a minister, against public decency, and against the parents of the child, whom he deliberately deceived. I have instructed the Law Officers of the Crown to advise me whether it is an offence which can be proceeded against by law. If so, the case will be placed in the hands of the Public Prosecutor. Whether it be a legal offence or not, I shall bring the conduct of this clergyman before the Bishop, in order that, if possible, he may remove him from the charge of a parish, for which, in my opinion, he is entirely unfitted.