Conisboro’ Parish Council – Gunpowder for Graves at Conisboro’.

January 1902

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 24 January 1902

Conisboro’ Parish Council

Gunpowder for Graves at Conisboro’.

A special meeting of the Conisboro’ Parish Council was held on Monday evening, to consider the subject of how best to excavate the graves a portion of the cemetery, which has been found to contain a considerable quantity of limestone rock.

The customary depth of each grave is nine feet, but the utmost difficulty is experienced in getting to this depth in the rocky portion. A proposal that the cemetery caretaker should be provided with blasting powder and drilling tools was adopted after discussion, but not until an interesting diversity of opinion among the members there had been disclosed.

Mr. C. Holmes, the chairman presided, and the other members present were Mr. J. Brocklesby (the vice-chairman), Mr. W. Revill, Mr. D. Robinson, Mr C. Walker, Mr. W. Wilson, Mr. G. Brooks. Mr G. Smithson. The officials in attendance were the clerk (Mr. J. Hawkesworth), and the cemetery caretaker (Mr. A. Hodgson).

The Chairman, in explaining the purpose of the special meeting, said there had been some difference of opinion with regard to the best way of dealing with the rocky ground in the cemetery. He supposed by that time members had been to the place, and had come to the meeting prepared to decide finally how to proceed. A feeling existed that the Council ought to abandon that part of the cemetery, but he did act know if anyone was prepared to go on those lines. They had talked formerly of blasting; perhaps, now members had seen the place they would be able to form an opinion.

Mr. Wilson said he had heard a remark at one meeting that the stone taken out of the graves was of some value; had any been sold?

The Chairman: Not that I know of. It was Mr. Singleton who said the stone was saleable.

Mr. Wilson: You don’t know what it would be worth per load?

The Clerk: I may say that up to the present time, when the caretaker has had any spare refuse out of the graves, he has had the opportunity of selling it.

The Chairman: It has not been such stuff as this.

Mr. Walker: But this is pure limestone. Isn’t it? That ought to sell. Could not that part be closed?

The Chairman: Certainly.

Mr. Wilson: That would be a serious blow to the parish.


Mr. Walker: The ground , there is now would last for a generation without touching that, and the next generation, I think, would perhaps wiser than we are; they would know better how to get it out. (Laughter)

Mr. Brockelsby, after a pause in the conversation, said: You have nothing further to state, have you, Mr. Chairman? After the discussion which took place at the last Parish Council, I thought possibly, there was dark and questionable proceedings to be made known, and I came to the meeting this evening prepared to hear something of a very strange and unlooked for character. I hope there is nothing of that sort in existence

The Chairman: The way we were drifting to at the last meeting seemed as if we were going to take us right away back to the commencement of the cemetery and I certainly had no desire that we should. I do not think, so far as the caretaker is concerned, that he has any complaint to make. All he asks is that we should provide him with a little blasting prouder and some drills, and he will to the best he can with it.

Mr. Brocklesby: There has nothing been done of an irregular character?

The Chairman: Nothing has ever been done only with the full knowledge of the governing body, whether the old Burial Board or the Parish Council.

Mr. Brocklesby: I don’t suppose there is any desire on part of any member of this Council to reap up anything that transpired years ago, which, perhaps, was hardly to the liking of people. Personally. I do not remember anything wrong at all, and I think it will be some satisfaction to the public to know there is nothing going on of an irregular character. The question before the meeting to-night is only the question as to whether we shall utilise this rocky portion of the cemetery or abandon it. I have examined it and I have seen the hole that was prepared, and I confess it is more difficult to work than anticipated. It appears to be solid rock, and it must be very difficult to get down a depth of nine feet; and yet, as Mr. Wilson has observed, it would be a loss to the parish if it were not used. It occurred to me that perhaps the best plan to deal with the matter would be not to sink so deep. There is more risk in going down nine feet than there is in going down six feet. One way of meeting the difficulty would be not to go below more than six or seven feet, and still utilise the ground. I am not prepared to move a resolution on the question, became it is a matter of opinion and I have not formed my opinion definitely. I hardly think it would be advisable to go down nine feet, taking into consideration the character of the rock.

Mr. Robinson: I should like to know what is the reason this has been pushed forward so, and who has been the instigator of it? I am sorry the manager of the cemetery (Mr. Singleton) is not here or I would have asked him.

The Chairman: You cannot have any doubt in-our mind as to who first mentioned that, because it was myself and I am here to-night prepared to hold to the same opinion. That is the only possible way you can deal with it, by blasting it. We are not going to use dynamite.

Mr. Robinson: There is not a man in this room can sink a grave there in a fortnight, and you can use all the dynamite you like.

The Chairman: All you require is a little blasting powder. It is not as Mr. Brocklesby said, solid rock.

Mr. Brocklesby: I saw some rock, and it was solid enough.

The Chairman explained that the rock ran in seams. Once the grave-digger got through the seam he came upon stuff that was broken. The seams were each about a foot thick and could be got through with less labour by the use of blasting powder. He did not like to have to recourse to blasting. but unless they were prepared to abandon that portion of the cemetery they must face that. There were other cemeteries where blasting was done.

Mr. Walker thought a small charge could be blown out without damage to ether graves.

The Chairman said he did not suggest that they should blast in a grave next to our that had been interred in.

Mr. Wilson thought a capable man accustomed to blasting should be employed to get out from six to four graves, which could be filled up with loose material and re-opened as required, but members did not regard the suggestion with approval.

Mr. -Brockleeby raised the question as to whether in the event of the gravedigger being injured would the Council have to pay compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

Mr. Brooks said he believed the Council would be liable if an accident occurred.

Mr Brocklesby said it appeared to him it would be an unusual thing if they were trying to utilise £50 of land, and had to take a risk of that sort.

Mr. Robinson: I cannot understand what loss there would be if the Council abandon it and leave it for somebody else.

The Chairman: That’s a good way of getting out of the difficulty. (Laughter)

Mr. Brooks: It is not a fair way.

Mr. Wilson: I am surprised to hear Mr. Robinson talk like that.

Mr. Brocklesby jocularly remarked that two hundred years hence it might be that all that would be required for the taking away of the stone would be to drop upon it some carefully prepared substance which would do the work itself.

Mr. Wilson said it was just probable that no burial places would needed then. Continuing be submitted that when the remuneration of the cemetery caretaker was fixed the rocky state of this particular section would be known and taken into consideration. The point of Mr. Wilson’s remarks was that the caretaker having undertaken to do the work it a price should be requested to do it.

The Chairman explained that under the present system of remuneration the caretaker received 25s. a week, the use of a house, and all the fees: he had to find all the labour.- The Clerk: And other perquisites.

The Chairman: That is what the Council pays him.

Mr. Brocklesby : Are those conditions which obtain generally among  burial boarels’?

The Chairman: I do not know; I could not say that.

Mr. Brocklesby after some further conversation moved that graves be dug in the rocky portion when people required them, and that the depth should not exceed seven feet.

The caretaker, in reply to a question, said a grave of such a depth would hold four bodies : the other graves held five.

The Chairman: You would have to reduce the price to the public in the first place

Mr. Brocklesby: Yes. in proportion to the depth.

Mr. Wilson moved that the caretaker be supplied with blasting powder, drills, and any of the necessary appliances to enable him to excavate the rocky graves.

Mr. Walker seconded the resolution.

Mr. Wilson : If it is necessary to get a license it can be included in my resolution.—

Mr. Revill: Are we clear that we are not responsible if any accidents happen?

The Chairman: I am not clear that we are. I do not know whether anyone elsee is clear that we are not.

Mr. Brooks: We are at the present time: I believe we are liable if a big stone fell upon him. On being put to the vote. Mr. Wilson’s resolution was adopted, only three members Messrs. Revill, Robinson, and Brockleby voting against.

The Clerk here stated that the caretaker had charged him with recommending people to have graves on the rocky portion, but he denied it, saying that when people asked where the pound graves were he told them.