The good people of a Herefordshire village were looking forward to worshipping in the warm but excavations to provide a new heating system produced a chilling sight. FLASHBACK recalls the time a community got itself into a lot of bother over bones....

WORK to keep the churchgoers of a Herefordshire village cosy and warm saw temperatures raised higher than intended in a row over old bones.

Installation of a new heating system was expected to bring smiles to the faces of worshippers in Wellington but there were frosty looks from some locals as former parishioners were disturbed from their earthly slumbers in churchyard excavations - and their remains exposed to the world.

It was in the winter of 1948 that a rumpus over skeletons rattled church authorities.

There were claims that the village was "up in arms" but vicar Harold Bland retorted that the parish was "mildly amused".

There were allegations that the remains of 25 people had been disinterred in the bid to bring a warm glow to Harold Bland's current flock.

It was claimed that 16 graves had been disturbed and soil containing bones taken from the churchyard to be deposited in nearby fields.

Upset parishioners had fetched back remains to be re-buried in the consecrated ground, while others contended that in the graveyard itself the heating excavations had led to the odd arm or leg poking out here and there.

There were angry claims and counter-claims and some called for the matter to be taken up with the Bishop of Hereford.

But Harold Bland was unrepentant. He told the Hereford Times that the faculty granted for excavations in the churchyard for the purpose of installing the heating system took into account the whole operation including any other remains that might be found.

He contended that only one marked grave was actually excavated and that - as expected - bones from other burials, some being as much as 200-years-old, were discovered.

"It is a wild exaggeration to say that 25 bodies were disturbed," said the vicar. "At the most I should say that only about five were moved. All the remains were given a proper reburial as near as possible to the original site.

"Furthermore, notices of the intention to carry out this operation were displayed in the Press and on the church door for 15 days, but no protests or objections were received. As for saying Wellington is 'up in arms', I think Wellington is mildly amused."

But at the end of the statement from the clergyman there was a comment that showed there was some cause for concern.

The vicar said the only soil taken out of the churchyard was dumped in a local field at the request of a parishioner.

This was done without the knowledge or consent of himself, the churchwardens or the parochial church council.