Oldie Digs up Grave Problems at Combe Florey

The Oldie magazine in response to recent stories in the national press about the sale of Combe Florey House has republished an article from 2016 by Teresa Waugh, Auberon’s widow and former owner-occupant of the house. This relates to the Waugh family graves situated next to the house property:

…The one certainty is that [location of the graves] had absolutely nothing to do with [Evelyn Waugh’s] having been a Roman Catholic and in a funny way it had nothing to do with him since the decision to lay him where he still rests next to his wife was taken by his family after he died.

Quite some fourteen [sic] or so years ago a split appeared in the wall supporting the small plot in which Evelyn, Laura and their daughter Margaret FitzHerbert are buried. At the time I was living in Evelyn’s old house and, considering myself to be responsible for the graves which no one would wish to see falling into the churchyard, I took it upon myself to have the wall patched.

Since the story was first published in The Oldie for June 2016, it may now be nearly 19 years since the crack in the wall appeared. See previous posts. The story continues:

I was quite unaware of my transgression until a few years later when the crack widened drastically and it looked as though one side of the wall that turns at a right angle round the plot might collapse at any minute. I then consulted Bert Simons, an admirable man who had long worked for the family and who assured me that he could fix the problem. Had I kept my mouth shut he would have done it there and then. I would have paid him and that would have been that.

Oh no! Nothing can be allowed to be that simple. When I mentioned my plan to a member of the Parochial Church Council I was told not only that the wall had nothing to do with me but that I had no right to touch it.

History may relate that poor Bert Simons was chased from the churchyard by an angry parishioner waving a pitchfork. Be that as it may, the wall remains precariously unrepaired to this day [June 2016] just as hordes of culture-thirsty Americans make their pilgrimage to the great man’s grave.

I was informed that the wall round the long-since closed churchyard was not in urgent need of repair and that, in any case, it was part of the church fabric and something called a ‘faculty’ would be required from the diocese before anything could be done to it. But years later, after my son, Alexander Waugh, and my brother-in-law, Septimus Waugh, have, like Madame de Sévigné, spent themselves in letter-writing, it turns out that since the churchyard is now the responsibility of the local council, planning permission would be needed before any alteration to the wall could take place, that is if the wall isn’t – which it may not be – part of the fabric of the church.

So far as appears in the recent reports of the sale of Combe Florey House, this problem remains unresolved. The Oldie’s reposting refers to no such resolution. The article concluded with a reference to the current status of the family’s efforts to resolve the matter through the local council as of 2016:

… Alexander received a sniffy letter from a member of the Taunton Deane Borough Council accusing him of not respecting his grandfather’s wishes. Waugh’s wishes with regard to his interment remain to this day unknown and no grandson has ever been prouder or more respectful of his grandfather than Alexander.

Although the Waugh Family sold the house in 2008 before the story appeared in The Oldie, they may have retained rights in that part of the property on which the graves are located.

UPDATE (9 May 2021): Alexander Waugh has kindly sent the following information:

The wall has now been fixed by family effort and EW’s grave is now approached up some steps from the church yard.  Also the stones have been reset so they are no longer sloping.

 

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