Page last updated at 13:17 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 14:17 UK

Grave problem for university plan

Fuller Pilch memorial
The memorial was moved from St Gregory's Church in 1978

Plans to expand a university are under threat from a dead England cricketer.

Fuller Pilch was buried in the graveyard at St Gregory's Church in Canterbury, Kent, in 1870, but the exact grave location is unclear.

Canterbury Christ Church University wants to build a new 8m music centre at the site but must relocate all 200 graves before work can begin.

It must also identify exactly where the cricketer's body is buried. It said it was a "sensitive issue."

The talented sportsman, who played for Kent from 1835 to 1854, became famous for his unusual batting technique, which became known around the country as the Pilch Poke.

During his career he played for Norfolk, Leicester and Kent and also represented England.

In 1847 he became the first groundsman at Kent County Cricket Club in Canterbury, which is now the home of the obelisk which once stood by his grave at St Gregory's Church.

But university spokeswoman Claire Draper said the project, which is only in its initial stages, must get planning permission from Canterbury City Council before they even begin to start looking for Pilch's grave.

We appreciate it is a sensitive issue and want to approach it with appropriate care
University spokeswoman

She said: "Further confirmation of the location of graves will not take place until after planning application is granted.

"We won't know whether we have the go-ahead until the end of July so plans to find Mr Pilch's last resting place are on hold until then.

"The university is committed to reinterring the remains of the deceased in a dedicated memorial garden. We appreciate it is a sensitive issue and want to approach it with appropriate care."

In the time between when the building stopped being used as a church in 1974 and the university bought it in 1981, many of the graves had been vandalised and headstones moved.

Since being owned by the university, the Grade II-listed church has been used as a venue for music performances and rehearsals, but is too small to host large audiences.


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