Bunwell – St. Michael and All Angels Church (Grave of Jacob Hinchley)

When my friend Richard and I went to visit some churches last week, we visited St Michael and All Angels in Bunwell. We spent some time looking for the war graves that are located here, and found two of the three that are located at the church.

Anyway, for absolutely no reason at all that I can explain, I was interested in this grave and it’s the only non war related one that I took a photo of. Given that, I thought I should investigate a little why the grave of Jacob Hinchley who died at the age of 59 on 10 March 1897 seemed so intriguing to me.

Jacob was born in Bunwell in 1837, the son of John and Rebecca Hinchley. At the 1841 census, he had three older brothers, Charles, Henry and Robert, as well as a younger sister, Rebecca, and they all lived at Burnt House in the village. This quite substantial house still stands, today worth half a million pounds and having six bedrooms. Despite residing at a large property, I can’t imagine that the family were particularly wealthy as John worked as a road labourer and the male children worked as farm labourers and the daughter as a worsted weaver.

Jacob is listed on the 1871 census as living with his wife Sophia and his father John, who was now aged 73, with their address listed as “by the turnpike in Bunwell”. Jacob had married Sophia Parish at Bunwell church in 1866, but something clearly goes wrong after this and there is a burial record for Sophia Hinchley at the church in 1875. There wasn’t a great delay before Jacob married Ellen Blake in 1876, when he was 39 years old, although his wife was aged just 21 years old. Jacob appears in the local press a few times as a bell ringer at the church and he travelled the county performing his hobby.

The last census that took place during Jacob’s lifetime was in 1891, when he lived in North Bunwell and was still working as a farm labourer. He lived with his wife Ellen, their daughter Alice and their sons Oliver and Percy, which is the same arrangement as the 1881 census, other than he had a new child. Percy was just two years old, which meant that Jacob became a father at the age of 52, which is relatively old for the period, but a reality given that he married twice and I’m not sure whether he had any children with his first wife.

Jacob died in 1897, with Ellen living until 1916. I’m not sure that I uncovered much about Jacob, other than he married twice, he liked bell ringing and he lived in Bunwell all of his life. It is though a case of just how important the church likely was to Jacob, as he was baptised there, married there twice, buried there and was a bell ringer. And maybe one day I’ll find out something else about Jacob to add to this little story….