A judge has ruled on a tug-of-love over the ashes of a dead woman, whose remains lie in both Ledbury and Woolhope, and has ordered she will now remain in both locations.

The row is between the man who was the woman’s partner for 40 years and two of his daughters.

When Amelia Smith died in January 2009 her daughters Julie Nobes and Lisa Bramley thought her ashes had all been buried in St George’s Church yard at Woolhope, in the grave of her mother.

But their father, Joe Smith, had kept half the ashes and later had them buried in a plot he purchased at Ledbury Cemetery.

Mr Smith then approached the Church of England’s Consistory Court seeking to have the other half of the ashes exhumed from Woolhope so they could also be buried at Ledbury.

When Mrs Nobes discovered what had happened, initially with the support of Mrs Bramley, she launched a counter plea in the Consistory Court seeking to have the ashes buried at Ledbury exhumed so they could be re-buried at Woolhope, with the other half of their mother’s ashes.

Mrs Bramley later indicated she wished to take no further part in the proceedings but Mrs Nobes continued with them.

Roger Kaye QC, Chancellor of the Diocese of Hereford, in his role as a judge of the Consistory Court said it was “a sad and sorry state of affairs”.

Mr Smith said that when his partner died she had left no will and had left her funeral arrangements to him. However, Mrs Nobe claimed that her mother had wanted to be buried with her mother at Woolhope.

The family attended the funeral but the judge continued: “Unbeknown to Mrs Nobes and Mrs Bramley, only a portion of the deceased’s ashes were thus interred. The remainder continued to be retained by Mr Smith without their knowledge. He wanted his remains to be buried with those of the deceased, but did not wish to be buried in St George’s.”

Then, he acquired a plot at Ledbury where he could be buried when his time comes, along with the remaining ashes of his partner. He had her ashes buried there in March 2019.

“Mr Smith had not discussed his intentions with his two estranged daughters who were thus, shortly after Mr Smith’s interment of his wife’s remaining ashes, shocked to learn that their mother’s remains had been interred in Ledbury Cemetery,” said the judge.

Although Mr Smith had initially sought to have the ashes removed from Woolhope so they too could be put in the Ledbury grave, the judge said he had dropped that plea.

The judge said that there were “sincere and undoubted strong feelings on both sides” and what-ever he did was bound to result in “upset.”

However, he said there had to be some finality and after highlighting the church philosophy that a last resting place should be regarded as just that and that exhumation should only be approved if there had been a mistake or in exceptional circumstances, he ruled that the two sets of ashes should remain where they are.

“In my judgment the status quo, however unsatisfactorily achieved, should, in the circumstances, be preserved and the remains of the deceased should now rest where they lie,” he said.