A three year search to find the remain of Charles Shephard came to a close after they were located in a grave under the isle St Peter's Anglican Church in Proston.
A three year search to find the remain of Charles Shephard came to a close after they were located in a grave under the isle St Peter's Anglican Church in Proston.

Remains of reclusive farmer buried again

HIGH ceilings, made from locally crafted materials... and may contain human remains.

No-one wants to read a description like this on real estate advertising but this was the reality facing the Anglican Church when it made the decision to sell the de-consecrated St Peter's Church.

It was built using money left by Charles Shepherd when he passed away without living relatives in 1935.

Mr Shephard was a wealthy and reclusive grazier who emigrated from England.

At the time of his passing, he left 3000 pounds, about $210,000 in today's money, to build the church.

Initially, Mr Shepherd was buried at the Proston lawn cemetery in 1935 but was exhumed and reburied inside the church after it was built two years later.

Now, Mr Shepherd's remains have been exhumed again.

"When we first made plans to move Mr Shepherd's casket in 2015, we had no reason to believe it was anywhere other than in the St Peter's Church mortuary chamber because that was what the church records indicated,” Bishop Cameron Venables, Anglican Bishop for the Western Region, said.

"So it was a surprise and mystery to us in November 2015 when we discovered the chamber was empty.

"Soon after that became public knowledge, an elderly local man got in contact with the church explaining he had been present at Mr Shepherd's original re-interment service on the church site in the late 1930s.

"There is a plaque mounted on one of the church pews which indicated Mr Shepherd was buried in the ground below the aisle.

"So once we eliminated the mortuary chamber as the burial place, we focussed on the place beneath the church and called in the expert team which used ground-penetrating radar equipment that indicated an underground 'anomalism' consistent with a formal burial site.

"This gave us the confidence to proceed with the exhumation.”

There was no solid remains of Mr Shepherd, but carbon material was found underneath the church aisle.

They were assumed to once have been bones and were found alongside half of a casket handle and a metal snuff box.

Bishop Venables and Archdeacon Mark Carlyon presided over the historic and solemn ceremony at the Proston cemetery on Wednesday to rebury the remains of Mr Shepherd.

The church was de-consecrated in November 2015 and will be sold in the near future if the right buyer can be found.

"St Peter's Church is a wonderful example of 1930s architecture and we're hopeful that we can find a buyer who will be able to use the church with the local community in mind,” Bishop Venables said.

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