Appeal to help find lych gate family

Flitwick Lych Gate
Flitwick Lych Gate

A church in Flitwick has started a special search to protect a landmark.

The roofed gate, known as a lych gate, has stood at the entrance of St Peter and St Paul’s Church for more than 100 years and needs urgent repairs.

The church is appealing to the community to help fund the £25,000 cost to repair this important part of the local heritage.

The Vicar, Rev Lucy Davis, said: “The word lych comes from Old English, meaning a body, and lych gates were meeting places for families bringing a loved one for burial.

Our lych gate still welcomes the people of Flitwick as they gather in times of great joy and great sorrow, for christenings and funerals, for Christmas carols and school visits. Age has taken its toll on the structure of the gate. To make sure it survives for another 100 years, specialist repairs are now required.”

The search is also on for the descendants of the family in whose memory the gate was originally built.

An inscription on the inside of the gate reads: “In loving memory of Arthur Edward, Ernest Hurst, Walter Sheppard, three sons Rev. F. Ashpitel. Erected by their mother.”

Rev Francis Ashpitel became vicar of Flitwick in 1880 and stayed until his retirement in 1894. Francis and his wife Lucy had nine children, many of whom died before their parents. Lucy tragically lost three of her sons in less than a year. They were all still young men when they passed, and it is in honour of them that the lych gate was built.

Rev Davis added: “It would be great if we can find any descendants of the Ashpitel family and let them know about the memorial. Ashpitel is a really unusual name, but we haven’t had any luck tracking down the family yet. We have managed to unearth some clues about Francis and Lucy’s surviving children though: one son worked as an engineer in India and a daughter married another vicar. If anyone knows the family or can help us find descendants, we’d love to hear from you.”

If any member of the public would like to help save the lych gate all donations are welcome, no matter how big or small. Cheques can be made payable to Flitwick PCC and sent to The Vicarage, 26 Dew Pond Road, Flitwick, MK45 1RT. More details, including bank transfer details and a gift aid form can be found online at www.flitwickchurch.org