OF THE stories told about the history of Basingstoke the one about the unfortunate death of Mrs Blunden has to be the most bizarre.

An episode so appalling that it earned a mention on the Triumphal Gateway in London Street.

A woman who was not only buried alive once - but twice.

This took place in the South View Cemetery in Chapel Hill, a site that used to be known as The Liten.

Mrs Blunden, whose husband dealt in malt, was a liker of brandy. On 15th July 1674, whilst her husband was away, she fell into unconsciousness after imbibing poppy water.

The doctor tested her breathing by holding a mirror to her nose and mouth, pronounced her dead, and a message was sent to her husband. He asked that her funeral be delayed until he returned, but the family had other ideas.

Being a very large woman they had to prise her into her coffin, pushing her arms and legs down with a stick whilst they sealed it.

Two days following her internment children playing in the graveyard heard a muffled voice coming from beneath the ground. Listening, they heard her screams and groans and her pleading with them to rescue her. The frightened boys told several people what they had heard but the headmaster disciplined them for telling lies.

The following day the headmaster went to the grave to listen for himself and he heard the woman's pleas. He realised the grave could not be excavated without proper authority and it was late in the day before the grave and coffin were opened, whereupon Mrs Blunden sprung out where she had been pressed in so tightly. She was battered and bloodied due to trying to escape her prison but the family, noticing that she was on the verge of death, returned her to the grave and summoned a guard to watch it overnight. Due to inclement weather that night the guard decided he would rather be in the local pub so deserted the grave.

The next morning on opening the coffin once more, it was discovered that Mrs Blunden had woke, torn her grave clothes, scratched at her body and face, and was covered in blood. And overnight she had died.

In the following court case those concerned with her death escaped with their lives by the doctor stating that the method of checking for death using a mirror was a recognised procedure and had never failed before.

A plaque now installed at The South View Cemetery bears witness to this tragic episode.