- Retired civil servant Peter Leighton, 61, died after eight-year cancer battle
- Gnomes appeared in Brattleby, Lincolnshire, which has just 100 residents
- They occupied gardens, a bus stop, duck pond and the village green
- Villagers wrongly suspected a joker who supplied gnomes to Poundland
- Mr Leighton’s son finally revealed their joint prank in a eulogy on Monday
- ‘Mum thinks gnomes are tacky. They lower the value of your house by £500’
07:27 EST, 24 October 2013
07:57 EST, 24 October 2013
A retired civil servant who spent 10 years sneaking out at night to put garden gnomes all over his tiny village kept the secret to his grave.
The antics of Peter Leighton were only revealed in a eulogy by his son – and had mourners in hysterics.
The 61-year-old had run rings round his 100 neighbours in the village of Brattleby, Lincolnshire – most of whom suspected it was a ‘joker named Howard’ who supplied gnomes to discount shop Poundland.
But the secret was revealed at Mr Leighton’s funeral on Monday after he lost an eight-year battle with prostate cancer.
Peter Leighton, left, with his son David and proof of the family secret. They fooled neighbours for 10 years
Peter Leighton, 61, and his son David had to avoid crunching gravel, security lights and dogs to put the cheeky figurines on neighbours’ lawns in their tiny village. Some were ‘adopted’ and kept there permanently
The gnomes’ origin had villagers scratching their heads. Most suspected a man who supplied Poundland
His son David, 32, confessed in the final eulogy of the service.
He said: ‘Initially
we made the decision that in my eulogy that the truth behind the gnome
mystery had to figure and that it was appropriate.
‘The funny thing is mum thinks gnomes are pretty tacky. Apparently they lower the value of your house by £500.‘
wife of 34 years Erica, a retired midwife, said: ‘I always knew Peter
was behind the gnomes. I didn’t want him to do it at first because I
thought it was a daft idea.
A troupe of gnomes appeared under the village sign in Brattleby, Lincolnshire, in 2005. Mr Leighton’s son David said: ‘I remember being on the phone to dad saying there were reporters and film crews in the village and he was really laughing’
loved to make people laugh and thought the idea that people would draw
their curtains and see a load of gnomes outside might raise a smile. He
was right, it did.
he found out he was dying he said it was right to come clean and admit
it was him. He wanted his funeral to be happy and to amuse people.
David read out the eulogy confessing all the people in church started
to laugh. It is exactly how Peter would have wanted it.’
Pharmaceutical worker David was in on the prank from the start. He said: ‘My cousin came round one day after his first ever visit to a pound shop in Lincoln, and one of the items he bought was a gnome.
‘Dad said it would be funny to scatter gnomes around the village. He said he would pay for them but I would plant them.
‘Me and my friend Ben had a map of the village and worked out a route of who had security lights and who didn’t.
‘We carried two big rucksacks full of gnomes and had to contend with barking dogs and gravel.
‘It was so much fun dad decided we should do it again.‘
As the prank grew it attracted the attention of the local and national media.
remember being on the phone to dad saying there were reporters and film
crews in the village and he was really laughing,’ said David. ‘He couldn’t believe
‘Dad was a good man, a great man and a gentleman. He had a great sense of humour. Work hard, play hard was his mantra.’
There was plenty of photographic proof – villagers just had to know where to look. Pictured: David Leighton
The cheap gnomes’ favourite hangouts included garden walls, bus stops and chicken coops
You wait ages for a gnome, then 20 come at once: One of Mr Leighton’s favourite pranks at the village bus stop
Everyone seemed to love the mysterious trinkets – including the inhabitants of a village duck pond
The first group of gnomes appeared among flowers in June 2003, followed by dozens more the next summer.
In June 2005, the colourful garden miniatures cropped up again among the pansies underneath the village road sign.
Twenty gnomes appeared at a bus shelter in December 2005 with a letter saying: ‘We are the Gnome family: we are currently gnomeless. Unfortunately all the family have gone missing.’
Brattleby parish council chairman Mike Spencer said: ‘The guy we had down as the gnome’s culprit was a bit of a joker called Howard and he worked for someone that actually supplied gnomes to pound shops.
‘He denied it with a sort of smile on his face. We now know we were very wide of the mark.‘
Mr Leighton leaves three grown-up children, David, 32, and daughters Jenny, 33, and Deanna, 28.
A gnome has been placed outside his front door in tribute.