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Hundreds oppose church policy of removing personal items from graves

PUBLISHED: 15:16 20 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:04 04 August 2020

A collection of personal items have been removed from graves at St Edmund's Church, Kessingland. Picture: MANDY CLEVELAND

A collection of personal items have been removed from graves at St Edmund's Church, Kessingland. Picture: MANDY CLEVELAND

MANDY CLEVELAND

Hundreds of people have shown their opposition to a church’s decision to remove personal items from a graveyard ‘without warning’.

Liam Martin, from Kessingland, claims: “It was only over the weekend of July 10-11 that notices started to appear on graves informing relatives to remove items.Liam Martin, from Kessingland, claims: “It was only over the weekend of July 10-11 that notices started to appear on graves informing relatives to remove items." Photo: Liam Martin

In early June, village residents shared their anger after the St Edmund’s church in Kessingland began removing personal effects from tombstones during lockdown in an effort to keep the grounds tidy.

More than 400 people have since signed a petition calling for the church to reverse the decision which is causing “a lot of pain and upset.”

The Diocese of Norwich, speaking on behalf of the church, previously said ample notice had been given from as early as February, and added no items have been disposed of so families can retrieve what has been left, in accordance with churchyard regulations.

READ MORE: Church criticised for removing personal items from graves

Graves at the churchyard, with items having been removed. Photo: Liam MartinGraves at the churchyard, with items having been removed. Photo: Liam Martin

However Liam Martin, from Kessingland, claims: “It was only over the weekend of July 10-11 that notices started to appear on graves informing relatives to remove items.

“Needless to say the relatives of those who have passed away are not happy with what has taken place.”

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Speaking in June, Lee Welch who last her daughter 11 years ago, said: “The thought of someone tampering with my daughter’s grave is unbearable.

“One of the graves concerned was that of a very well respected and very brave resident called Frederick Hunn, a member of the Kessingland Lifeboat crew.“One of the graves concerned was that of a very well respected and very brave resident called Frederick Hunn, a member of the Kessingland Lifeboat crew." Photo: Liam Martin

“The way people adorn graves is often their way of processing grief, and for someone to take that option away from them is callous.”

The Norwich Diocese has now said it “understands this is a sensitive and upsetting issue” and encourages those who are affected to contact registrar Stuart Jones by emailing stuart-jones@birketts.co.uk, who will make a final decision on the policy.

READ MORE: Hundreds welcome ‘wonderful’ new Bishop to Deanery

Those who wish to formally lodge their opinion have until Wednesday, July 22 to do so.

A selection of personal items removed from graves in St Edmund's Church, Kessingland. Residents have claimed that some graves are now left unmarked after the removal of identifying stones and crosses. Photo: Mandy ClevelandA selection of personal items removed from graves in St Edmund's Church, Kessingland. Residents have claimed that some graves are now left unmarked after the removal of identifying stones and crosses. Photo: Mandy Cleveland

Mr Martin said people should also sign the change.org petition, which had 412 signatories as of Monday, July 20, to demonstrate public opinion.

He added: “One of the graves concerned was that of a very well respected and very brave resident called Frederick Hunn, a member of the Kessingland Lifeboat crew.

“There must be other graves of people who have during their lives acted like Frederick for the benefit of the community, but no respect is being shown to them with the actions that are being taken in the churchyard.”


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