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Church criticised for removing personal items from graves

PUBLISHED: 16:09 07 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:10 07 June 2020

A collection of personal items have been removed from graves at St Edmund's Church, Kessingland. A petition has been launched to encourage the church council to revoke their decision. Picture: MANDY CLEVELAND

A collection of personal items have been removed from graves at St Edmund's Church, Kessingland. A petition has been launched to encourage the church council to revoke their decision. Picture: MANDY CLEVELAND

MANDY CLEVELAND

Village residents say they are angry at a church’s decision to remove personal items from gravestones during lockdown in an effort to keep the grounds tidy.

The Diocese of Norwich said posters were clearly shown in and around the church, warning people in good time of the May 17 removal date. Photo: DNEATThe Diocese of Norwich said posters were clearly shown in and around the church, warning people in good time of the May 17 removal date. Photo: DNEAT

St Edmund’s Church, in Kessingland, has become the subject of controversy after items such as crosses, toys and vases were removed by the church council on May 17 and placed by the side of a shed.

The diocese of Norwich said that residents were notified about the May 17 removal date as early as February via posters in and around the church grounds.

A spokesperson said: “Clergy and churchwardens are custodians of their churchyards and aim to ensure they are kept tidy as a place of welcome to everyone.

“Visitors have been invited to retrieve items they have left on graves which can be found by the side of the shed.

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

“They were placed here so that they could be protected from the wind and further weather damage. Items have not been disposed of.”

But those with loved ones buried at the graveyard say they are “heartbroken” by the “lack of respect”.

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Lee Welch, from Kessingland, said her daughter that she lost 11 years ago is buried at the site.

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

She said: “The thought of someone tampering with my daughter’s grave is unbearable.

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

“I understand that the grounds were messy in places, but surely there’s a better way of sorting this out than piling everyone’s items on top of each other during a pandemic?

“A lot of people have been shielding so haven’t been able to make that journey. They’ve been listening to government advice.

“The place has just become soulless.”

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

Mandy Cleveland, who visited the graveyard looking for the burial place of her great grandfather, said she was ”lost for words” at the church’s actions.

She said: “You can’t just pull rose shrubs out of graves or get rid of toys which commemorate the death of a child.

“Everyone in this tight-knit village has or knows someone buried in that graveyard and this has affected all of us, especially at a time like this.”

In response, the diocese said: “We understand this is a sensitive and upsetting issue and would encourage any family to speak with us if they feel we have not followed guidelines or if they would like support around grief and bereavement.”


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