Outrage as decorations at graves are removed

The graveyard at St John the Baptist Church in Ulgham. Picture by Jane Coltman.
The graveyard at St John the Baptist Church in Ulgham. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Grieving relatives have hit out after a Church of England parish decided to remove various items in tribute to their loved ones.

Toys and trinkets and pieces such as small angels have been taken away from the graves at St John the Baptist Church in Ulgham and people have had to go to other properties to collect them.

The recently appointed vicar says she and her church colleagues are simply enforcing the regulations from the Chancellor of the Diocese of Newcastle.

But local residents, including people living in Widdrington Station, believe that the actions are unfair and a compromise could be reached.

Bev Guy’s son Cayden died eight years ago aged just one.

She put a couple of teddy bears next to his grave, replacing them with fresh ones over the years, but the most recent ones are no longer in place.

“The previous vicar did suggest to me that I should remove the teddy bears, but after speaking to a member of the parish council about the matter, they were allowed to remain,” she said.

“Now they have been taken away and I don’t understand this because we’ve kept things to a minimum at the grave and the items are not getting in the way.

“This has caused a lot of distress to people with a grave in this churchyard. The church parish should allow some flexibility and show some compassion.”

Caroline Sewell lost her mum and dad within the space of eight weeks three years ago.

Her daughter stuck a two-inch teddy bear to the stone and a plaque with ‘mum’ written on it was also there – both were recently removed.

Caroline said: “It’s very upsetting and it makes you not want to go to the churchyard.

“I agree that nothing should be in the way of the grass cutting and anything that could affect health and safety should be removed, but I can’t understand why they would take such a small item away.

“The churchyard now looks awful. It has no personality.”

Susan Cassidy had put three small angels on the plinth in memory of her mum, dad and brother. They are no longer in place.

She said: “It’s an absolute disgrace. When you go the churchyard now, it’s all gloom.”

Edna Hogg’s father Ronald Lawson, who was a farmer and lived in Ulgham all his life, is also buried at the churchyard and a small fox stuck to his grave was removed.

She said: “There were carrier bags full of items and we’ve had to go to other people’s houses to collect them.

“The place looks desolate now and it appears that nobody cares. Even flowers are taken away on a regular basis.”

A new notice put up last month to set out the regulations includes the following: ‘Wreaths and cut flowers may be placed on the grave, but will be removed when they wither.’

Rev Joanna Dobson, Ulgham St John the Baptist Vicar, said: “The rules are set by the Chancellor of the diocese and that’s why a churchyard such as this will look different to a municipal cemetery.

“It’s the same for all churchyards. A little leniency is allowed on the day of the funeral and the day of the burial.

“I’m totally sympathetic as to why people would want to leave these items because they have lost someone close to them, but it’s not as if we have changed the rules recently – churchyards are a shared space, so they need to be pleasant and tidy for everyone.”