Debate on future of old Headley churchyard

By Adam Jones   |   University for the Creative Arts BA (Hons) Journalism and Media Production student   |
Tuesday 14th September 2021 12:00 pm
@ajonesrfc
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IDEAS for the future upkeep of the churchyard at All Saints Church in Headley are being welcomed by the Archdeacon of Surrey.

The Diocese of Guildford churchyard is full - except for reserved plots and family graves - so by law it is being ’closed’ and responsibility for its maintenance is passing from the Parochial Church Council to Headley Parish Council.

A notice from the churchwardens announcing the closure also said a husband and wife team who maintained the churchyard for many years had retired and a multitude of extra items added to graves should be removed to return the site to "a manageable state".

Saying a headstone and one flower container were the only things permitted, it added: "Families do not own the ground in which a grave is dug but pay for the use of the land.

"The rules are not there to cause grief to mourners but to make the grass cutting and hedging feasible and to maintain the peaceful atmosphere.

"Recently there has been damage to a grave by mowers turning to avoid unauthorised fencing around the next grave. This is upsetting for the family and the Parochial Church Council when they have to manage the complaints."

Mourner Martin Gundry said: "I myself have a child in this graveyard who was 13 at passing. I also know quite a lot of people with children and adult families also in the graveyard.

"I own a company called Desired Landscapes and Fencing Ltd and I have put forward my services for free to upkeep the yard, which will allow us to keep our personal possessions that we put on our loved ones’ graves in situ, including lights, flowers, stones etcetera. Currently there is a list of people willing to tend to the whole yard free of charge, but it is falling on deaf ears."

The Venerable Paul Davies, Archdeacon of Surrey, said: "Churchyards have been maintained for centuries by volunteers, and we rejoice in this, although the responsible body needs to manage them and have an oversight for their health and safety.

"We recognise that what one family considers appropriate, another might consider inappropriate. It would be up to the local council to decide how it managed the closed churchyard and there would be many options for it to consider.

"I am fully supportive of ideas that involve the local community in the management and ownership of the churchyard."

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