We have recently conducted a survey of the gravestones in the churchyard, following an incident where someone was injured after a gravestone fell on them, and we have laid flat certain stones that were loose and could be considered dangerous.
We were challenged as we were doing it by Stuart Race, who pointed out that we really should have tried to notify people first, before interfering with the stones. Stuart is right and I thank him for pointing this out to us.
So – my apologies that we have acted first, and consulted afterwards. If your relative’s grave is one of those affected, then we would like to invite you to reinstate the gravestone, making sure that it is secure and can not fall. The stones are not our property, but yours: it is your responsibility to maintain then and repair them, but it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of the churchyard.
If you would prefer not to do this work, then the stones may remain laid flat from now on.
We will be writing personally to families where we know that they are relatives of a particular person or persons buried in the churchyard, but unfortunately we don’t have records going back further than 10 years of the next of kin, and nearly all of the stones we have laid down are older than that.
We have found ourselves in a difficult situation with regard to the churchyard recently, and I’m aware that we haven’t always done the right thing. I’m sorry about this, and I regret the upset and distress that we might have caused. I hope it won’t permanently damage anyone’s feelings towards us in the church, or towards the churchyard itself, which is precious to many. We have always known this, but we know it more clearly than ever now – and I want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write to me or speak to me and express their opinion.
The question of what to do about the proposed path through the churchyard has not been settled yet, I am still open to your thoughts on the subject, and we will let everyone know what we have decided to do in due course.