I recently visited my wife’s grave in the ash plot section of Burnley Cemetery and thought vandals had been in and trashed the plot.
Three free-standing flower pot holders, a bowl of primroses and a small ceramic angel had all been dumped on top of the memorial stone, Personal mementoes a letter from a granddaughter and a remembrance card from a loving sister were missing.
It was not until I had replaced the free-standing flower holders and restocked them with fresh flowers and was leaving that I noticed the signs saying these items had been removed by cemetery staff on the orders of Burnley Council.
Walking down the line of ash plots, I was saddened and dismayed that items in memory of loved ones, personal mementoes, were just strewn across all the plots.
Most items placed discreetly at the back of the stone were mainly free-standing flower holders with a spike on the bottom to hold them stable. None were at the front because, obviously, the grass needs mowing and it is in all our interests to keep it tidy. People use this type of flower holder because they do not blow or fall over and smash.
The size of these ash plots is the size of one standard size flagstone and, after the memorial stone is placed on there, you are very limited what you put on there due to the amount of space left and the memorial stones tend normally only to have one flower holder, yet each plot can accommodate up to four people.
The busiest time for flowers in any cemetery is Christmas Day, Mothers’ Day etc and there is a need for flower holders.
Why don’t the cemetery authorities allow a portion of ground at the rear of the ash plot just for flower holders, card holders, photo holders and, if space permits, small containers of flowers.
It is written in the council’s guide to ash plots what is prohibited and I do think plastic windmills, balloons and solar panel lights should also be included.
Any family thinking of buying a plot could be led to believe it is OK to use free-standing flower holders. Double standards, I think.
Why did the cemetery authorities not put up signs of what they were intending to do a fortnight before, giving people time to respond and get together with cemetery staff and have a bit of dialogue to discuss ideas and not have this very heavy-handed approach to which I am sure is a very small problem.
If there is one last act as a sign of respect the living can do for the deceased, it is the placing of flowers on their last resting place and keeping it clean, neat and tidy, therefore giving them the love and respect they deserve.
Burnley Cemetery is the one place in Burnley that respect should be found in abundance, but I feel it is sadly lacking from Burnley Council and its employees.
Mr B.R. Rothwell
Burnley Council’s response:
“Our Head of Greenspaces, Simon Goff, has written to Mr Rothwell apologising for the distress caused by the manner in which flowers and mementos were removed from the rear of the plots and placed on the memorial stones.
The council has promised to adopt the suggestions Mr Rothwell made to resolve the issue.
The council letter said: “The items were removed from the grass at the rear of the plots as cemetery staff needed to mow the grass, which was becoming very untidy. In order to do this, they lifted the items that had been positioned in the grass and placed them on the memorials.
‘The regulations for the ash plots do clearly state items should only be placed on the ash plot stone and items placed in the grass will be removed.
I am sorry they appeared to have been placed in a careless manner. We have tidied them so the removed items are positioned as neatly as we can and re-inserted the vases, photos, etc’.
The council accepts the points Mr Rothwell has raised ‘regarding the problems with the size of the ash plot and with flower vases’. It is adopting the suggestion they provide a foot wide strip at the rear of the memorials for the placing of spiked flower vases and mementoes, and will ensure that, when any similar work is planned around the ash plots in future, a minimum of two weeks notice will be provided.”
If any family member or visitor to the cemetery has questions or concerns about council maintenance work, they can contact cemetery managers by calling into the office at the cemetery gates, or by phoning 01282 477148.