Church to rethink grave rules

1st September 2011'Jenny Howden and family at the graveside of her daughter Jess Harris, 17, who died in a car crash in February. They have been told they are not allowed a certain head stone because of regulations'PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE
1st September 2011'Jenny Howden and family at the graveside of her daughter Jess Harris, 17, who died in a car crash in February. They have been told they are not allowed a certain head stone because of regulations'PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE

A CHURCH which has been criticised for implementing strict rules at its graveyard is to rethink its approach to mourning families.

The Manor Road churchyard in Ossett is run by South Ossett Church, which has regulation guidelines set by Wakefield Diocese.

They are supposed to be signed by grieving families before their loved ones are buried.

But there have been several disputes over what families want.

Jenny Howden of Swithenbank Avenue, Ossett, said she never got the regulations and has been refused permission to have a heart-shaped head stone with an angel for her daughter Jess Harris, 17, who was killed in a car crash.

She also said she was not allowed a picture and has been told to remove flowers and trinkets from the grave.

Jess’s grave is next to former coal race queen Sandra Barlow, whose family were also refused a brick red headstone.

But now the vicar David Robertson has decided to put a new system in place to try to put an end to the upset and distress.

He will meet with families to talk through their wishes and go through the regulations before they organise a burial at his churchyard.

He said: “I realise this may slow down the process of arrangement of a funeral date, but I think in the light of what is happening and the upset and distress, it is important to me to try to do something that can ease that and help families better understand the requirements of the diocesan chancellor for the future.”

Miss Howden said she was still at loggerheads with the church and was hoping to set up a meeting about her daughter’s grave.

Miss Howden, 39, said: “It is good news, but I think they are plastering over the cracks and not helping the families they have already upset.

“It makes it look like they are doing something, but that process was already suppose to be in place and I am still hitting a brick wall.”

A statement released by the diocese said the rules governing churchyards were set down and overseen by the diocesan chancellor, the senior legal adviser for the Diocese of Wakefield.

It added: “This is a legal process over which the local vicar has absolutely no jurisdiction and can only try his best to help and advice the family in these difficult and emotional cases.

“A graveyard is consecrated ground, set apart as a special resting place and these rules are there to keep it so.”

It said families could appeal in writing, but Miss Howden said it would cost her £255 to do so.

To appeal write to The Diocesan Registrar, Wakefield Diocesan Registry, Bank House, Burton Street. WF1 2DA.