Church plans to reuse burial plots

A CHURCH in the heart of Constable Country has announced plans to reuse burial plots because its graveyard is running out of space.

Annie Davidson

A CHURCH in the heart of Constable Country has announced plans to reuse burial plots because its graveyard is running out of space.

But first officials at Dedham Parish Church are trying to trace the relatives of scores of people buried in the churchyard - some more than 100 years ago - to let them know about the project.

Their task has been complicated by the fact that records listing people in the burial plots have been lost.

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It is estimated that space for new graves will run out in three or four years' time which could have led to the churchyard being closed.

The parochial church council, vicar Gerard Moate and the churchwardens have been discussing the issue for some time and decided to re-use the oldest part of the graveyard.

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The Chelmsford Diocese has recently given a Diocesan Faculty, which is a planning permission for the changes to be carried out.

It would mean 90 old plots being used for burials with any remains found being re-interred deeper in the same spot and the headstones would also be removed to make room for the new ones.

Churchwarden Neil McShane said: “The last burial in the churchyard was two or three weeks ago.

“At the current rate of people we expect to run out of space in three or four years time which gives us time to go through all the right processes and contact all the right people.

“Obviously we need to make quite certain we are not upsetting people.

“All of the graves are more than 100 years old and I don't think any of them have been tended in at least 50 years.

“However people are very particular about their family's graves and if it was your grandfather or great- grandfather you would want to know about it and we are very aware of that.”

Direct descendants of the century-old burials can apply to be given the discarded headstones - but this has been further complicated by the fact that there are no records available to show who was buried there.

Mr McShane said: “I am afraid these (the records) have been lost.

“There would have been one once and we have a record of pretty well most of the rest of the churchyard but not of that particular corner which is the oldest part of the churchyard.

“Obviously we hope that people will come forward.”

A public meeting is planned for the New Year when the public can view detailed plans of that area of the churchyard and photographs of any removed gravestones in the hope of identifying who has been buried there.

Mr McShane said the issue of churchyards being full up was becoming more common and added: “If you live in Dedham it is your civil right to be buried in the churchyard.”

The situation has echoes of a row in Brightlingsea when the Rev Richard Salenius, of All Saints Church, closed the churchyard to burials, infuriating many residents and the town council.

Eventually the matter was settled by a special consistory court which backed Mr Salenius who later resigned after taking time off with stress.

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