Churchyard ‘theme park’ fears at East Chiltington after graves break rules

East Chiltington Church. Image: Google Maps
East Chiltington Church. Image: Google Maps

Breaches of rules regarding graves have left a country churchyard beginning to look like ‘a theme park’, the Diocese of Chichester has heard.

A Consistory Court has ruled all unauthorised items on seven graves at East Chiltington must be removed by Monday, January 21.

Similarly, three graves at the united benefice of All Saints, Plumpton Green, must be restored.

An objection to their appearance at East Chiltington was lodged with the Bishop of Chichester by Paul Baker, whose mother is buried there.

The court judgment by the Worshipful Mark Hill QC, Chancellor of the diocese, said: “He [Mr Baker] states that since the spring of 2017 the Churchyard Regulations have been ignored ... there are numerous graves which do not conform.

“He finds it hard to understand why the Rector has acceded to these applications. He states that the offending graves have totally destroyed the character of a traditional rural churchyard.

“He fears that the floodgates have opened and that soon the churchyard will resemble a theme park.”

Mr Hill said box hedges have been planted around graves at the site and ordered them to be removed. He said: “The desire to offer some form of protection to the grave is understandable on the part of the families concerned, but carving up God’s acre with shrubbery of the type generally found in a domestic kitchen garden is not acceptable.”

The Chancellor said fences, chippings and mementoes at East Chiltington are expressly prohibited under the Churchyard Regulations and must be removed.

At Plumpton Green, he ruled that a man must take all steps necessary to remove the raised granite kerbs unlawfully erected around the grave of his wife on or before March 10.

Chippings on other graves there must also be removed and the graves returned to turf.

The judgment censured the Rev Godfrey Broster, Rector of the parishes. It said: “Where parochial clergy purport to authorise the introduction of memorials for which they do not have authority, significant pastoral harm can result.

“It affects not merely those whose memorials or other additions may be required to be removed, but others who have dutifully complied with the Churchyard Regulations, but have to observe the lawlessness of others.”