Grieving families dragged from cemetery as council workers remove grave tributes

Grieving families were dragged away from a Mill Lane cemetery in Stockport by police in clashes as council workers removed sentimental objects and gardens from graves

A man is led away after a clash between grieving families and police
A man is led away after a clash between grieving families and police

Distraught relatives were dragged away from a cemetery by police as headstone tributes were removed just weeks before Christmas.

There were clashes between mourners and police at a Stockport cemetery where people said they said they were outraged at being forced to remove small gardens and sentimental objects, reported the Manchester Evening News.

There was a large police presence at Mill Lane Cemetery on Wednesday morningas people argued their right to leave tributes for their loved ones with well cared for gardens.

But Stockport Council bosses said they are asking the owners to follow a policy they signed up to — and the vast majority of bereaved families adhere to it already.

Cllr Sheila Bailey said that “it is clear that there is an overwhelming desire that Mill Lane Cemetery must continue to be a lawned cemetery as it was originally designed to be”.

There was a strong police presence at the Stockport cemetery

Bereaved families blasted the decision especially coming shortly before Christmas.

Kelly Pullen, from Cheadle, has several family members buried at the cemetery and said she was “distraught” at the scene.

She said: “I’m distraught that they’re even doing this just before Christmas. We own rights to those graves, we paid for our loved ones to be buried so we should be able to do what we want with them.

“This is a place that brings us comfort, we’ve decorated the graves of our loved ones and they’re taking that away.

“It’s the fact about all the police presence, have they not got anything else to do?”

Police later said that no arrests were made on Wednesday

Gaynor Bradburn whose mother has been buried in the cemetery for 14 years, said it was “horrendous”.

She said: “I’ve been sent a live video and it’s absolutely horrendous. It’s heart-breaking, they’re not letting anybody in and everybody’s obviously very very angry and upset.

“It’s absolutely disgusting that they can do that. To have the amount of police there is unbelievable, it’s absolutely horrendous.”

Some families were allowed inside to collect their belongings, but clashes at the cemetery meant access was restricted and a grieving father had to be restrained by police in a heated exchange.

Despite the clashes, no arrests were made by the police present, a GMP spokesperson told the Manchester Evening News.

Cllr Bailey said she understood how important the ornaments are to families but said that they had been told since 2018 to remove tributes as it was a lawned cemetery.

The local council said that they were keeping it a lawned cemetery by removing the tributes

She stated: “We understand that all families have their own unique ways of remembering their loved ones and that personal items and ornaments can hold dear memories. Each grave has an area around the headstone where such items can be placed. Over recent years however we have seen larger tributes, gardens or borders established at some graves in Mill Lane Cemetery.

“Many people have told us that they chose Mill Lane as the final resting place for their loved one specifically because it was a lawned cemetery, but the increasing number of gardens or tributes built out in front of graves means that this is no longer the case. The original design of Mill Lane as a lawned cemetery is explained when a family is considering Mill Lane Cemetery and when a grave is purchased.x

Families said it was “horrendous” the way that tributes were taken away from graves

“We understand that this is an extremely emotive issue and we have been in contact with grave owners since 2018, when they were written to, to ask that gardens, borders or ornaments be removed.

“Many people responded to this request and since then we have sought to engage with individual grave owners where we know gardens or larger displays have been placed.

“We have also spoken to a wide range of groups and individuals who visit Mill Lane.

“We subsequently wrote to a number of grave owners in June and October of this year who had not yet removed borders or ornaments and tributes and some have since been cleared.

“We have carefully considered all the views presented to us over recent years and it is clear that there is an overwhelming desire that Mill Lane Cemetery must continue to be a lawned cemetery as it was originally designed to be.

“The council want to ensure that Mill Lane will continue to be maintained as a lawned cemetery in line with the wishes of the majority of people who visit and are pleased that people have removed items today and thank them for their cooperation.

“We will be removing the remaining items in the near future. The council is determined to ensure that the rules which are followed by the vast majority of grave owners are followed by everyone.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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