A devastated widow was unable to lay Christmas wreaths on her late husband’s grave after finding it covered with a huge box of soil from another burial.
Great-grandmother Marlene Reid, 71, of Norfolk Street, Lancaster, who was married to her husband Bob for 47 years, had only the week before brought flowers to his grave marking the second anniversary of his death.
Marlene, fighting back the tears, said: “We were stunned at the lack of respect. I perhaps could have understood if there had been no other place to put the soil, but there is a large grassy area to the right of my husband’s grave and the newly opened one. “
Marlene spoke to a representative of Lancaster City Council Cemetery Department to be told this was how things were done and it was policy.
She said: “Their practice is to put the dug up earth as close to the newly opened grave as possible in order to save time when the grave diggers are opening and closing a grave.
“They have a schedule to stick to, obviously this is more important to them than respect for the deceased in the cemetery and their loved ones.I and my family are devastated that my husband’s grave has been treated in this manner and we have been prevented from gaining access to his grave, a right which should not have been taken from us.”
Marlene wanted to bring the incident to public attention, saying: “I am sure there are many people who would not imagine this sort of thing would happen, and that the council have so little respect.”
Coun Andrew Warriner, Cabinet member for Environmental Health, said: “Lancaster City Council is responsible for the administration and maintenance of seven cemeteries within the district including Skerton Cemetery.
“Our primary objective is to provide a cemeteries service that meets nationally recognised standards and is delivered in a caring and sensitive manner.In preparing a grave it is normal practice in cemeteries throughout the country to construct a soil box adjacent to the grave being excavated and this will preclude access for up to a few days to any affected grave. A large proportion of Skerton Cemetery is located on a considerable incline. Where new excavations are required on the incline, as in this particular instance, the soil box is always positioned on the lower side of the excavation for health and safety reasons.Any affected grave is fully protected to ensure no damage occurs and any artefacts or flowers are always relocated and then reinstated after the adjacent burial is complete.”