Son’s distress over grave tributes ‘ban’

Mike Wolff at his dad's grave.
Mike Wolff at his dad's grave.

A son has been left distraught after claiming he was told to remove floral tributes from his dad’s grave.

Reg Wolff, who lived in Hornby all his life and ran Hornby Hall Stores in Main Street with his wife Jean for many years, was buried in the graveyard at St Margaret’s Church in the village after his death at the age of 86 as a result of Alzheimer’s four years ago.

How Mr Wolff's grave previously looked.

How Mr Wolff's grave previously looked.

His son Mike has visited the cemetery almost every fortnight since to tend to the grave and lay new flowers, plants and trinkets.

However, Mike and his wife Licia said they were shocked to be told last week that the grave had too many items adorning it.

Mike and Licia, who live in Heysham, met with church vicar Rev Michael Hampson after being told by someone who said they were connected with the church that they were unhappy with the number of items left on the grave.

“We were quite flummoxed because there was nothing encroaching on other space,” said Licia.

How the grave looks now.

How the grave looks now.

“As far as we were concerned it was neat and tidy and we were quite proud of it.

“We keep it tidy and Mike even trims the grass around it and washes the stone so we were quite upset.

“It was suggested that we take everything off the grave and put them in a memory box at home.

“There’s a sign that the vicar showed us that says only one vase per gravestone but it was hidden away and we didn’t even know it was there, it’s behind a pile of bins.”

As a result of the meeting, Mike removed six items from the gravestone, including three cards and a tealight holder, but the couple 
has been left upset at the incident.

“People should be allowed to grieve in their own way,” Licia said.

“The church should be supporting people in their time of grief.

“It seems like they would prefer to see no decoration at all so that it is easier to mow the grass.

“Why has it taken them so long to complain? That grave has been beautiful for the last four years.

“We always make sure it looks lovely, and Mike takes things up there on every anniversary.

“It helps Mike and this has tainted his dad’s memory.”

A statement issued by the church wardens of St Margaret’s said: “While we sympathise with Mrs Wolff, the Diocese of Blackburn (of which St Margaret’s is a part), in common with all other Church of England Dioceses, has very specific regulations about what can and cannot be placed in a churchyard, which people who bury loved ones in our churchyards are made aware of.

“The regulations exist to ensure fairness for everyone and to prevent unrestrained growth of memorials on and around graves.

“St Margaret’s has very clear guidance posted in the churchyard for all to read and take account of.

“The regulations are also available on the Diocesan website.

“The church wardens and vicar of St Margaret’s have a legal responsibility to preserve the churchyard as a well-ordered place for every family whose loved ones are buried in the churchyard.

“Out of respect for Reg Wolff, who was a much respected member of the Hornby community, St Margaret’s has turned a blind eye to 
the accumulation of artefacts over his small memorial 

“The churchyard volunteers have regularly removed the items to mow and then immediately replaced them.

“At no time has Mrs Wolff been asked directly by the vicar, or anyone else in a position of authority at St Margaret’s, to remove any items.

“We want to work with all the families who use our churchyard, and if Mrs Wolff wishes to make contact to discuss the situation further, we will be happy to meet with her.”