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Anger after tombstones overturned

Upset: John Riley by the gravestones at St Marys Church, Penwortham, which have been pushed over by the vicar.

Upset: John Riley by the gravestones at St Marys Church, Penwortham, which have been pushed over by the vicar.

A pensioner has spoken of his anger after finding his mother’s gravestone overturned.

John Riley, from Walmer Bridge, near Preston initially thought vandals had targeted the site of his mother’s grave.

But he was upset after learning that the Vicar, Chris Nelson and volunteers at St Mary’s CofE Church, in Church Lane, Penwortham had toppled almost 50 tombstones for health and safety reasons.

He said: “I put some plants down on the grave of my mother and my grandmother, Emily Aspden who was buried in 1942 and Mabel Adrian Hothersall who was buried in 2000, a couple of weeks ago.

“I visit the spot twice a year and I was devastated to find it like that, it looked like vandals had attacked it.

“The grave had been pushed over and a large number of others, nearly 50 had been too.

“I went back the day after with a camera and I asked the vicar who had tampered with my grave – I’m due to be buried there when I die – and he said he had pushed them over.

“We hadn’t been told the grave would be pushed over, we weren’t contacted but we will have to pay to get the stone sorted. I am outraged.”

Tombstone toppling has been happening throughout the country due to health and safety rules, amid concerns visitors could be injured by falling headstones.

And vicar Chris Nelson said the “push test” is an unfortunate necessity to protect visitors to the church.

He says an elderly woman was even hospitalised after an incident in the churchyard last week.

He said: “A week last Sunday, one of the gravestones fell on a visitor to a grave.

“The woman fell and leant on a stone for support but it toppled, gashed her leg and broke her toes.

“Last Saturday a young family visited the churchyard and a young boy did what young lads do and was tampering with a gravestone that was wobbly.

“We have lots of events and garden parties in the churchyard and to make sure our visitors are safe myself and a team of volunteers did a push test.

“We pushed the gravestones to see if they would fall under pressure and the ones that did we pushed them down on the ground so that no more accidents could happen.

“We are between a rock and a hard place – do we leave them to be sensitive to families or do we push them down to protect our visitors?

“We are required by law to do a push test. We are just trying to protect the people visiting our church.”

 

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