Mother told to clear flowers from grave

Angela Darnley is heartbroken after being ordered to remove flowers from the grave of her daughter Jenna Darnley, who is buried at St Michaels Grimsargh
Angela Darnley is heartbroken after being ordered to remove flowers from the grave of her daughter Jenna Darnley, who is buried at St Michaels Grimsargh
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  • Tragic daughter died aged 15
  • Mum is told grave is too ‘cluttered’ with tributes
  • Church diocese says it is trying to find solution
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A mother’s heartbreak at being ordered to remove flowers from her daughter’s grave has sparked a petition attracting signatures from around the world.

Distraught mum Angela Darnley says she was told to clear bouquets and ornaments after a change in churchyard rules at St Michael’s CE in Grimsargh, near Preston.

Tragic schoolgirl Jenna was 15 when she took her own life in 2008. Seven years on her memorial still attracts a steady stream of floral tributes from family and friends.

Now Mrs Darnley has revealed her shock and upset after being told the grave is too cluttered.

“It always looks tidy and lovely,” she said. “I find it very moving that people still go so regularly to leave flowers. I just can’t see what the problem is.”

The bombshell news was brought by a parishioner delivering the church magazine.

“The man knocked on the door and pointed out a paragraph in the magazine that said that after complaints it was no longer permitted to have flowers on the grave itself, just in the holders on the headstones,” said Mrs Darnley.

“I couldn’t believe it. Jenna’s grave always has lots of flowers on it, we go every week, her grandparents go every few days and lots of her friends go regularly and leave flowers. We always make sure it’s very tidy and it’s just flowers in vases to make sure they stay fresh and a photo of Jenna.There are only two holders for flowers on the headstone so where are we supposed to put all the others that people bring?”

Jenna, a pupil at Longridge High School, took her own life at the family home in Grimsargh, leaving relatives and friends grief-stricken.

After Mrs Darnley was told to clear the grave, she posted a message on Facebook expressing her disbelief. By the next morning the post had thousands of views, with one of Jenna’s friends setting up a petition begging the church to change its stance. Within two hours it had attracted signatures from as far away as Canada.

The Diocese of Blackburn said it was now working with the family to find a solution after revealing the policy of no flowers and ornaments on graves had been brought in for reasons of fairness to all churchyard users.

Archdeacon Michael Everitt said: “I sympathise with Mrs Darnley, but the Diocese of Blackburn, in common with all other dioceses, has very specific regulations about what can and can’t be placed in our churchyards, which people are made aware of.

“So the vicar and churchwardens have a legal responsibility to preserve the churchyard as a well-ordered place for every family.

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

“St Michael’s asked for the items to be removed as part of a regular review of the churchyard and have handled the matter as sensitively as possible, seeking to work with the family at all times.

“In fact the vicar of St Michael’s (Rev Chris Halliwell) met with Mrs Darnley at the weekend to propose a new compromise and are awaiting her response.”

• See www.change.org/p/st-michaels-church-grimsargh-leave-the-flowers-and-items