Bereaved relatives with loved ones buried in a Dewsbury churchyard are to keep treasured mementoes on the graves – for now.

Last week the Examiner told how families had been left angry when church leaders stripped treasured items from gravestones at Thornhill Parish Church.

The precious tributes were all bagged up and left for relatives to collect, sparking a silent protest outside the church.

 

Feelings were running so high one man was arrested by police for allegedly sending a “malicious communication” to the Rector of Thornhill, the Rev Sue Clarke. He was later released without charge.

Now the rector has written to families promising a meeting with Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Tony Robinson, and offering hope that the church may change its policy on graveyard mementoes.

Diocese regulations are in place to protect the look of the graveyard and allow it to be cared for and maintained safely.

Uncertainty has been caused as three dioceses – Wakefield, Leeds & Ripon and Bradford – have all recently merged to become the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.

Each had different regulations which have to be unified.

In a letter to families the rector said that both sides had the “common aim” to make the churchyard a “place of peace, beauty and safety” for everybody but there were “different views as to how this might be achieved.”

Protestors carrying placards with slogans such as Thou Shalt Not Steal and Stop Stealing from the Dead joined the silent protest.

Bishop Tony, also at the church on the day to speak to protesters, has now agreed to meet families at a formal meeting at the church on Sunday, October 5.

The meeting, from 3pm-5pm, will also be attended by the rector and church wardens Diane Goodwin and Susan Lane.

The letter also says that the new head of the West Yorkshire diocese, Bishop of Leeds the Rt Rev Nick Baines, was looking to recruit a new diocesan chancellor.

“The new chancellor will have the task of putting in place a new diocesan policy regarding regulations of churchyards and so we will need to wait until this policy is in place before we can say definitely what will happen in Thornhill,” the letter says.

“But we, as a church, are concerned that we listen to all views and come to a place where people will feel this is the right way for us.”

Residents have also been invited to join a churchyard clean-up on Saturday, September 13 (9.30am-12noon).

Protest spokesman Shaun Maddox said many relatives had collected their items and put them back.

He said families now wanted to see a “long-term management plan” for the graveyard.