Please protect these unmarked graves

The historic Calderstones Cemetery
The historic Calderstones Cemetery
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Church leaders are being asked to intervene to protect unmarked graves.

The calls come amid claims that graves have been disturbed by contractors who are building a crematorium.

Towards the end of last year, All Faiths Remembrance Parks Ltd started work to build a multi-faith crematorium, funeral chapel and car park at the historic Calderstones Cemetery, in Whalley, which is the final resting place of just under 1,200 patients from Calderstones Hospital.

Earlier this year, work on the crematorium was halted by the developer following claims it was being carried out on “consecrated” land.

Now, the Diocese of Blackburn is in talks with the developers to ensure no existing graves are disturbed.

Campaigners are calling on the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, to prevent what they call the “desecration” of the graves and instead plant a garden of remembrance on the one-hectare (2.7-acre) site.

Community leader Mel Diack MBE, said: “We, as Friends of the Calderstones Hospital Cemetery, want the 1,200 graves to be left alone and the whole of the cemetery to remain as a Garden of Remembrance.

“All those bodies buried in the cemetery should be left in peace and quite and the owners knowing they bought a cemetery should keep it sacred and well maintained, cared for and not used for commercial gain.

“In my view and many others we just hope that the Church feel the same and that the Bishop of Blackburn will protect those who have no voice in this.

Angela Dunn, the general manager of All Faiths Remembrance Parks, said it was in discussions to ensure all work on the site was legal.

She explained: “We have asked for the areas in which there have been no burials to be deconsecrated, any graves where burials have taken place will remain consecrated. The building will be erected in an area in which no burials have taken place, there will be no disturbance of human remains.”

A spokesperson for Blackburn Diocese, said: “We are aware of the situation at Calderstones Cemetery and are in active and positive discussions with the current developers to ensure that no existing graves will be disturbed. We hope the work will include improved access to the existing graves, something which hasn’t been possible in recent times, and will also include the retention of Christian symbols on site.

“As a diocese we are concerned to support those who grieve, but also to secure a future for the site that will mean it is much better cared for than it has been in recent years. We pray for a resolution to the matter that will satisfy all parties.

“We can confirm an application has been submitted by All Faiths Remembrance Parks Ltd and a public notice was also issued on April 19th giving four weeks notice for objections or representations which can be sent to Rev. Paul Benfield, Diocesan Registrar, The Registry, Napthens LLP, Darwen House, Walker Business Park, Blackburn, BB1 2QE.

“The notice was displayed on the above date at Whalley Parish Church and at the site itself. It is also available on the Diocesan website. Closing date is therefore May 17th.”