Hatfield church criticised over headstone row

BEFORE her death more than two years ago, Lillian Watts left her daughters with one simple request; that they place a plain, black headstone in the shape of a Bible on her grave.

However, fast forward to April 2010 and her final resting place still remains unmarked, much to the chagrin of her devoted children Pam O’Rourke, Maureen Gunnell and Irene Heslop.

The trio have been denied permission to mark their mum’s grave – in St Luke’s churchyard in Hatfield – with the monument, pictured, after church authorities took exception to its size and style.

Pam, 59, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times she was “disgusted” at the church’s stance.

“All we want is a Bible on black granite,” she said.

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“How can they object to that?”

“It is ridiculous.”

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Maureen, 64, said she could not understand the decision when she looked at some of the larger, more gaudy monuments on show in the churchyard.

She added she had been given the opportunity to appeal the ruling but, in order to do so, she would need to pay �200 to the Chancellor of the Diocese of St Albans, which runs St Luke’s.

“It has made me feel angry,” Maureen said.

“I think the church is a money-grabbing institution.”

A church spokesman said the Diocese was simply following legislation.

He said: “Small deviations from the regulations are within the vicar’s discretion, but otherwise permission must be sought from the Chancellor of the Diocese.

“No application has been received in this case.”

He continued: “Clergy and others dealing with bereaved relatives do their utmost to communicate these constraints sensitively and compassionately.

“The purpose of the regulations is to ensure that churchyards remain places where people feel welcome over the passage of many generations to visit the graves of their loved ones and that the spirit of churchyards as public spaces of remembrance may be preserved.

“Inevitably, this means that there are limits on what is permitted.”

He added: “Excessive variations are unfair to those who have gone before and had permission refused.”

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