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Ellesmere Port mum's anguish as church removes memorials from baby son's grave

Church says it has to turf the graveyard for health and safety reasons following accident last year

Julie Simkins and Kenan Wyatt of Ellesmere Port(Image: UGC TCH)

A heartbroken mum fears she could lose all she has left of her cherished still born son if his grave is turfed over.

The issue has arisen at St John the Evangelist church in Great Sutton for shocked mum Julie Simkins, 41, and partner Kenan Wyatt, also 41, a plasterer.

But vicar, the Rev Antony Dutton, hopes the family will apply for a permanent headstone and plinth to be placed on their child’s plot to ease their concerns.

However, Julie has rejected the idea of a permanent headstone and has confirmed her intention to have the grave moved to Overpool Cemetery.

Little Archie Wyatt was laid to rest in the graveyard of the Victorian church on Old Chester Road in November 2013.

Mum Julie Simkins is angry after memorials were removed from her son Archie's grave(Image: UGC TCH)

Julie’s plight went viral locally on social media in Ellesmere Port as she explained: “Can anybody please help me? I need to get my baby moved from Great Sutton church to Overpool (cemetery). Anybody know how I go about this please?

“The church have taken everything off his grave and have told me they also turfing over him so I’ll no longer know exactly where he is.

“That grave is all I have left of my baby, to not be allowed to put anything on his grave no more, not even flowers, is not acceptable. I want him moved where I can make his grave look loved.”

In a comment to Mr Dutton, she said: “My son ain’t staying in your church with an unloved and uncared for looking grave.”

She was also concerned to be told ‘point blank’ the turfing over could not be delayed to allow her to investigate Archie being moved.

She explained: “Not only have they taken all our things off the grave but they have put them all in a pile at the side of the church and some people’s things for their loved ones have gone missing.

“I’m not backing down and neither are the residents of Ellesmere Port. Thank you everyone for your support.”

The Rev Antony Dutton, vicar at St John's, Great Sutton(Image: UGC TCH)

Julie - who lives across the A41 from the church and was told the grave marker with Archie’s name would stay - ‘had to bring all my baby’s things home in a carrier bag and had nowhere to put them’.

“My baby’s grave is bare, I’m shocked beyond words,” she said, adding she was heartbroken to see the ornaments ‘cast aside by the church’.

“I had little things in the ground in each corner of where his coffin is so I know where he is which gives me comfort. Now I can’t even have that,” explained Julie.

Mr Dutton replied: “We care for all who mourn and part of that care is to provide a safe and respectful graveyard for them and their loved ones.

“Following an accident in our graveyard last year we have had to ask families to clear some unofficially placed items from graves. These include plastic flowers, chimes, chippings, fencing, metal stands, soft toys, extra vases and stone ornaments.

“These items can become a hazard to those visiting the graveyard and they make the job of maintaining the graves and pathways difficult.

“This kind of request is normal for graveyards and follows recent advice from health and safety officers and the insurance company which covers our graveyard.

“This decision was not taken lightly and has not happened overnight, all families were given two months’ notice to remove items and 28 days to collect items which have been removed.”

He continued: “Headstones and officially approved markers are allowed in our graveyard as are real flowers. We have explained all this to Julie and her family.

“Our prayers and compassion are with her as they have been since the death of her little boy Archie who now rests in peace in our graveyard. We hope the family will apply for a permanent headstone and plinth to be placed on their child’s plot.

“In the meantime the grave marker, which is still in place and carries the child’s name, will continue to stay. The church will also pay to have fresh turf placed where the stone chippings used to be and maintain the grave.”

He concluded: “Every burial in the graveyard is sacred and we wish to respect the rights of all mourners while making sure the graveyard is a safe and accessible place for all with an appropriate atmosphere for those who visit.”

Julie said she did not want to have a permanent headstone, as suggested by the church, adding: “I want to be able to put in my plot, that I have paid for, baby things so his grave looks pretty like all the baby graves at Overpool cemetery,” she said.

“Therefore we are now left with no choice but to have him removed. Now we have the heartache of moving our son.”

“I should be allowed to have baby things like wind chimes and flowers and teddy bears and baby ornaments in my plot.”

Julie has started a petition, which she is hoping to present to Parliament, against churches removing personal items from loved ones’ graves and is contacting Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders.

She thanked a lady at the church who tried to comfort her when she had seen ‘what the church had done to my baby’s grave’.

This turned out to be Sheryl Griffiths’ mum Julie Rickett with Sheryl saying: “It’s a disgrace! They have done this to my brother’s grave too.”

Almost 200 posts were made to the Pride in the Port Facebook page with some pointing out the requirements and possible costs of moving Archie to Overpool.

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