A row over graveside memorials has erupted after cherished items were removed by church wardens under orders from the Diocese.
Personal mementoes left by families and friends were stuffed into plastic bags and dumped behind Thornhill Parish Church. The wardens left a note telling relatives to collect their goods before they were binned.
Defiant relatives, many in tears, turned up to the church yesterday to put their items back beside cremation stones.
Mementoes from the stone of Keiley Holland’s late husband were among those removed. “It was very upsetting to find all the graves empty,” she said.
“It looked lovely before and more importantly gave the families comfort after losing a loved one. They have not thought about the families at all.
“They may own the grass around it, but I own the stone and will be putting the items back where they belong.”
Mrs Holland, of Mountain Road, Thornhill, visits her husband Alan’s stone every week, often with her niece and nephew.
“We used to all go on holiday to Spain and whenever they come back from somewhere, they always buy something and leave it by their uncle’s grave,” she said.
“I’m just glad they were not with me on Monday when I visited as they would have been devastated.”
Graveside items were bagged up after wardens tidied the grounds last Saturday.
A notice posted on a tree by the entrance of the church read: “Many people have been concerned by how untidy this area has become.
“Any items which have to be removed from the graves will be placed in labelled bags ready for people to collect by August 23.”
More than 1,200 angry families have joined a Facebook page to criticise the church for its actions.
But a Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales spokeswoman said every diocese had churchyard regulations to preserve the amenity, ensure good practice was followed and help with maintenance of churchyards.
“This is a legal process over which the local vicar has absolutely no jurisdiction and can only try their best to help and advise the families,” she said.
“The local vicar in this case tried to do just that by writing to all the families earlier this summer explaining the situation, offering to talk to any families and visiting the churchyard to advise families on how best to look after their graves.
“We understand the families’ concerns and are saddened that a resolution has not been achieved in every case.”
Yesterday some people were complaining that they could not find items in the bags when they went to retrieve them.
Margaret Oakes, who lives in Thornhill, has her father, mother-in-law, grandma and aunties buried there.
She told the Reporter: “It’s just been thrown in the bags like it didn’t exist. This is all I have to remember them.
“I’d be surprised if anyone ever uses this church again.”