Grieving parents ‘outraged’ after being told to remove items from children’s graves

The managers of Tottenham Cemetery have issued restrictive instructions for what can be places on graves in a part of the site where children are buried, reports Olivia Opara

Tottenham Cemetery
Tottenham Cemetery

Bereaved parents say they have been left “heartbroken and outraged” by a sudden notice ordering them to remove items used to decorate their babies’ graves. 

The notice was placed in the Castle Gardens section of Tottenham Cemetery last month, stating that a “project to level, re-dress and seed” the area will take place during October.

It told relatives of deceased people buried at the site that “under no circumstances are fences, glass vases, balloons, wind chimes, windmills, solar lights, toys, teddy bears, or artificial flowers allowed, except for those flowers placed by the headstone”. It added that “any such items will be removed and held in safe custody for a period of three months for collection” and that “a maximum of one small figurine or ornament may be placed on a grave no longer [than] 200cm high”.

Items placed by graves which do not comply with the order from the cemetery’s managers are set to be removed.

Grieving parents Joe, Whitney and Charlie tried to reach out to the managers of the cemetery to find out why the notice has only been placed in the area where their babies are buried but to no avail, they told HCP

Joe said: “We are all outraged because this is the place that we go to visit and cherish our loved ones as that’s all we have got of them now and we just want answers.

“Why are they not focusing their time and energy on the rest of the cemetery that is severely neglected as opposed to the Castle Garden section that is really well maintained because we who visit it look after it?”

Tottenham Cemetery is run by Dignity Funerals, part of The Crematorium and Memorial Group (CMG), which is based at Enfield Crematorium. It has not responded to requests for comment.

Joe and Whitney lost their baby son Tate two years ago and have now launched a petition and an online social media campaign, Save The Graves, to preserve his “forever bed” and bring attention to the situation. 

Joe added: “It has affected Whitney and Charlie and as two mothers that I know who have lost their babies, that it is the only place that I know that they were religiously going every single day to visit their babies and have a little chat.

“These babies have got older siblings and that is a place for them to go and see them and it is not a nice environment for the children to go, for us to go, and we want to put all these little things on their graves.” 

Joe told HCP that this situation has also impacted their children and that there is nothing “over the top or unreasonable” that has been placed on their babies’ graves and that they should be allowed to decorate them without being questioned because that is what “they have paid for”. 

“We have said as a community that we are happy for the crematorium to lay grass seeds and that we will take the stuff off of the graves but once the works are carried out we would like to put our babies’ forever beds back to how they should be.

“This has scared and upset people and for us as bereaved parents – this is heartbreaking. Everything that we have been told to remove [can be found] elsewhere in the cemetery.”

A spokesperson for the Friends of Tottenham Cemetery, a group of local residents who want to preserve the beauty, historic significance and biodiversity of the site, said: “The Friends of Tottenham Cemetery is concerned that these notices do not take into consideration the sensitive nature of asking bereaved families to ‘remove’ cherished belongings from their loved ones graves. 

“Grieving is very personal and requires both compromise and compassion. We are meeting with Haringey Council at the end of the month regarding CMG’s management of the cemetery and will raise this matter on behalf of these families.”

Update (13th October):

A spokesperson for Dignity Funerals said: “Thank you for reaching out to us regarding concerns raised by bereaved parents at Tottenham Cemetery. The memorial area referred to is a shared space. We try to meet the needs of all families in this area and understand that they may have different ways of remembering their loved ones.

“We would like to clarify that the notice placed at Tottenham Cemetery is not limited to infant graves; similar notices have also been placed in the shared space at Enfield Cemetery. 

“In order to properly maintain these areas, including mowing and seeding the grass, it is essential that we ensure they remain clear of obstructions. This is done with the intention of preserving the peaceful and well-kept appearance of our grounds. 

“Our approach to memorialisation in this area and any restrictions were explained to families prior to purchasing the plot. We remain committed to working with all families to find solutions that respect their needs while enabling us to maintain the shared areas of the cemetery for the benefit of all.”

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