Residents 'upset' and 'distraught' by laying down of gravestones in Sleights, Whitby
Residents in Whitby are up in arms after finding that some of their loved ones' graves have been laid down.
More than 70 headstones at Sleights Churchyard have been laid down for health and safety reasons.
However, relatives of those buried at the churchyard say they had not been informed and that the decision to topple stones have left them 'upset' and 'distraught'.
Marie Clarke, whose father is buried at the cemetery said his was one of the headstones affected.
"I only found out because one of my cousins sent me pictures", she said. "My father's headstone wasn't erected until 2003. Me and my bother check it regularly, it was rock solid.
"I'm very upset to say the least. There was no warning, no letters, nothing to let us know that they were going to do this."
In a Facebook post Reverend Veronica Carolan apologised to the families affected.
She said: "I am so sorry that families have been distressed by the laying down of memorials. Sadly we don’t know who gravestones belong to as we don’t keep long term records of relatives.
"The Vicar and churchwardens are responsible for any open churchyard (ie where burials are still taking place) and for keeping people safe, so every so often we have to do a gravestones check and lay down any that are wobbly. Last Saturday was the day for the check. We have never had this problem before of so many memorials loosened by the elements, and hadn’t anticipated any difficulties beforehand.
"However, we had such a long dry summer followed by heavy rain and gales over the autumn and winter, that the soil has been loosened round a lot of stones. Others had wobbly plinths where cement had ceased to adhere properly. I am obliged to lay down Memorial stones if they are unsafe, and I realise how distressing this must be."