Family ‘deeply hurt’ by grave flower ban

UPSET: Jane Chambers by the grave of her mother, Janet Clayton, where  silk flowers are no longer permitted.
UPSET: Jane Chambers by the grave of her mother, Janet Clayton, where silk flowers are no longer permitted.

A family have been “deeply hurt” by a council ruling to remove artificial flowers from a grave they have tended for almost 20 years.

Peter Clayton has been regularly laying silk flowers on the grave of his wife Janet in the burial ground at Chilton Church since she died in 1994.

But Chilton Parish Council have now decided that such flowers, along with a list of other items, are “inappropriate” for the churchyard off Church Field Road.

Mr Clayton’s daughter Jane Chambers said the council’s ruling had “distressed” her father.

“We are deeply hurt – what sort of people take flowers off a grave,” said Mrs Chambers from High Street in Bures.

“I think it is the lowest of the low. My mum was parish council clerk and my dad took over from her when she died and has helped maintain the burial ground for over 30 years.”

Mrs Chambers said although the ruling had been introduced in many churchyards across the country to restrict ostentatious memorials, the council had overstepped the mark by removing flowers after the family declined.

“My mum lived in Chilton all her life and I find it insulting that we cannot continue to pay respects to her memory in this way,” she said.

“It was not necessary to stop these flowers being put down.”

Mr Clayton, who is in his 80s and lives in Little Yeldham, said his wife had played an active part in the community and had worked to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease, from which she suffered.

He said that he normally visited her grave, which is next to the spot where her parents are buried, around four times a year.

“I am upset about this and it is a shame that this has happened,” said Mr Clayton.

“I used silk flowers because I can’t visit that often and fresh ones would go rotten very quickly,” added Mr Clayton, who also has another daughter, Teresa.

“I think the graves will look very bleak in the winter with no flowers and the decision was unfeeling.”

He said there were only three families who continued to visit the burial ground.

Peter Clifford, chairman of the parish council, said the ruling was brought in following a majority vote by councillors earlier this year and would stop “unsuitable” items such as toys, lights and photographs being left on graves.

“There were concerns that these items were not appropriate for a small country churchyard,” said Mr Clifford.

“We contacted families about this and there were no other objections.

“I am sorry Mr Clayton and his daughter are upset and, although there was nothing intrinsically wrong with Mr Clayton’s flowers, we cannot discriminate.”