Families with loved ones in Southwark's cemeteries have not been consulted on their families' graves being mounded over or dug up for new burial plots. And they're furious.
Right now, Southwark is mounding over tens of thousands of public graves - including dozens of WW1 soldiers - to sell ‘new’ burial plots.
The Council is also applying to Parliament to dig up thousands of public and private graves in Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries. Every grave over 75 years old is at risk.
But the Council never consulted families before rubber-stamping these plans at a Cabinet meeting in June 2012.
A general 2011 ‘consultation’ used vague euphemisms like ‘re-use’ to hide the truth of mass exhumation, digging up the dead to resell their graves.
Now headstones and memorials are being removed at an alarming rate and soon thousands of graves are to be exhumed en masse.
Family statements to FOCC include:
“Pte. Henry Whybra, one of the 48 WW1 soldiers buried there, was my relative. He was born in Camberwell, lived and worked there, was wounded and came home to die at the age of 29 and be buried there. He gave his all for six feet by two of Camberwell. I think the council should treat his remains with the dignity they deserve.”
“My Wife's grandmother is buried at CNC [Camberwell New Cemetery] Glade. Family were too poor to buy a plot and now the Council are treating the past poor of the community with contempt. A disgraceful and shameful attitude. I am a Veteran and think this is disgraceful behaviour by Southwark Council, Rest in Peace means Rest in Peace.”
“Heartbreaking...I thought cemeteries were safe as natural sancturies forever.”
A public or 'pauper's' grave is one where no exclusive right of burial has been granted and a loved one is most often buried with strangers. The gravesite is not chosen by the family and there is no right to a permanent memorial or marker. The cemetery does not even have to notify descendants when there is development above the graves.
Private burial rights can be extinguished with just a notice on the cemetery gate and in the back of a local newspaper.
In a family survey we carried out in 2016, most families said they first heard about plans to dig up graves from FOCC SSW - not from Southwark Council.
A 2007 law - brought forward by local MP Harriet Harman - allows London Councils to apply for permission to dig up people buried to rest in peace in perpetuity. But it is not an automatic right – families MUST be consulted over plans before adoption.
Southwark Council claims plans are to sell ‘local burial for local people’. But what about the local people buried here? And their families? How many believe their loved ones are safely resting in peace?
Burial Cllr Ian Wingfield even boasted Southwark can - and will - drive access roads over paupers’ graves to the Glade on One Tree Hill and on Area Z in the Old Cemetery.
There is growing concern and anger amongst people who have heard nothing from Southwark. People are asking FOCC to help find loved ones’ graves. Many may even visit only to find their loved one’s memorial removed and a new grave on top.
On 25th June, FOCC is bringing together relatives and friends of anyone buried in the Camberwell Cemeteries to alert them to Southwark’s 2012 plan.
FOCC is also warning people to contact the Cemetery Office with their address and contact details - advice surely Southwark ought to be giving?
Over 10,000 have signed an online petition to save the cemeteries - at least 4,000 are Southwark residents.
Complete disregard for the dead and their friends and families is yet another reason why Southwark Council is unfit to run a burial service.
FOCC is fighting to save the Camberwell Cemeteries as nature reserves with respect for the dead and woods and nature for the living.
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | firstname.lastname@example.org | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods
Rose Ives and mum Tina Kirby by the public grave of relatives at the Glade on One Tree HIll where dozens of graves are to be paved over for an access road.
Below: Hundreds of 'new' burial plots over mass graveyards of tens of thousands of poor Londoners
Bottom: Area Z Camberwell Old Cemetery - two acres of woods in a Grade 1 SINC clear-felled for more 'new' burial plots over tens of thousands of graves
Below: The last 10 acres of woods in Camberwell Old Cemetery Grade 1 SINC - Southwark intends to fell acres of woods over public graves - despite no woodland management plan, no application to the Diocese for permission and a unanimous vote by the Burial Stakeholder Group for no further felling.