Today, Save Southwark Woods reports it has alerted over 50 Southwark Churches that new burials are above the dead - and to ask whether members of their congregation would be happy to be buried over other people’s remains.
The Camberwell Cemeteries are full. Their owner Southwark Council is attempting the largest grave excavation and ‘reuse’ project in UK history: to excavate or mound over tens of thousands of graves at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries, for resale as new burial plots.
But these ‘new’ private burial plots are over tens of thousands of existing graves - public, paupers’ or common graves.
Southwark Council is already cutting down acres of woods and trees, removing headstones and memorials and piling earth over the top public graves for ‘new’ private plots. After this, all private graves over 75 years old are to be excavated and resold.
Southwark claims this is to provide ‘local burial for local people’.
But local campaigners Save Southwark Woods say many people have told them they would refuse to be buried over an existing burial ground, as it would be against their religious beliefs.
This is a test case for cemeteries around the country. The law says Councils should only pursue such projects with the support of the local community and families.
Many families are contacting SSW horrified at the thought of their relatives being dug up. And SSW is finding that burial over existing graves may be unsuitable for many of Southwark’s residents.
Save Southwark Woods and 11,000 supporters want to save the 100 acres of full inner city cemeteries as nature reserves, with respect for the dead and woods, meadows, allotments and playing fields for the living.
Ample burial space for residents of all faiths is available in nearby Sidcup.
But in Camberwell Old Cemetery, an ancient Hawthorn hedgerow and meadows have already been destroyed and tens of thousands of common graves mounded over along Woodvale, with hundreds of dead now laid to rest on top.
And two acres of woodland has been clear-felled at ‘Area Z’ to sell 750 'new' plots over the graves of 48,000 of London’s poor.
SSW wants to know, are families are being told their loved ones are being buried over the dead?
How is the Council informing people when they inquire about buying a plot?
And if this burial is unsuitable for many of Southwark’s residents and so many thousands of people are against it, why is the Council doing it?
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Save the Heritage and Beauty of Britain's Cemeteries
SSW’s letter to the Churches is below:
You may have heard that Southwark Council is doing major works in Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries. We would like to know what you think of the Council's plans. Would you please be so kind as to tell us:
• If it is acceptable to members of your congregation to be buried over other people’s remains? Almost everyone who is being buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery is being laid to rest over public graves (sometimes called paupers’ graves.) See photo attached of new area in the Old Cemetery, on mounded earth above public graves.
• If it is acceptable to members of your community to be buried in a grave with the remains of other dead people? Southwark plans to exhume bodies, rebury the remains below new occupants, starting in 2022.
• If it is acceptable to be buried in crushed building demolition rubble? The new area under development in the Old Cemetery will be created using crushed rubble. These plots will also be over public graves - 48,000 Londoners
• If your community would object to cutting down trees to create burial plots? Southwark is cutting down hundreds of trees in a twelve (12) acre wood to maintain burial in the cemeteries. These are trees which have grown above public graves.
• If members of your congregation expect to be lay undisturbed once buried? If it is acceptable to be exhumed later? Southwark says it will be exhuming the dead in as few as 75 years to create new burial plots.
• Have you been informed that new burial plots are above the remains of the dead, in crushed rubble and available only for a limited period? And after 2022, available in graves with the remains of other dead people.
• Finally, what proportion of your congregation choose to be cremated, if any?
We would be willing to come and talk about this with you, or show you what the Council is doing at the cemeteries.
My mobile number is 07731 304 966
Thank you so much for your time and help.
Save Southwark Woods Campaign
07731 304 966