Monday, October 03, 2005

Toppling graves

Yesterday, the Vol-in-Law and I went for a walk in Lambeth Cemetery. This is an old, but still in-use, cemetery near our house. We sometimes go for a stroll there when we can't be bothered to venture further. This cemetery, like much of what Lambeth Council runs, is not well maintained, but what we saw yesterday was disturbing. A number of the graves had been toppled since our last visit. And the breakage looked relatively new.

Many of these tombstones are from the Victorian Era and so there are likely to be few relatives who would be distressed by this vandalism. But some of these tombstones are like works of art, and should be respected as such. I might rant and rave and say kids these days. But I suspect that this kind of thing is more likely to be the work of Lambeth Council itself.

I have no proof that Lambeth Council workers laid low these graves, but this kind of thing is rampant in the UK. The idea is that headstones may be unstable and could fall over and hurt someone, so for everyone's safety the graves have to be put beyond danger. It's the tyranny of Health and Safety regulations.

What happens is council workers give memorials a visual inspection, then a manual inspection (they try to wobble it with their hands) and then finally these use an expensive piece of equipment to do a scientamatifc test called a 'topple test'. This East Ayrshire Council website has an explanation, with photos, including one of the topple testing equipment. If the grave fails the 'topple test', council workers 'lay the memorial flat' - that is they knock it down.

Here's a link to the Peterborough Council website explaining why they are conducting these tests, and claiming that six children have been killed by falling tombstones in the last 12 years.
And here's an article The Scotsman describing the distress of relavtives after graves had been toppled in a Scottish cemetery.

Lambeth Council have 'made safe' another nearby graveyard, Streatham Cemetery, by attaching great ugly wooden posts with plastic straps to nearly all the tombstones in the cemetery. It looks terrible (sadly, I don't have a photo).

I guess the tumble down tombstones look better than the headstone-on-a-stick solution, but it just doesn't somehow seem right to me.

Ironically, if I died, I'm not even sure I could get into Lambeth Cemetery, despite it being very near my house. Because even though the cemetery lies within the boundaries of the borough of Wandsworth, it belongs to Lambeth, and I'm a Wandsworth resident. Of course, Wandsworth maintains most things well, and the cemetery for Wandsworth residents is beautfully landscaped and maintained, and it's in Putney, a neighborhood I can't afford, but would die to get in to.

1 comment:

KathyF said...

When we were in Knaresborough we saw a sign saying one of the gravestones there had toppled and killed a child. We stayed well away.

Gives a whole new meaning to whistling in the graveyard.