ALL grieving Alfred Chambers wanted was somewhere to sit close to the grave of his wife of 57 years…
Margery Chambers died on December 23 and is buried in Dodworth St John’s Cemetery.
Deeply devoted to his wife, 78-year-old Alfred, who suffers from hip and joint pain, visits her grave daily, and often spends up-to six hours at her graveside.
He found he needed somewhere to sit for long periods of time and he set about building a bench which he placed on the grass opposite his wife’s grave, but he was dismayed to receive a letter from Barnsley Council just days later demanding he remove the bench.
“Dad has been a shell of a man since mum died,” said the couple’s daughter, Maxine Tindall, 49.
“He spends all day up at her grave, he just sits and talks to her and tells her what is going on but he’s been perching on the end of my nanna’s grave – which is next-door-but-one – because it is painful for him to stand for so long.
“My brother is also blind, so my dad made the bench for him as well so they both could have a place to sit and visit mum’s grave.
“I find the whole thing ridiculous because there’s only one bench in the whole cemetery and it’s mostly elderly people who go there.
“His bench wasn’t out of place or in the way, I think it’s petty to be honest.”
The family were told that they could purchase a memory bench from the council at a cost of £600 but the family would not get to choose its location.
“To ask us to pay £600 for a bench that might not be anywhere near mum’s grave is absurd and insulting,” added Maxine.
“It cost us roughly £10,000 to bury mum in the first place. All we want is a place my dad and brother can sit down while they visit mum’s grave. I really don’t think it’s too much to ask.”
Coun Chris Lamb, cabinet spokesperson for environment and transportation, said: “The person who erected the bench did so without local authority permission. Anything erected in a council cemetery requires our permission.
“We supply any benches to be erected to control the positioning and, more importantly, the quality.
“While these benches are purchased as a memorial bench by a particular family, they are in a public place and can be used by anyone.
“In addition, if a member of the public provides something, they will be financially liable for any injury to other visitors.
“However, if we supply the benches, we assume any public liability and replace them when they are worn out. Therefore, we have decided we will only allow our own benches to protect the public from potential claims.
“Areas in the cemetery that appear to be vacant may be held for other purposes, such as future burial, may contain service pipes or may restrict access for machinery.
“In this particular case, the bench was placed on what will be our new cremation plot. It also restricted access to the current burial section for our JCB.
“We had no choice but to instruct the family to remove the unauthorised bench.
“Benches are provided by us in cemeteries, usually at the request of a member of the public who wishes for the bench to be a memorial to a loved one.
“We work with the family to find a suitable location near the grave but not restrict our operations in what is a working cemetery.”