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Dispute over VC headstone

11 April 2014

A STONEMASON, Daniel Mooney, who traced the lost grave of his town's only holder of the Victoria Cross has been told that he must remove the "unlawful" headstone that he erected to mark the burial site.

But Mr Mooney says that he has permission to install the stone at Bridlington Priory, in east Yorkshire, and is refusing a diocesan demand to take it down or pay £270 for a faculty.

He has written to his MP, Greg Knight, seeking support, and plans an approach to the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, to ask him to "stop this nonsense".

Mr Mooney and fellow members of the East Yorkshire Historical Society spent eight years searching at the Priory through more than 1600 stones, which had been laid flat, before they discovered the grave of Captain George Symons, who, in 1857, was the recipient of one of the first VCs ever awarded.

About six years ago, Mr Mooney submitted the appropriate paperwork to the then Rector, the Revd John Wardle, for the erection of a headstone. As it was a private project, however, carried out in his spare time, it was March last year before he was able to erect the four-feet-tall Yorkstone memorial.

"Then, two weeks ago, out of the blue, we got a letter from a lawyer saying we had unlawfully erected a headstone," Mr Mooney said. "It said if we didn't submit a faculty by the end of this month, we would have to take it down. I was gobsmacked.

"I have never had to have a faculty to put a stone up before, and, in more than 40 years as a stonemason, I have put up more than 4000. Well, I am not going to remove it, and I am not paying for the faculty."

Mr Mooney's wife, Lynne, said: "We do nothing on a headstone without formal planning permission signed by the Vicar. We have a copy and he has one, but I understand the Church has lost its copy. . . I just wish the diocese showed some common sense."

Captain Symons, of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, won his VC in the Crimean War at Sebastopol, in June 1855, for clearing a Russian gun emplacement, despite being severely wounded.

The medal was created after the war ended: the first ones were awarded in 1857.

In a statement, the diocese said: "Bridlington Priory is very proud to have the grave of Captain Symons in the churchyard, and there are already two memorials to him: a memorial stone from the time of his death in the churchyard, and a monument in the church.

"Mr Mooney did not secure legal permission for his memorial stone prior to installing it. Informal conversations with members of the church had occurred on the matter, but Mr Mooney did not follow these up with a formal request for legal permission to install the stone.

"The PCC and [Rector] would very much like Mr Mooney to apply for the faculty and to continue to honour the memory of Captain Symons."

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