THE parents of a young boy buried in a churchyard have condemned plans to convert the church into a private residence.
The grave of Ian Edwards, who died, aged three, in 1984, lies within feet of the walls of the Grade II listed St Andrew’s, in the village of Wolferlow, Herefordshire. The last service held there was in 2003, and the church was formally closed in 2006. For a time, the church, which dates from the 12th century, was on Historic England’s buildings-at-risk register, but it has now been sold for redevelopment.
Ian’s parents, Colin, aged 71, and Laura, 65, have described the plans as “immoral”. They are also angry that their son’s grave had been fenced off, and accuse Hereford diocese of failing to consult relatives of those buried in the churchyard.
Mr Edwards fears that the building could become a holiday home. He told the Hereford Times: “It’s a house of God, not a holiday let. The dead should be given some dignity. I have mown the grass and trimmed the hedges for over 30 years. Who will look after the graves once it’s developed?
“The church has been part of this hamlet for generations, and I’m surprised the diocese have just decided to part with it for the sake of some money. It is a sacred place. It will remain a working churchyard; so I’m also not sure why the occupants would want to watch a funeral taking place outside their window anyway.”
Mrs Edwards said: “When I go to my son’s grave, I don’t want to have a family watching TV looking out their windows at me. It’s a time for quiet reflection, and you want your relatives to be in a peaceful place.”
A spokeswoman for Hereford diocese said that Ian Edwards’s grave was not part of the property sold, and that the graveyard would remain in public use. His grave had been fenced off because of falling roof tiles. “The diocese had sought alternatives to selling with the wider community, but these had been unsuccessful,” she said
Strict covenants would be part of the sale to ensure that the church and churchyard were treated with respect, and that no monuments or memorials were disturbed.
The Archdeacon of Hereford, the Ven. Derek Chedzey, said: “We are working with the Edwards family and our insurer’s surveyor to seek a way forward that will allow access to the graves while still ensuring the safety of visitors to the churchyard.”
The conversion plans will be considered by Herefordshire County Council later this month.