Families told to pay for gravestone repairs after council removes them

Fury after council lays ‘dangerous’ gravestones DOWN for health and safety reasons so they don’t ‘topple over’ and hurt someone – and tells grieving families they will have to pay to put them up again

  • Weymouth Town Council officials have removed 21 different headstones and left them lying on the floor
  • They have cited ‘health and safety’ reasons amid concern they could topple over and harm cemetery visitors
  • But families say council’s decision is ‘upsetting and unacceptable’, with claims they will have to fork out £150
  • One daughter says she only found out when she visited her father’s gravestone to pay tribute on his birthday
  • Grieving families are furious after a local council laid down ‘dangerous’ gravestones for health and safety reasons so they do not ‘topple over’ and hurt someone – and told relatives they will have to pay to have them repaired. 

    Council officials in Weymouth, Dorset, have removed 21 headstones from the ground and left them lying in a cemetery citing the safety of visitors to the graveyard.

    But families have described the council’s actions as ‘upsetting and unacceptable’ and one woman has said the headstones will be left on the ground permanently unless the families foot an estimated £150 bill to have them re-erected.

    Lynn Lewis says she was not informed of the council’s plans to remove the headstone of her late father Les and only discovered it had been pulled out when she visited Weymouth Cemetery to pay her respects on his birthday.

    Les died in 2019 and was buries alongside his father Ernest, who passed away in 1986, with both men commemorated on the gravestone. 

    Ms Lewis said: ‘It’s all upsetting and I am just flabbergasted by it, surely they could communicate this was happening or let us know beforehand?

    A gravestone commemorating Les Lewis, who died in 2019, and his father Ernest is among 21 to have been toppled at Weymouth Cemetery

    A gravestone commemorating Les Lewis, who died in 2019, and his father Ernest is among 21 to have been toppled at Weymouth Cemetery

    In total, the council removed 21 headstones from the ground as they were in danger of toppling over, a spokesperson has said

    In total, the council removed 21 headstones from the ground as they were in danger of toppling over, a spokesperson has said

    Lynn Lewis says the gravestones will be left lying on the floor unless the families foot a £150 bill for their repairs

    Lynn Lewis says the gravestones will be left lying on the floor unless the families foot a £150 bill for their repairs

    The council has defended its actions, saying it has a duty to carry out inspections of the stones every five years

    The council has defended its actions, saying it has a duty to carry out inspections of the stones every five years

    The council has apologised to the families, but insisted it has removed the gravestones so they do not 'hurt any visitors to the cemetery'

    The council has apologised to the families, but insisted it has removed the gravestones so they do not ‘hurt any visitors to the cemetery’

    Another of the gravestones to have been pulled from the ground by local council officials

    Another of the gravestones to have been pulled from the ground by local council officials

    Red and white tape left around one headstone that has been deemed by the local council to be unsafe

    Red and white tape left around one headstone that has been deemed by the local council to be unsafe

    Weymouth Town Council says it tried to inform all 21 of the affected families before the headstones were removed

    Weymouth Town Council says it tried to inform all 21 of the affected families before the headstones were removed

    One relative said she has estimated the cost of hiring a stonemason to repair the gravestone to be around £150

    One relative said she has estimated the cost of hiring a stonemason to repair the gravestone to be around £150

    Lynn Lewis says she was not warned by Weymouth Town Council ahead of her father's gravestone being pulled from the ground

    Lynn Lewis says she was not warned by Weymouth Town Council ahead of her father’s gravestone being pulled from the ground

    ‘I just feel it is unacceptable not to contact us prior to removal or even to put a note up is just upsetting.

    ‘My dad passed away in January 2019 so it is still fresh in our mind – it is just awful.  

    ‘It’s up to us to put it up and pay the costs. They just remove them and leave them there.

    ‘For a stonemason (to put it up) you are looking at £150. It’s totally unfair. The whole thing has baffled me – it’s just awful.’

    Weymouth Town Council has defended its actions, stating it has a duty to carry out memorial inspections at least once every five years and, following its most recent assessments, 21 were deemed to be unsafe.

    The local authority also said it had attempted to warn all families prior to the removals.

    Of the 21 headstones, 12 owners were deceased, six no longer live at the addresses the council has on record and three were contacted via letter, including the family of Les Lewis.

    A spokesperson for the council said: ‘We would like to apologise to the family for any distress this incident has caused.

    ‘We have a responsibility to maintain our cemeteries in the town in the best way possible for all visitors, and as part of this work we do carry out regular safety checks.

    The council says it had 'a responsibility to maintain our cemeteries in the town in the best way possible for all visitors'

    The council says it had ‘a responsibility to maintain our cemeteries in the town in the best way possible for all visitors’

    The local authority has apologised 'for any distress this has caused' to grieving families, who it is claimed will now have to pay for repairs

    The local authority has apologised ‘for any distress this has caused’ to grieving families, who it is claimed will now have to pay for repairs

    One of the 21 gravestones removed from the ground following an inspection by Weymouth Town Council officials

    One of the 21 gravestones removed from the ground following an inspection by Weymouth Town Council officials

    A gravestone left leant against another after being removed from the ground at Weymouth Cemetery

    A gravestone left leant against another after being removed from the ground at Weymouth Cemetery

    Another gravestone left lying on the floor after being wrapped with some red and white tape by the council

    Another gravestone left lying on the floor after being wrapped with some red and white tape by the council

    ‘When staff carried out inspections at Weymouth Cemetery, this memorial was found to be very loose and action was taken to make it safe.

    ‘The headstone was lowered onto the grave to ensure that it could not topple over and hurt any visitors to the cemetery.

    ‘If we have had to lay down any headstones, we then inform people about this. Apologies again for any distress this has caused.’