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Church policy rejects family's wishes to have 'dad and grandad' written on headstone

PUBLISHED: 15:31 23 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:01 24 January 2019

The family of John Walden, who died last year, have been told they can't put dad or grandad on his gravestone at St Mary’s Church in Syderstone, near Fakenham. Picture: Dan Bennett

The family of John Walden, who died last year, have been told they can't put dad or grandad on his gravestone at St Mary's Church in Syderstone, near Fakenham. Picture: Dan Bennett

Archant

For a family from north Norfolk, January should have been a time for remembrance but instead they have been left heartbroken after being told church policy will not allow the words 'dad or grandad' to be written on their loved one's grave.

The family of John Walden, who died last year, have been told they can't put dad or grandad on his gravestone at St Mary’s Church in Syderstone, near Fakenham. Picture: Dan BennettThe family of John Walden, who died last year, have been told they can't put dad or grandad on his gravestone at St Mary’s Church in Syderstone, near Fakenham. Picture: Dan Bennett

These were the names used by the family of John Walden, of Tattersett, who died last year and was buried at St Mary’s Church in Syderstone, near Fakenham.

But now his daughter Caroline, 45, has been told the wording would go against church policy, and has had it rejected due to diocese rules which state inscriptions must be “simple, dignified and reverent”.

The mother-of-two, of Waterfield Avenue, in Fakenham, said: “We have been told that we are only allowed to use grandfather and father on his headstone but I just don’t know what could be more dignified than using the words dad and grandad - the names he was known by.”

Mr Walden, a farmer, suffered with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had a heart attack in December 2017. After spending a week in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, he was discharged and spent his last Christmas with his family before being admitted to hospital again where he later died.

The family of John Walden, who died last year, have been told they can't put dad or grandad on his gravestone at St Mary’s Church in Syderstone, near Fakenham. Picture: Dan BennettThe family of John Walden, who died last year, have been told they can't put dad or grandad on his gravestone at St Mary’s Church in Syderstone, near Fakenham. Picture: Dan Bennett

“This was always going to be a difficult time for us all,” Miss Walden added, “but this has just added to our heartbreak.

“There are several other gravestones which say ‘dad’ ‘grandad’ and even ‘great grandad’ so I really can’t understand what the issue is.”

In July 2018 the family agreed to a design which read: “In loving memory of a dear husband, dad and grandad, John Walden, died 28th January 2018, aged 65 years, always in our hearts.”

But a month later it was rejected via a letter from the Reverend Clive Wylie, who said it was not his “personal decision” and suggested the family used “father and grandfather” instead.

The family of John Walden, who died last year, have been told they can't put dad or grandad on his gravestone at St Mary’s Church in Syderstone, near Fakenham. Picture: Dan BennettThe family of John Walden, who died last year, have been told they can't put dad or grandad on his gravestone at St Mary’s Church in Syderstone, near Fakenham. Picture: Dan Bennett

The Archdeacon of Lynn, the Venerable Ian Bentley, said: “The church’s policy, in line with the Churchyard Regulations which churches must follow, recognises the difficult balance of individuals and family’s wishes but also the church’s role as custodians of memorials which last for many, many generations.

“The church has encouraged the family to contact the Chancellor for the Diocese if they feel that the church has not followed the guidelines they must adhere to.”

Currently the grave remains bare and the family are considering having his body exhumed and buried elsewhere.

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