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Putting 'Popsicle' on headstone a grave error, says church judge

PUBLISHED: 13:00 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:38 10 December 2019

Caroline Walden, of Fakenham, has won her battle to have the words ‘dad and grandad’ written on her father John's headstone. Pictured with her mother Pauline Walden (left) at St Mary's Church, Syderstone. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

Caroline Walden, of Fakenham, has won her battle to have the words 'dad and grandad' written on her father John's headstone. Pictured with her mother Pauline Walden (left) at St Mary's Church, Syderstone. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

Archant

Putting lighthearted pet names on loved ones' headstones could fall foul of church regulations, a senior church judge has declared.

Caroline Walden, of Fakenham, has won her battle to have the words ‘dad and grandad’ written on her father John's headstone at St Mary's Church, Syderstone. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOPCaroline Walden, of Fakenham, has won her battle to have the words ‘dad and grandad’ written on her father John's headstone at St Mary's Church, Syderstone. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

Ruth Arlow, chancellor of the Diocese of Norwich, said asking to have pet names such as Popsicle engraved on headstones could be regarded as "lacking appropriate dignity or reverence".

Ms Arlow made the ruling in her role as a judge of the Church of England's consistory court when considering the case of a Fakenham family's wish to have the words 'Dad and Grandad' included on the gravestone of John Walden, who died in January last year aged 65.

Ms Arlow overruled a previous decision by The Rev Clive Wylie, vicar of St Mary's Church at Syderstone, who refused permission to use the words on Mr Walden's gravestone after he was buried in the churchyard last year.

Mr Wylie said he would give his permission for the words 'father and grandfather' to be used, but in her ruling Ms Arlow said he had gone too far.

She said: "I am quite satisfied that there is nothing in the use of the terms 'dad' and 'grandad' on a memorial which lacks appropriate dignity or reverence."

But Ms Arlow added that if permission were sought for use of nicknames such as 'Popsicle' they might be questioned as "lacking appropriate dignity or reverence".

She said: "The same cannot be said of the words 'dad' and 'grandad', which are commonly used by most families in this country.

"Indeed, the common nature of the usage of those terms is reflected in how commonly they are seen on memorials both in this churchyard and others up and down the country."

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Mr Walden's widow Pauline and his daughter Caroline fought a long-running battle to have the original decision overturned.

After the Diocese of Norwich finally reversed the vicar's decision, the family had a headstone reading "in loving memory of a dear husband, dad and grandad" erected.

After the decision was made, Miss Walden said: "Now we have a place, that as a family, we can come to once a fortnight to visit him and change the flowers."

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