GRIEVING families were left in shock after they discovered flowers and ornaments had been removed from the graves of their loved ones.

Family members were outraged after wardens at St Oswald’s Church in Burneside were told to remove flowers and precious items from the headstones in the graveyard - citing rules had previously not been enforced.

But the removals of items such as artificial flowers, toys, pebbles, and small statue monuments has triggered an intense backlash against the church.

Many items were put in the yard’s bins with some being broken in the process, claim residents.

Local resident Jenny Jones was left heartbroken when her daughter’s headstone was stripped of flowers and ornaments that she had left for her.

She said: “It’s disgusting. The whole grave had been stripped as had all of the others.

“Apparently it's some rules that had always been there but never enforced, and without warning they were enforced.

“I buried my daughter 12 years ago and we have always put flowers on her grave. The old vicar was amazing and he would tend to the flowers and remark how nice they looked.

“We had flowers and angels on her grave - all presents for her on birthday that I couldn’t give to her in real life. It’s all been taken.”

Items removed were later found in the bins but these were later retrieved and organised properly for people to find by Rosie McNamara, who described the situation as heart-breaking.

Rosie said: “I saw my friend whose daughter passed away walking out of the graveyard with her daughter’s belongings and there was no compassion or care for her. She was offered a box but she couldn’t find the rest of her things because she couldn’t bring herself to rifle through other people’s things.

“So, I organised them myself so people wouldn’t have to take their loved one’s items out of bins. They should never have to do that.

“There was one lady so distressed she could not find her son’s heart little heart plaque. We were up here for nearly three hours finding it because I’d seen it the day before.

“A few things were broken, some things damaged. They were not placed.

“I’m a mother of five and my worst nightmare, like any parent, is losing a child. And seeing others go through this revives so many feelings of grief for people.

“People have had belongings on the graves of their loved ones for years, and now they have to come and collect them and being left with no idea of what they can do next.

“It is wrong and it is so disrespectful.”

Parish Councillor Derrick Wade, a resident of Burneside for over 50 years, and a councillor for 15 years, described the action as ‘completely disgusting’.

“They should have let people know," he said.

“It’s been dumped by the bins.

“These are people’s families, friends, loved ones. The way it was done; I am not blaming the people who were told to do it, but the people who put this forward should see what they have done.

“I love this community, it’s my home. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I wouldn’t leave, but I just can’t believe what has happened. I honestly can’t believe it.”

Collin Berry's brother Michael's headstone was stripped despite being tended to for years by his mother.

He said: “The grave was stripped bare.

“My mum goes down every day and makes it look nice with flowers and ornaments but they have removed all of it.

“They put a post on Facebook saying they were going to do it but my mum doesn’t have Facebook so she only found out after it had been taken.

“We went yesterday and they had removed every single thing and dumped it in the bins. Very disrespectful.

“As you can imagine I was not best pleased to say the least. But my mum was gutted.

“They said this rule has been in place for years but not implemented.

“They did say you can put fresh flowers on the graves, which people did on Sunday, but they got removed as well.”

Another resident was shocked to find his grandfather’s grave had also been stripped.

Ryan Staveley said: “It’s the most shocking and disgusting thing. I can’t believe it.

“Things have been removed from artificial flowers to trinkets. I understand you can’t overfill or block other graves but none of these things were doing that.

“My grandfather had worked behind the graveyard for 47-years and we lost him two years ago due to Covid. We couldn’t have a full service and only ten people could gather at his grave.

“The only thing my auntie and cousins could do was visit his grave and maintain it.

“This is a real insult to the community.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Carlisle said residents were given prior notice.

They said: “The Diocese of Carlisle – the Church of England in Cumbria – understands that a number of ornaments and artificial flowers have been removed from graves in St Oswald’s Burneside churchyard, after due notice was given months in advance.

“We understand the sensitivities that surround this situation and are deeply sorry if people have been left feeling hurt or angry," said the spokesman.

“However, these items were in contravention of the Churchyard Regulations which are overseen by the Chancellor of the Diocese who is the ecclesiastical Judge with ultimate responsibility for decisions affecting churchyards. An incumbent does not have any delegated powers to allow such items to be laid.

“The rationale behind the Churchyard Regulations is to ensure that burial grounds are kept in good order, showing respect for all those who have died and as far as possible to comfort those whose loved ones are buried there. They also protect the valuable heritage of our churchyards as places where people can come to pray, reflect, and remember.

“Both the Chancellor and the incumbent have spoken to some of those affected, offering an opportunity to talk through their concerns whilst also explaining more about the Churchyard Regulations which govern all churchyards in the Diocese.

“The Diocese also understands that every effort has been made to communicate with people at the earliest opportunity. In May 2021, a notice was posted in the local parish newsletter explaining the need for such items to be removed. This appeared again shortly after and furthermore in January 2022. In February’s newsletter people were asked to remove the items, with a further notice appearing in March’s newsletter to explain that items would start to be removed from graves and stored for collection.

“We would always encourage conversations to be had with clergy or PCC members about any particular wishes there may be for a burial plot, whilst also recognising the importance of the Regulations in managing these areas of valuable heritage and great responsibility.”

Gayle Howarth, of the Burneside Resident’s Association, said that they will stand by their residents during this difficult time.

She said: “I think it’s been a rule for a long time but it has never been implemented. It has brought up a lot of grief for people.

“We are going to remove all the items from the bins and put them somewhere safe, just at least so that we can keep them safe until the situation is resolved.

“It is heart-breaking for local people.

“Many people have loved ones who don’t actually live in the village, so they may have left trinkets or pebbles on graves and not realised they have been removed.

“However, Alan McDowell from B&Q Kendal has donated flowers for residents to place in the church yard.”

An online petition has been launched against the removal by local resident Ash Mcrobbie which can be found on