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88-year-old widow left devastated after being told she cannot be buried with late husband in churchyard of Holy Trinity, Southwell

An 88-year-old widow has been left devastated after being told she cannot be buried with her late husband.

Active Christian Edith Murden and husband, Reginald, paid for a joint plot in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Southwell.

But now she has been told in a letter from the vicar, the Rev Andrew Porter, backed by the diocese, that the churchyard is closed to new burials and only cremated remains are accepted.

Edith Murden, who just wants to be buried with her husband in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Southwell, below
Edith Murden, who just wants to be buried with her husband in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Southwell, below

This, said Rev Porter, followed changes to Environment Agency legislation, which could have far-reaching consequences for churches that are near watercourses all over the country.

Edith is a life-long Southwell resident and generations of her family are buried in the churchyard, the only burial ground left in the town.

She was in the church choir in her younger years and ran the Sunday school. Their two sons were christened at Holy Trinity and Reginald, who worked at Staythorpe Power Station until his retirement, used to cut the grass and trim the hedges for free.

Holy Trinity Church, Southwell. (46644502)
Holy Trinity Church, Southwell. (46644502)

“The letter said that I couldn’t be buried there with my husband and I would have to be cremated,” said Edith, herself a great-grandmother: “You can imagine how devastated I was hearing that.

“It’s broken my heart. I just want clarity and to have our last wishes respected.

“All of my family are in that churchyard. We all believed in burial so I don’t want to be cremated or on my own at the Oxton Burial Ground.

“I’ve paid for the plot and expected to be buried there with Reginald.”

Holy Trinity Church and Edith. (46678848)
Holy Trinity Church and Edith. (46678848)

Edith met Reginald one Saturday when she worked at the box office of the Southwell cinema and he bought a ticket for the dance hall upstairs.

Romance immediately blossomed when she finished her shift and found him waiting for her, which led to a long and very happy marriage.

Tearfully, she said: “Why has no one heard this? Why isn’t it public that you can’t be buried at Holy Trinity now, even if your spouse is already there?”

In his letter, Rev Porter wrote: “There have been important changes in the Environment Agency’s legislation and guidance relating to water courses near to graveyards — in our case this means Potwell Dyke and also existing groundwater levels.

“Having carefully considered these, the parochial church council has sadly reached the conclusion that we would be in breach of these if we were to receive full burials into the graveyard, and as such we have to make the extremely difficult decision that it will no longer be possible for us to do so, either into new or existing graves.

“I, the PCC, and indeed everyone at Holy Trinity very much appreciate that this might come as a shock and maybe extremely upsetting for you, especially if there was an intention to add a further burial, other than cremated remains, to this grave, and for this we are truly sorry.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham said: “We understand the surprise and distress caused to some parishioners at Holy Trinity affected by the Environment Agency’s new legislation and guidance, which ends all future burials at the church, with immediate effect, due to the graveyard’s proximity to a water course and levels of groundwater in the vicinity.

“This is guidance to ensure that we meet the legal obligation to protect the environment, which we are not able to overturn.

“We will continue to discuss alternative options with affected parishioners to try and ease their distress by reaching the best possible alternative solution.”

Town council chairman Sally Reynolds said: “This news is very distressing to residents who believed that they would be buried with loved ones in family plots.

“I understand that reluctantly Holy Trinity Church PCC has had to follow new legislation which does not permit future burials close to watercourses.

“Southwell Town Council is not directly involved with the decision of the PCC. Southwell does not have any available cemetery space and the town council is searching for a suitable piece of land on which to create a new cemetery for our residents.”

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