St John’s Churchyard – important information

Although St John’s Church building was closed 15 years ago and later sold in 2010 to a private developer, the churchyard has remained the responsibility of the Bollington Parochial Church Council (PCC) based at St Oswald’s, our Parish Church, at Bollington Cross.

The churchyard is now closed to new burials, except where there is space in existing family graves. However, a legal complication has delayed the legal closure of some parts of the churchyard. This means that we have not been able to transfer responsibility and costs for maintenance of the churchyard automatically to the local council. An informal request was therefore made to Cheshire East in 2016 to take on this responsibility but this was turned down. Due to a lack of sufficient local volunteers able or willing to carry out maintenance of the churchyard on a regular basis, we first engaged the help of the Community Payback Team over five years ago now. Following discussions with Bollington Town Council, arrangements have now been made for the Community Payback Team to cut the grass regularly through the growing season. This was carried out successfully during last year and, at the time of writing, the grass is short, allowing access to all graves. Ours is a very large graveyard so several visits are required to complete the whole area. We hope this arrangement will continue this year.

The church’s obligation for maintenance extends to the safety of the churchyard and its memorials, in order to comply with Chester Diocesan Churchyard Regulations (which can be found on the Diocesan website). Regular and fully documented safety inspections will be carried out at intervals, to identify:
– Risks from trees, in order to carry out safety work where necessary (in line with any Tree Preservation Order)
– Dangerous headstones and monuments
– Any breaches of Chester Diocesan Churchyard Regulations.

Potentially unsafe graves were identified in an inspection carried out in November last year, using the St John’s Churchyard Plan. In all, 75 graves have been noted, 30 of which we consider may need attention. Overextended graves which contravene the Churchyard Regulations, open graves and any that could be a tripping hazard have also been noted, as well as graves undermined by saplings that may cause damage and/or instability.

Any laying down of dangerous headstones has to be done with the agreement of the family who own the monument or otherwise by approval of the Diocese, via a Faculty application. The laying down will be carried out by a suitably qualified person.

The first interments in the Rose Garden

The Columbarium at St John’s was opened in 1958 and fifty-odd years later, space for further interments was becoming limited. Many of you have been kind enough to contribute to the cost of creating more space within the Columbarium to try to meets the present and future needs of our community. We now have an area for interring cremated remains loosely into a Garden of Remembrance, which has as a central focus a variety of rose appropriately called “Peace”.

(In this new grassed section, ashes will simply be placed not in caskets but directly into the soil, and the names and dates of the deceased will be engraved on stone plaques fixed to the new Rose Garden wall. Under the agreed regulations, there won’t be any markers on the lawned area itself – as happens also at Macclesfield Cemetery Garden of Remembrance – so that this special area for interments will be able to accommodate far more interments in future than would be possible otherwise.)

William and Joan Mary Green were the first to have their cremated remains interred into the Rose Garden on 25 September 2015. The pictures show stonemason William Warrington fixing the first memorial to the adjacent Memorial Wall.

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Read more about the project to extend to the Columbarium here

RIP Revd William David Thomas, former Vicar of Bollington

It was a lovely sunny day in June 2011 – which may seem a long time ago when you read this – but it really was a warm and pleasant afternoon when we gathered together in the Columbarium to bury the ashes of the Revd William David Thomas, Vicar of Bollington from 1947 to his early death in 1953.

For many years his ashes have reposed in a Memorial inside St John’s Church, but with the prospect of alterations to the Church, they were taken to rest for a few months in the little chapel room at the Vicarage and have now been moved to an honoured space in the Columbarium.

Present for the service were Winifred – now aged 90 – (Fr Thomas’ widow, subsequently married to the Revd Dennis Prewer – also present – and both now living in retirement together in Marple) and Daughter Veronica (who lives in Grimsby) and Son Robin (Rob) who lives in Penzance.

The family enjoyed a delightful lunch at the Church House Inn hosted by the present Vicar, with much reminiscing about times gone by and sharing memorabilia, such as Fr Thomas’ first pocket prayer book dating from his time as a Reader before his Ordination. Canon Roy Arnold – who then took the service – welcomed them and some representative members of our congregation who were able to be present and who had fond memories of Fr Thomas’ time as Vicar.

Jackie Pengelly, one of our current Churchwardens, showed Rob a photo taken of the two of them as young children at St John’s School, parading down Palmerston Street dressed up as (cheerful) bride and (somewhat reluctant-looking) groom! Roy recalled how he and Hylda (and others present there) had been prepared for Confirmation by Fr Thomas in the late 1940s – which seems even further away than last June! Roy said that, after Confirmation, Fr Thomas asked him to be a Church Server, but Roy found the prospect so alarming that he completely disappeared from Church Life for a few years. However he returned for the Funeral Service of Fr Thomas (after his sudden death in post in October 1953) when there was a packed congregation in the former Parish Church. At that service Roy realised that he had let the Vicar down and he promised to himself that he would get to know and to work with the next Vicar better…which he did. The rest of that story is – as they say – history, with Roy now approaching the 48th anniversary of his own Ordination this September! Not bad for someone who felt too timid (or unwilling) to be a Server in his younger days.

The memorial tablet, which had been placed in front of the niche in the Lady Chapel holding the marble casket, has now been put over Fr Thomas’ final resting place and bears the simple inscription after his name: “A Faithful Priest”. This is a real tribute to someone whose ministry here (albeit short) has left such a worthwhile legacy.

In September 2012 we heard that Fr Thomas’s widow Winifred Prewer has now died

May they rest in peace and rise in glory.