March 2021: News from your local MP

March 01 2021

Is your loved one buried in Mangotsfield Cemetery?

MOST cemeteries that aren’t part of a churchyard are a product of the late nineteenth century, when church burial grounds started to become full, overcrowded and people started looking for other solutions. These became peaceful sanctuaries of remembrance, carefully designed and manicured to create a tranquil place for families and friends to mourn and remember.
They also act as a form of social history; as Natural England puts it, a biography of the community, where you can walk and learn more about the people who lived in our area before us. We can see their names, often learn something about a family. Sometimes we might even find out a little bit of how they died. Memorials in these cemeteries are a great source of information about the lives lived by those before us.
Most often the management of cemeteries falls under the auspices of the local authority, as it is in South Gloucestershire, where the council first built Mangotsfield Cemetery in 1880. The council have done a good job maintaining the facility and keeping it in good order, both well maintained and safe for visitors.
The pandemic has taken away much from us that once was ordinary and routine. For those with relatives buried at Mangotsfield, and any other burial place, they have not been able to visit their friends or loved ones or tend to their graves; maybe because of the lockdown restrictions, or maybe before that due to shielding or other health concerns.
As such, I was concerned when I was notified that the council had put up signage on unsafe headstones, indicating that they were at risk of removal if plot owners didn’t contact the council. Knowing that people might not have had the chance to make the journey, I made people aware on my social media channels that they might need to check and made enquiries with the council. They confirmed that while those who they had records for had been contacted, others who they did not would have to contact them, hence the signage on the headstones.
I'm grateful that the council have now decided to extend the time plot owners have to contact them if they think their headstone might be unsafe. It’s right that the council do all they can to keep the site safe, and to protect other visitors from unstable masonry. But we must be conscious of the restrictions in place, and make sure that people aren’t making unnecessary journeys during lockdown that made the original deadline of January 31 unsuitable, no matter how well-intentioned.
My team and I are here to help with anything I might be able to assist with. You can email me on jack.lopresti.mp@parliament.uk or call 01454 617783 on Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm.