Council orders elderly man to remove decoration from wife’s grave

The 70-year-old man lost his wife almost two years ago, and has been devastated by the council's request.

An elderly man has been left disheartened after being ordered by council to remove a decoration from the grave of his late wife.

Terence Smith, 70, lost his wife Janis-Marie in August 2021, before laying her to rest at Gorleston crematorium, in Norfolk county, England.

He installed the small plastic fence eight months ago but earlier this month found a notice left on the grave from council instructing him to remove it.

"I put it up to make the grave look nice," Mr Smith told the Great Yarmouth Mercury. He added the request made him feel “very bad”.

He has since responded to the notice but has not heard back from council. He is vowing to keep the fence in place.

A gravestone is decorated with flowers and a small white fence, which council is ordering to be removed.
Terrence Smith has been told by his local council that he must remove the white fence surrounding his wife's headstone. Source: Great Yarmouth Mercury/Supplied

Others mourners receive same letter

In response to the paper’s Facebook post, other families revealed that they too have received letters on their relative’s graves.

One woman said she lost her 23-year-old sister, who left behind three young children, and also installed a small fence around the grave “to ensure there is a nice, pretty looking space for her children to visit”.

“I removed the first letter and I’ll be removing the other one that’s currently up there. It’s doing no harm whatsoever,” she wrote.

"They now have to live the rest of their lives without a mummy. I really don’t think a small white fence is too much to ask for. It’s a small fence, not a 6ft monstrosity."

Another woman who lost her young daughter also received a notification on her child’s grave and went to the crematorium’s office “crying my eyes out”.

She initially removed the fence but is now vowing to fight against the notice and says she will put it back up.

Council says fences could be a ‘problem’

A spokesperson for Great Yarmouth Borough Council told the Mercury certain items placed around burial plots “may cause a problem” in terms of maintenance and accessibility.

"We try to be as relaxed as possible and sympathetic with families because, as a council, we recognise individual circumstances differ and we understand people’s desire to memorialise the graves of their loved ones,” the spokesperson said.

"As part of our grounds checks we will identify graves and place a notification on the memorial where there are concerns that items either placed around on the plot may cause a problem for effective maintenance of the grounds, potentially impact on other graves close by or are likely to be a problem for other people accessing the cemetery.

"This is why Mr Smith had a notification about his plot, along with other plot leaseholders in the cemetery.”

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