Villager ready to fight for future of Whaplode Cemetery Chapel

A funeral director and the brother of a former Whaplode Parish Council member have called for its cemetery chapel to be saved from demolition.

A funeral director and the brother of a former Whaplode Parish Council member have called for its cemetery chapel to be saved from demolition.

  • Brother of late parish councillor against plans to get rid of ‘nice, old chapel’
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Plans to replace Whaplode Cemetery Chapel with a garden of remembrance are being opposed by the brother of a former parish councillor.

John Welch (69), whose brother Alec was a member of Whaplode Parish Council for 25 years before his death in October 2010, wants to see the 123-year-old chapel kept for the community in the same way as Holbeach Cemetery Chapels.

Parish councillors launched a public consultation last month when they claimed that the cost of renovating the chapel, built in 1893, would be an estimated £20,000.

But Mr Welch said: “Myself and others in the village would like to see the chapel saved like the one in Holbeach Cemetery.

“It could be used for services where people don’t want to have a church or cremation service and there are a lot of people who want this kind of burial.

“Also, I don’t want to see it demolished for sentimental reasons as I can remember when, if it was too wet to dig the graves, the coffins were put in the chapel until they could be buried.

The Rev Rosamund Seal, Vicar of Holbeach and Rural Dean of Elloe East which includes Whaplode.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

The Rev Rosamund Seal, Vicar of Holbeach and Rural Dean of Elloe East which includes Whaplode. Photo by Tim Wilson.

“My family and other people think it is a nice, old chapel and it would be a shame to just knock it down.”

Mr Welch’s views were backed by Spalding funeral director Mark Forth who said: “I think Whaplode Cemetery Chapel can be used again for people who say ‘I’ve got to go straight to the crematorium for the funeral because our family doesn’t want to go to a church’.

“But the parish council seems to have put the future of the chapel out to just the people of Whaplode, 95 per cent of whom probably now have no ties or interest in it.”

A parish council statement at the time of the public consultation’s launch said: “Whaplode Parish Council has confirmed plans to extend the cemetery on land next to the current site as there are now only a few unreserved plots left in the existing cemetery.

My family and other people think it is a nice, old chapel and it would be a shame to just knock it down

John Welch of Whaplode

“Whilst this work is carried out, it is also planned to demolish the unused chapel which is in a poor state due to its age and some vandalism. “Councillors have considered renovating the building but, with an estimated £20,000 needed to just make the building secure, they do not think it is a prudent use of council tax monies.

“Our current plans are to turn the chapel’s site into a garden of remembrance where visitors can sit and reflect.

“The current drive and turning circle will be renewed at the same time so that after these works have been carried out, the cemetery should serve the needs of the community for the next 25 years.”

The future of Whaplode Cemetery Chapel may depend on whether it has “an outstanding heritage value”, according to the Vicar of Holbeach.

The Rev Rosamund Seal, who is also the Rural Dean of Elloe East which includes Whaplode, said: “Parish councils have a very important role to play in ensuring the continued existence of suitable provision for burials and interments of ashes in local communities.

“It is very important for local people to feel that they can be buried alongside past family members in their local communities.

“I therefore commend Whaplode Parish Council’s foresight in purchasing land which will, I am sure, be sympathetically blended in with the existing cemetery provision.

“As regards the demolition of Whaplode Cemetery Chapel, such buildings are no longer used for funeral services as people prefer to have either a full church service or a cremation.

“Unless such buildings have an outstanding heritage value, they are usually not worth the expense of maintaining.

“Therefore, the provision of an area for cremated remains, with suitable seating, would be a beneficial addition to what is already provided.”

Two-stage plan to expand Whaplode Cemetery