Further to the article in last week’s newspaper from the Friends of Lumbutts Chapel Group, of which I am an active member, I write to ensure that the people of Todmorden are aware of the possible consequences of a sale or long lease of the churchyard.
The Methodist faith is non-conformist, the churchyard is not consecrated ground. It is privately owned land. It’s future is entirely at the jurisdiction of the church who can do with it as they see fit, this includes releasing themselves of all liability through closure, sale or lease.
Should the churchyard be closed, sold or leased to a private owner I understand that people with specific named burial rights could still open up graves or be buried, however those who are not specifically named on paperwork may find that the opening up of graves and burial is at the discretion of the new owner unless they can prove that they have inherited the burial right. Once the last burial right in the churchyard is honoured, I believe there is a 50 year period in which remains cannot be removed without consent from the next of kin; after this the leaseholder may be free to remove remains.
Access to the churchyard is another area of concern, whilst the Methodist Circuit would stipulate the new owner must allow access, there is no guarantee that necessary legal action would be taken if access was removed.
The people of Todmorden have faced an uncertain future with regard to loved ones buried in the churchyard since the Chapel closed 12 months ago.
At the request of our community, we have worked hard to create a solution where the Methodist organisation remains responsible for the churchyard without any financial burden and the Methodist circuit are aware of our work but have made no comment to date. Many people from Todmorden and beyond are prepared to annually donate to pay for the upkeep of the yard. Financial burden is often a real and fair reason for the sale/lease of non-conformist burial grounds, however in this instance, this is not the case.
As a Todmordian with long standing connections with Lumbutts Chapel and churchyard and as a resident of Lumbutts, I call on the Upper Calder Valley Methodist Circuit to take note of the wishes of our community, to make note of the evident support and strong feeling that there is regarding this churchyard. I invite them to take up our proposal of financial support.