Grave reservations must be proved

After 600 years Littleham Churchyard is almost full and those with ‘reservations’ are being asked to prove their claim because of a legal loophole.

More than 12,000 people have been buried in Littleham Churchyard since the reign of Edward Longshanks in the 14th century.

But it could be just five years before the churchyard is full and this has forced wardens look again at the 50 plots marked ‘reserved’ in the parish register between 1942 and 1989.

Chairman of the churchyard committee Bob Soutter said: “Some have been reserved for more than 60 years and the chances are that the people for whom the plots were reserved have long since died and been buried elsewhere.”

He said that the 50 individuals had their paperwork incorrectly processed by a now-defunct firm of Exmouth undertakers or by the former vicar Reverend Roger Urwin who retired 1988.

He said: “(Mr Urwin)… may have been under the misapprehension that he was entitled to take reservations but it in fact has to go through a legal process called a faculty and none have been registered before 1989.

“All we have is 50 names on a register and a date…. Unfortunately, despite exhaustive searching we can not find record of any paperwork relating to reservations before this.”

Most Read

But Mr Soutter has pledged to honour the reservations - as long as residents can produce a letter from either a solicitor or Mr Urwin.

“I ask that anyone who believes that they have a reservation to send or take to the parish office any documentation they may have.”

He predicted that there could be only enough room for another five years: “A few years ago, cremations were in in-thing and that would have meant at least another 20 or 30 years.

“But it has now swung back to traditional or natural burials… but there is no need to panic as there is at least five to 10 years left.”

Please send in documents to the Holy Trinity Church, Rolle Road, EX8 2AB where a copy will be taken.