WHISPERING SMITH: Overgrown cemetery is an insult to village dead

IT IS A CHUNK of land just a little larger than the average backyard.

A desolate, miserable place surrounded by a broken-down chain link fence, dead or dying ivy encrusted trees and smothered in weeds, brambles and discarded cement.

Hidden away in a corner of an industrial estate, it is the last resting place of 57 Rustington souls. It beggars belief that these people have been so abandoned and forgotten by most and treated with less dignity than that shown by archaeologists when unearthing human remains from the Bronze Age for a popular television show.

The cemetery, between the Brookside Industrial Estate and a garage compound at the rear of Wolstenbury Road, was consecrated in 1925, when the village churchyard ran out of room. It was deconsecrated in 1982, when the surrounding land was being developed for housing and industry, and since then has fallen into a state of total disrepair.

There are no markers, no stones or crosses left to convey the fact that therein are the remains of so many people. The gravestones and memorials were either destroyed or transferred to the churchyard, but not so the bodies of the buried.

The first burial there was of Emma Blunden, in 1926, and the last was of Henry Doleman, in 1952. Beneath the ground and hidden among the weeds are buried George Granger, the oldest resident at 91 years, and an 11-month-old baby, George Lane.

Also resting there is a Second World War bomb blast victim, whose name appears on the village war memorial, and a child killed when he fell from the tree he was climbing. Most are single graves, while a few are family graves containing more than one body.

Mary Taylor Rustington’s official historian, rightly believes the site should be cleared, grassed and fenced and that a memorial plaque bearing witness to the names of those interred should be erected and some dignity returned to the dead.

It is not a big ask and were I kin of any of those within the graveyard, I would demand it.

So, come on Rustington Parish Council, pony up, you have a beautiful annual garden and flower display in your village – it would not be much of a stretch to include this forgotten piece of land. It is the right thing to do.