Overgrown burial ground, last resting place of the village dead

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March 27, 2014 by Whispering Smith

Whispering Smith Column published in the Littlehampton Gazette March 20th.2014

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. It is in a hidden corner of an industrial estate and is the last resting place of fifty seven Rustington souls. It beggars belief that these local residents have been so abandoned and forgotten by most and treated with less dignity than that shown by archaeologists when unearthing the remains of Bronze Age peoples 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 local church yard 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 local church yard 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 eleven month old baby, George Lane. Also buried there is a WW2 bomb blast victim – whose name appears on the local 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 and contain 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 real estate. It is the right thing to do. 

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