A TOWN council has agreed to pay to reinstate dozens of flattened gravestones in a cemetery near York after it accepted that communication over 'topple testing' should have been better.

Haxby Town Council held a full council meeting on Monday, December 11 in which it passed the resolution.

The move follows a public apology made on the town council's website, noticeboard and Facebook page after the safety ‘topple testing’ in Haxby and Wigginton Cemetery in October left 87 gravestones lying flat on the ground.


Haxby Town Council jointly operates the cemetery in Oaken Grove with Wigginton Parish Council – a cemetery committee is made up of members from both councils.

Wigginton Parish Council issued its own apology in a statement dated November 23 which also said that the joint cemetery committee ‘agreed it would take responsibility for instructing a specialist contractor to reinstate all headstones safely and to pay for these works directly.’

The statement also said that 'advice was received that the participating councils, Haxby Town Council and Wigginton Parish Council, also needed to agree to this expenditure.

In October, gates to the cemetery had a notice dated October 9 attached, warning of the ‘mandatory exercise’, saying that all upright headstones had been subjected to an independent ‘topple test’ to see if they were safe.

Some headstones had failed the test, it said, and would need to be laid flat. The notice added that the work was being done on October 11.

York Press: Some of the flattened gravestones. Picture: SWNS (Image: SWNS)Some of the flattened gravestones. Picture: SWNS (Image: SWNS) (Image: SWNS)

The notice concluded that: "Where possible the cemetery committee will contact grave owners and advise of the need to undertake repairs."

The town clerk at Haxby Town Council said that contact is an ongoing process because there is no one single source of contact details and that around half of the grave owners to date had been communicated with.

Several members of the public who have already had their loved ones’ gravestones righted attended the meeting on December 11 including John Wood - who said he’s travelled from Lincolnshire to attend Haxby Town Council meetings since the ‘toppling’ – and Carol Davis, who has been attending from Leeds.

John, whose grandmother is laid to rest in the cemetery, said: “I’m 600 miles into these return trips to the village now to sort this out.

“We’ve all done a lot of work on this, I’ve put a lot of time in.”

Carol’s mother is buried in cemetery and she said she only found out about the topple testing because people that she knew in Haxby told her.

Residents had also said that Christmas was the ‘crunch time’ for the potential lifting of gravestones.

Kirsty Richmond, whose father’s gravestone has been righted, said: “It’s almost Christmas - it’s depressing enough as it is, but with a stone being laid flat, to put a wreath or flowers on it is even more depressing.”

Luke Charters, the Labour Party parliamentary candidate for York Outer, which includes Haxby, said: “‘I had numerous conversations with many bereaved families and from October 16 have called for a public apology and for the cost of repairing the toppled gravestones to be met in full by the council.

“I am relieved that the committee have finally listened to my calls and those of the families affected.

"I also support the resolution that has been put forward by Haxby Town Council and Wigginton Parish Council.”

It is not yet known how much it will cost to carry out the work.