Asked and Answered

Although you don’t discover this unexpected haulage industry until you ask your first question, you pretty much think twice before you do it again.

It’s a bit of a todo now, asking questions of councils. You can’t ask them anything any more without them firing up the heavy machinery of the Freedom of Information Act. This means that instead of responding to a quickie with an equally quick response, they get to delay (by which I mean carefully consider) any action for up to ten days, and they may decide to charge you for their time. That’s what happens if you write (by email, using their website). I don’t know what happens if you ring up somebody on the council and just ask a question while they’re on the phone (because you think they might just happen to know). Maybe they’ll just answer on the spot. No biggie if they don’t.

So when I make what I imagine to be a fairly ordinary query about gravestones (as you do) in Preston Cemetery, all this equipment starts to cough, creak, and rumble into heavy-duty tree-chewing action. It’s not like I was given any choice in this. It had not even occurred to me that what I might have regarded as a preliminary to some possible later further research would itself trigger the slow and exceeding-small. You cannot escape the feeling that they make such a big deal out of it in order to discourage questions.

But anyway, I did kick it off, and so everybody will (eventually, not quite yet though) get to see what I asked and their response. The actual formal document will not appear on their website (round about here) for a couple of months (it’s RFI 4416 by the way) yet, but at least I have my copy. I’m permitted to post it for news and/or non-commercial reasons, so that’s OK. By now you – in the privileged position of reading this – absolutely have to care what I asked, due to all the kerfuffle alone, don’t you? And you get it in advance of (the) hoi polloi. So here it’s.

There are quite a few gravestones along the wall of Tynemouth Crematorium. I believe they were brought here from the old Cemetery, now long gone. Do you know of any documentation of them, notably of their original provenance? Furthermore, since many of them are in a state of disrepair, does the council have any scheme in place for people to sponsor these old gravestones? It’s quite common (though I shan’t say prevalent) for councils to try to maintain these ancient stones that way. Naturally it would also apply to the more conventionally located and remembered gravestones – not those imports to which I refer.

And their answer, such as it is

Many years ago, a number of memorials were removed from Christ Church Churchyard and repositioned near the north walls of Preston Cemetery. On the south wall, memorials from a former Quaker Burial Ground can also be found. There are no records on site of the dates they were transferred to this cemetery or of the number of memorials involved. The North Tyneside Council is not responsible for maintaining any family memorials and does not currently operate a scheme sponsoring ancient stones.



About pussonalamp
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