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Church Says Plans Are Progressing Well In Bid To Sell Off Graveyard

The rector of a Guildford church is pleased that plans to sell off land, in the form of a closed graveyard, in order to raise funds to expand its buildings is progressing.

A six-week consultation in which St John’s Church in Stoke Road, Guildford, sought comments from people over its plans to exhume human remains in its west churchyard, opposite the church and bordering Joseph’s Road, has passed with few objections, according to the rector, the Revd Mark Woodward.

Looking towards the church from the west churchyard.

Looking towards the church from the west churchyard.

The consultation was ordered by the Ministry of Justice, and Mr Woodward said: “We receive far fewer objections than we had expected by the deadline of December 19. Most of those we did receive were from people concerned with the loss of green space and trees.”

The church received three letters from people who, in general, agreed with the church’s plans, but stated that any remains found under memorial stones of their families should be re-buried as found and not cremated with other remains.

The west churchyard.

The west churchyard.

They include descendants of Admiral Sir James Stirling, the first governor of Western Australia, whose wife was Ellen Mangels. Her family lived at Woodbridge, Guildford. The descendants have commented on other members of the Mangels family buried in the churchyard. However, the whereabouts of James and Ellen’s remains are unknown.

If the church gets the go-ahead to remove all the remains from the churchyard after a second consultation ordered by the Church of England’s Church Commissioners (that concerns the deconsecration of the land), work will begin. The period of the second consultation ends on January 29.

Anyone wishing to object can email their objections to: rex.andrew@churchofengland.org

Mr Woodward said if the work goes ahead it will be done carefully and skilfully. The remains (other than those specified) will be cremated and then reburied, as will the specified ones, in a plot on the opposite side of the road to the north side of the church.

All headstones and other memorials will be removed and suitably placed in the vicinity of the church.

View from the junction of Joseph's Road and Stoke Road.

View of the churchyard from the junction of Joseph’s Road and Stoke Road.

Donna Collinson of the Joseph’s Road Residents’ Association is opposed to the church’s plan. She said: “Since the road [Stoke Road] was laid the graveyard has always been a green public open space, now surrounded by a quality Victorian Bargate stone wall galleted with ironstone chips.

“The churchyard is opposite the Grade II listed church and the war memorial that we recently had listed as Grade II. On the Joseph’s Road side the churchyard is fronted by the Grade II listed cottages noted as the ‘Jacobean Hostelry’.

“It has the most evergreen yew trees (nine) in any Guilford churchyard and a very old box tree.

“Resident parishioners, Guildfordians and visitors are shocked and horrified at the prospect of the graves being removed, remains dug up and the trees being felled for development.

“We have been resident parishioners for 35 years. The churchyard is an oasis of green in a frenetic place, full of wonderful bird song, well maintained and so beautiful and atmospheric.”

Donna has also suggested that the funds the church aims to raise by the selling off the land for its proposed building extension could be raised by other means.

She said: “St John’s could follow the fundraising examples of Guildford Cathedral, Holy Trinity and St Mary’s Churches. Theirs included Heritage Lottery funding matched by their own fundraising involving the community. For example, Guildford Cathedral’s latest Make your Mark project and the original Buy a Brick scheme.

“St John’s can achieve it’s proposed development whilst keeping its west churchyard. It can create a legacy making a contribution and conserving a tangible piece of history and open green space for future generations.”

She adds that the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) is also opposing the plans. In a statement she received from GGG’s Susan Parker, she wrote: “While our focus as an organisation is on rural open space, we are all also extremely concerned at the potential loss of significant public open spaces in the town, particularly when the area is important in terms of heritage, trees which are of significance and areas of community importance. The churchyard is an important community open space, it has important trees and it has walls of architectural importance.”

The obelisk is part of the memorial to the Paynter family. Samuel Paynter was rector in the 19th century, and was succeeded by his son Francis.

The obelisk is part of the memorial to the Paynter family. Samuel Paynter was rector in the 19th century, and was succeeded by his son Francis. The Paynters played an important role in funding the building of other churches in Guildford including Christchurch, St Saviour’s and Emmanuel.

The rector added: “As part of our consultation that included public notices, we delivered 120 postcards about the proposal to local residents and held a public exhibition to which about 21 people came. We have had people very much supporting of plans, saying that it is good and that something is being done to a derelict churchyard.”

Mr Wodward pointed out that, to his knowledge, the west churchyard has few visitors, but sadly there have on occasions been homeless people using it as somewhere to sleep.

He has been the rector of St John’s for nine years and says the church is growing with an average Sunday attendance of 200 worshipers, with up to 70 children too.

St John’s also welcomes many other people to its events and regular activities, such as a lunch club than caters for about 50 people each month. Its Stirling Centre that adjoins the church is booked out every day of the week, and in any given week St John’s is used by an average of 700 people.

The Stirling Centre on south side of the church.

The Stirling Centre on south side of the church.

The overall scheme for the church is to build a new church centre that can be used by the whole community. The proposed building will be on the north side of the church. It will be two stories high with the first floor sunk lower into the ground than the church itself.

Mr Woodward said: “Once we have built the new extension we will demolish the Stirling Centre that is now not at all adequate for our own use and for hirers and visitors. The kitchen, for example, is tiny and not suitable when it comes to catering for large numbers.

“On that site we will be able to create about 20 much needed car parking spaces. This will take pressure off nearby roads where some of our visitors sometimes park their cars.

“Ours is possibly the only community building in the Stoke part of Guildford and we need to improve it for our church members and the wider community.”

Looking towards the north side of the church where the new centre would be built.

Looking towards the north side of the church where the new centre would be built.

If the church succeeds in its plans to close the west churchyard and then sells the land, Mr Woodward said that the money it hopes to generate won’t fund the new build entirely. He said the church would undertake further fundraising and would look at grant schemes, perhaps similar to the ones other local churches have pursued, similar to those highlighted by Donna Collinson.

There are, of course, worries from those who do not want to see the land developed. It is likely that neighbouring land where the current fire station stands will also be earmarked for development once Guildford’s new fire station is open and the old one closed.

If the graveyard site is eventually allowed to be sold and a developer then submits a planning application, Guildford borough councillor for Friary & St Nicolas ward Caroline Reeves (lib-Dem) said: “If there is ever a planning applications we must look at the trees on the site. I support the idea of a green route into Guildford town centre. These values should also be maintained on the land owned by Surrey County Council on the ‘corner site’ by the Stoke interchange.

“St John’s Church has been conducting its consultations in a very fair and thorough way, and I support that.”

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59 Responses to Church Says Plans Are Progressing Well In Bid To Sell Off Graveyard

  1. Susan Parker Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Open spaces and green spaces matter to people both in the town and the countryside. They are not just areas for development, or to be used to fund other projects.

    Donna Collinson’s campaign to protect this churchyard should be applauded and supported.

    The Guildford Greenbelt Group has indeed written to object to building on this green historic space and will do so again at the next stage.

    Ancient yew trees and historic walls and graves should not be disregarded – they are part of our heritage.

    The church already does have quite a large community centre; it sounds as though the vicar is enthusiastically replacing this historic churchyard with a car park.

    • George Potter Reply

      January 21, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      While I agree that we should be doing all we can to protect urban greenspaces aren’t you also constantly calling for all housing development to take place within Guildford?

      Where do you think the space for that housing development will be if you also think that no urban greenspaces should be touched?

      I’m genuinely curious as to how you think you can reconcile those two beliefs – short of building massive towerblocks that is.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    It is stated that there have been few objections, but is it not possible that only a few people have been aware that this part of Stoke-next-Guildford is to lose part of its past.

    This final resting place is a both peaceful and green oasis situated in the midst of an area suffering from the chaos of modern day Guildford.

    Are we truly to be the generation that will see yet another iconic part of our town’s past and history disappear under concrete?

  3. Jean Milne Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    If you would like to St John’s churchyard please object to: rex.andrew@churchofengland.org by January 29.

    St John’s church, listed in the Domesday book, has shocked and appalled Guildford residents by seeking to sell its west churchyard for development.

    The churchyard is an area of timeless beauty, an oasis of green in a frenetic place, full of bird song and wildlife,created on a site of earlier Neolithic activity.

    It has an informal layout of trees, grass and tombs.It has always been a public green open space, it is defined ecologically, environmentally and historically by its Christian architecture and planting.

    The oasis contains nine native evergreen yew trees, three described as notable being approximately 300 years old; six that are well over 200 years old, the most in any Guildford churchyard; and a box tree over 150 years old, all historically significant to British churchyards.

    Well maintained by the local council, the verdant churchyard, enclosed by a galletted local Bargate sandstone wall, in the heart of the community, is something residents feel deeply about.

    St John’s churchyard was bisected by a road built in the 18th century and is enjoyed by a constant flow of people who pass through this historic green approach to Guildford.

    It contains over 500 graves, and 200 Portland stone memorials recording local ancestry, forming part of the social history of the area, reminders of past generations who helped shape the town today.

    It features the Paynter obelisk and grave of Ross Donnelly Mangles, chairman of the East India Co. and Guildford MP from 1841-58, brother of Ellen Mangles who married Admiral Sir James Stirling, who settled and governed Western Australia. That’s why there is another Guildford in Australia.

    Surrounding the churchyard, in direct line of sight is the Grade II* listed St John’s church, locally listed Lido Lodge, and the recently listed war memorial. To the side are 16th-century listed cottages all in harmony with each other.

    E.R. Chamberlin in his 1970 book Guildford A Biography pn page 47 described it as “an abandoned churchyard, almost hidden beneath its luxuriant trees and shrubs, survives to demonstrate in its own way that an open space did not necessarily have to be garnished with ‘amenities’ to be of social value”.

    In 1977 half of the churchyard was destroyed by development to build the rectory, stripped of all its heritage, yew trees felled, graves smashed sent to landfill and human remains removed or lost including those of James Stirling.

    The heritage value of the remaining half of the churchyard is unreservedly recognised, the need to retain historic architecture and places for wildlife poignant as it has diminished at an alarming rate since the 1970s.

    Prince Charles has written that if you destroy the past, or consistently deny its relevance to the present, man eventually loses his soul and his roots.

    St John’s church is seeking to sell the churchyard to fund a new extension to the church.

    Residents have suggested that by following the fundraising examples of other local churches and the cathedral, Heritage Lottery funding etc, the church could achieve its development goal without sacrificing its west churchyard.

    This becomes most important when viewed from the point that to the north the land has already been the subject of a development application for high density four-story flats, which was withdrawn.

    To the west the rectory, the 70s development owned by the Diocese of Guildford, which the rector has said will also be sold. This combined would form a very sizeable building plot of huge urban intensification. Development of those sites will happen, which brings into sharp focus the need for the green historic churchyard to be saved as the soul the oasis of an ever more urban society.

    In 2003, Holy Trinity churchyard was saved from development by a group of dedicated Guildford residents, councillors and GBC planners.

    Churchyards are ever more valued by English Heritage, wildlife and ancestry organisations and individuals.

    Now we need to act again to ensure St John’s west churchyard is also saved to create a legacy making a contribution by conserving a tangible piece of history and open green space for future generations.

    Jean Milne, a resident of Stoke Road for 35 years.

  4. Lisa Wright Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    The Mangles family really are being turned in their graves!

    Not only are there plans to desecrate their life long home of Blackwell Farm and the Hog’s Back where they lived in the 19th century, but the council are now to decide whether to dig them up from their resting places.

    I’m gobsmacked that we have no respect for our elders or their importance to Guildford’s history.

  5. Mandy Millyard Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Unfortunately, Mr Woodward’s postcard distribution didn’t make it as far as where I live, in Joseph’s Road itself – perhaps one of the reasons so few people were present at the public exhibition.

    There is another way to object, by signing an on-line petition :

    http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-st-johns-churchyard-from-development

    Thank you.

  6. Angela Wackett Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Although I have always received communications from St John’s Stoke re Christmas and Easter services etc, somehow I have received no communication from them at all, not about the original plan to redevelop the graveyard or, after we objected, the secondary plan.

    We have lived in Stoke Road for over 30 years and would be devastated by the loss of this important site. Perhaps the vicar would like to explain exactly where he has sent his 120 postcards as neither I nor my neighbours, also long Stoke Road residents, have received one.

  7. Jane Effingham Reply

    January 16, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Depressing that a vicar should seem so financially focused, and so concerned about the graveyard (rarely) providing the homeless with a place to sleep.

    I appreciate that the church has economic concerns but it should not sacrifice this historic and beautiful space to sate them. Instead why not do what, as a church, it is intended for and use this as a way to rally the community with a charity drive. Perhaps initiatives to help maintain the graveyard as it is and something to help guildford’s rough sleepers might also be included in plans.

    I will be sending my objection and hope this previous space can be saved.

  8. Daniel Reddick Reply

    January 17, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    I have e-mailed my objection to the e-mail address in the piece above and suggest others do so to.

    I do not live in Stoke Road but am appalled that this can get this far.

    I agree with a lot of the comments and the “need” for this money does not equate to the proposal to remove that green space and graves.

    I am an atheist and this sort of Holy betrayal enforces the corrupt work taken on in the name of the Lord.

  9. Jim Allen Reply

    January 17, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    There MUST be a better way!

  10. Neil Purrett Reply

    January 18, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Shocking that this can even be thought about. The church owns a property on Woking Road which they should sell at a profit and use the funds to build the extension which they claim to need.

  11. Anne Wright Reply

    January 18, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    This wonderful wildlife site gives such an opportunity to the church to involve community groups in gaining an understanding of the birds, insects including moths, butterflies and bees, and of the wild flowers which thrive in the churchyard.

    Please do not consider any changes until proper surveys have been completed and Surrey Wildlife Trust and Surrey Botanical Society have been consulted.

    This churchyard is likely to have goldcrests in the yews. The first step must be to list species during 2015.

    The church will then be able to assess the importance of the site and consider whether church members might wish to work with an organisation such as God’s Acre in conserving the site, together with GBC.

    Is a reference to the site as ‘derelict’ intended to be a joke?

  12. Norman Hamshere Reply

    January 19, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Before Rev. Mark Woodward desecrates the Stoke graveyard for redevelopment may I suggest he watches the Poltergeist movie!

  13. Paul Smith Reply

    January 19, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Your unanimously shocked and horrified responses represent the views of many Guildford residents.

    To make your views really count forward your comments to the church commissioners.
    rex.andrew@churchofengland.org by 29 Jan

    Join over 200 residents who have signed the online petition since Friday.

    http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-st-johns-churchyard-from-development

    Originally not many people knew about this, some of my neighbours and I got notice of the original meeting not a postcard but a small paper slip half the size of a post card which I suspect for many got lost among the junk mail we all receive.

    If we all act now we have the chance to save the iconic churchyard as previously Holy Trinity was saved.

  14. David Middleton Reply

    January 19, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    This appalling proposal should be stopped in its tracks! The desecration of this churchyard burial ground for cash is a shocking idea. As for the so called consultation, a postcard survey of 120 households in a parish with thousands of residents is frankly pathetic. NO! NO! NO!

  15. Sally Parrott Reply

    January 20, 2015 at 9:03 am

    I fear that a two-storey church centre to the north of St John’s church, even ‘sunk lower into the ground than the church itself’ would block precious evening light from swimmers at the lido.

    In addition, lido- and church-users seem to have shared use of the lido car park very amicably, so I see no reason to Tarmac over part of the churchyard for ‘much-needed’ car parking spaces.

    As organiser of classes for foreign students in church halls in Guildford, I’ve always felt that St John’s Stirling Centre is one of the best in terms of space and facilities. Perhaps the kitchen is small for large-scale catering, but it could probably be enlarged on its present site?

    The enthusiasm of rector Mark Woodward for building and Tarmacing over the east churchyard, and destroying the ‘derelict’ west churchyard, seems to show the pervasiveness of the current fashion for knocking down and developing, for a one-off profit, even in precious green areas of Guildford.

  16. Janet Moore Reply

    January 20, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    I am disgusing that the church can dig up the bodies from their last resting place for money.

    Desecration of such an old and pretty cemetery is unthinkable.

    I have walked around the cemetery many times reading the many gravestones. The Reverend Francis Paynter and his family rest here. They helped by donating money to build many of the churches in Guildford.

    Also Major Henry Paul Treeby, East Surrey Regiment, who was in the Boer War and also a JP for Surrey.

    So please think again before destroying this pretty little cemetery.

    [Ed: you are correct in saying that the Paynters paid for the building of several Guildford churches – Christ Church, St Saviour’s, Emmanuel and St Francis, and so on. But it seems that they were not buried in the west churchyard, the obelisk is only a memorial to them. More on this to follow.]

  17. Gordon Bridger Reply

    January 20, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    I thought that the church was selling off this land in order to provide several homes – a difficult decision but it turns out that it is to raise money for a new hall.

    Let the church users raise the money – plenty of wealthy people in Guildford!

    I am happy to help opponents if required.

  18. Sue and Peter Budding Reply

    January 21, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Having resided in Joseph’s Road for 35 years, we feel that the churchyard provides an essential part of the history and character of Joseph’s Road and the surrounding area and would like it to remain in its present form for future generations.

  19. Gerald Bland Reply

    January 21, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    What I can’t understand, and what should concern St John’s PCC as charity trustees, is why this controversial project should go public last November when it can only be brought to fruition if Guildford Borough Council or the Secretary of State grant planning permission for (i) a new two- storey community building and car park adjacent to the Grade 2* listed church and (ii) unspecified commercial development in the west churchyard. There also needs to be an open market buyer for the churchyard and the financials need to stack up.

    As far as I am aware, no such applications have been made nor has any faculty for the listed building works adjacent to the church been applied for from the Chancellor of the Diocese.

    Why then embark on the sensitive issue of exhumation of human remains and relocation of tombstones and incur the associated costs when the archeological, environmental, heritage and planning issues surrounding the entire church site render the issue of permissions and a faculty so speculative?

    And why would the rector and PCC want to vest the churchyard in the diocese now when there can be no certainty that there ever will be any sale proceeds or that they will be enough for what the rector and PCC intend?

    If the community want this green space retained, why have they not registered the west churchyard as an asset of community value under the Localism Act 2011 with Guildford Borough Council?

    Its community status would not only then be a material consideration under planning law, but they would also have the opportunity to buy the west churchyard were it offered for sale.

    • Angela Wackett Reply

      January 21, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      In reply to Gerald Bland’s comment: we are not all solicitors and we did not know such a thing existed.

  20. Gerald Bland Reply

    January 22, 2015 at 8:48 am

    The bigger issue is that the people of Stoke are disenfranchised.

    They have no elected representatives whose mandate is limited exclusively to Stoke and who through a parish rate have the ability to safeguard that community.

    This is not an issue just for Stoke but the entire urban area of Guildford, particularly now the development floodgates have been opened with an up to date Local Plan and CIL two years away.

    N.B. I have not practised as a solicitor for many years, and have removed my name from the Rolls,so my words just represent my personal view and no reliance should be placed on them.

  21. Gerald Dampier Reply

    January 22, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    A short poem: my letter to the bishop

    St John Stoke Churchyard, Guildford

    Please do not cut our yew trees down.
    So sad and soulless we should be
    Without such natural history.
    So save us more bare urban brown.

    Save this dense, dark layer of green,
    Which soaks up traffic fumes and light,
    Softens the noise all day, all night,
    And keeps our town’s treasured air clean.

    Respect our local vegetation,
    Respect the fauna, God’s creations,
    Respect our future generations.
    Cherish the peace of this location.

    Save this green end of the town,
    Please do not cut our yew trees down.

  22. Donna Collinson Reply

    January 22, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Thank you to the Guildford Dragon NEWS for publicising the plight of St John’s west churchyard and giving the people of Guildford this transparent platform on which to respond. Twenty residents have unanimously expressed their support for saving the churchyard.

    Their knowledgable comments from many perspectives, about early history and the possibility of goldcrest birds in the yew trees have added to the understanding of why this precious green space is so cherished by residents.

    The Dragon has highlighted the shock and horror felt locally about church proposals and the previous lack of public consultation. Residents of Joseph’s Road. and Stoke Road, in close proximity to St John’s not receiving one of the 120 paper slips for the pubic meeting, put in perspective by the comment 120 in a parish of how many? Thousands in this densely populated area.

    It has been pointed out that the church’s Stirling Centre is one of Guildford’s best in terms of space and facilities. A building only about 35 years old of solid construction built on firm foundations.

    Many of those who have commented here have objected to St John’s proposals by emailing their reasons to: rex.andrew@churchofengland.org the Church Commissioners.

    It is most important that those who have not yet done so yet and wish to save this iconic churchyard to forward their comments by the deadline of 29 January.

    They can join nearly 300 other residents by signing the online petition that was set up to coincide with the release of this article

    http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-st-johns-churchyard-from-development

    As a result of this level of public support for saving the churchyard from development, tomorrow’s Surrey Advertiser (January 23) will feature an article further publicising the threat and need to act in order to secure its future as a unique area of Guildford’s social history public open wildlife habitat.

  23. Matthew MacLachlan Reply

    January 23, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    It is really good to hear so many voices and comments about the proposed application for change of use, and I can understand many of the points raised.

    I would like to clarify on some of them:

    One commentator above refers to a “well maintained graveyard”. One of the concerns the church has had for many years is that many of the graves are in a dangerous state of repair, and it is out of concern for the homeless that occasionally stay there that they were mentioned at all.

    The person who describes the rector as “financially driven” has not heard him speak on the matter or met him in person. Several of the commentators above have been invited to meet personally in church and have not come. I believe the invitation still stands.

    The green space in question is on the edge of the biggest traffic intersection in Guildford and is neither peaceful, nor calm.

    Funding for the development will be from a number of sources, including fundraising.

    However, it is much more important to focus on the good news. St John’s church has been part of the Stoke community for 900 years with a long history of investment in community projects and loving care to the community.

    The current church and centre can no longer fully meet the demand of church and community groups.

    No one in the church leadership has embarked on this path for personal glorification or a desire to irritate the local residents. We have always had our minds on how we can bring glory to our God through service to our community.

    The church was built to serve God and the community and through a much needed expansion we hope and pray it will continue to do so.

  24. Zoë Young Reply

    January 23, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    I have read the above comments carefully. While I am sympathetic to the comments regarding the historical nature of the site, it is certainly worth considering that St John’s church and centre are currently used by around 700 people per week and the current facilities are limited – they need updating.

    The proposed sale of the graveyard would result in funding towards a new church and community centre.

    I admire the Revd Mark Woodward’s outward-looking approach and vision for the future.

    The church supports the local community in a way that may not always be immediately noticeable to passers by. There is always something happening within the building: there are children’s groups, community lunches for the elderly, youth groups, free lunches for children in the school holidays, support groups for new mothers, dance and music classes as well as opportunities for anyone to hire the facilities for parties and functions.

    The centre is also used to support vital groups such as Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. That’s not even mentioning the regular congregation who meet on a Sunday or those services that take place for weddings and funerals.

    The Revd Mark Woodward and St John’s church are looking outward into the community. The good work done by the church and the support that it provides to the local community is growing, and this should be supported. The only way in which this work can continue to grow is by improving and expanding the existing facilities.

    This consultation is simply about the change of use of the land, not about large blocks of flats being built.

    Let’s look to the future and consider this proposal as a positive move and one that benefits every age group in the local community.

  25. Sarah Mould Reply

    January 23, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    I’m very pleased that in this country we have the option to be able to voice our opinions on how the land in our area is used.

    It’s a shame that those living in the immediate local area don’t feel as if they have been adequately informed.

    Wasn’t there a consultation evening? And hasn’t the rector said he is more than welcome to meet with people personally to discuss the plans? Have any of the people who have signed the petition done this at all?

    I use this centre very regularly as I have two young children. The centre is always busy and the toddler session on a Tuesday morning is full to bursting. I have used the hall for my child’s birthday and I had to book it over a month in advance because it was fully booked!

    I do understand the views of those living in Joseph’s Road, and I appreciate that the graveyard might be nice to sit in for a few people a few times of the year.

    The church centre is used by hundreds of people (including a variety of non-faith groups), including many children’s and youth groups.

    There are often worries about what services are available for today’s youth to keep them ‘out of trouble’ and to instil a sense of respect to each other.

    As my children are growing up I would love them to be able to go to youth groups here – but the facilities as they are just won’t be able to provide an adequate place for groups like these to meet.

    I think St John’s is just exploring funding avenues – the change of use of the graveyard for potential sale being one of them.

    This certainly isn’t a case of this church being money grabbing (and anyone who thinks this of the rector has clearly never met him).

  26. Michelle Kendall Reply

    January 24, 2015 at 11:04 am

    All this NIMBYism is rather rich.

    The church serves a much wider parish that includes Bellfields (where I live).

    The church’s activities during the week and the holidays for children and the elderly are essential activities for me and my family (and others in the area).

    If an expansion means they can do this for more of us here in Bellfields and Stoughton then that should be applauded.

    Green spaces are important but so too is the welfare of less well off families who rely on the church and the community services they offer.

    The parish extends beyond Stoke Road. Remember that.

    • Alan Page Reply

      February 9, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      Bellfields already has St Peter’s Church to serve its needs.

      I wonder what the Rev’d Francis Paynter would make of his former church having the ground he’s buried in deconsecrated and sold to the highest bidder.

      [Ed: the west churchyard contains the Paynter family memorial. The vault where they are buried in under the church on the opposite side of Stoke Road.]

  27. Elodie Curran Reply

    January 24, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    Having lived just down the road from St John’s church for most of my life, and walked passed the graveyard on a frequent basis for many years, I have to say I am a little surprised at the some of objections raised above.

    I have never seen anyone in the graveyard, enjoying its tranquillity or visiting the graves. A number of the headstones and memorials are deemed dangerous and pose hazards to those who visit the graveyard.

    I have, however, seen numerous people come and go from the Stirling Centre and used the facilities myself on many occasions.

    Whilst the current centre is not that old, its facilities are tired and worn, and the rooms just aren’t big enough for many of the groups that meet there. There are four toilets for the whole centre, plus a tiny kitchen, which isn’t fit for purpose. Many booking enquiries have to be turned away because all of the facilities are booked up.

    There are some fantastic groups that meet in the centre which cater for all ages and serve the local community: lunch clubs for the elderly. Free lunches in the school holidays for local children who would usually get free school meals. Full-to-bursting toddler groups, parent and child music groups, and multiple youth clubs. Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous. National Childbirth Trust classes. Summer/Easter holiday clubs for local children which are consistently oversubscribed meaning some children are disappointed that they can’t attend. There are also many groups for churchgoers that meet regularly. The current centre just isn’t adequate to support these wonderful groups, and it is for that reason that the church is looking to build a new centre.

    Whilst I agree that green space is very important, there are several green areas nearby which are used far more regularly and by many more people; Stoke Park, the recreation ground between Stocton Road and Recreation Road, the River Wey Navigations just beyond the A3, the land and woods behind Guildford Spectrum, and the cricket ground on Woodbridge Road.

    The consultation is about changing the land from a consecrated area, to a non-consecrated one, not about building blocks of flats and covering the area in tarmac. Besides, any decisions about the trees and green space mentioned in other comments in any future development of the site is down to the local authorities, not down to the church.

    A similar process approximately 30 years ago allowed the current Stirling Centre to be built, which is now a pivotal part of the local community and serves over 700 people in an average week.

    There was never any question of “selling off the graveyard” purely for financial gains for the church, and Rev’d Mark Woodward is one of the least money-focussed vicars I have ever come across.

    The ideas for developing a new centre were there before outsiders approached the church about the graveyard, and the possibility of changing the graveyard’s use would help to fundraise a proportion of money required for a new centre and community facility.

    Since the beginning of the first consultation, the church has welcomed comments, both positive and negative, from those who use the centre and the local community, as well as those who have relatives buried in the graveyard.

    There were notices in the Surrey Advertiser, a mail out to homes in the graveyard’s immediate vicinity, and an open afternoon/evening for anyone who was interested to view the plans and discuss the issues raised by the proposals with Rev’d Woodward and other members of the church.

    The church is still happy to receive enquiries and talk through the plans with those who have concerns. There were also notices put up in the graveyard itself, for those people who frequently visit it to read.

    I feel that the benefits a new centre would provide will be of great importance to the thriving local community and allow the church to continue its long tradition of serving those in the parish.

  28. Mandy Millyard Reply

    January 24, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Most of the objectors to the loss of this green space aren’t, in principal, against Mr Woodward’s desire for improved facilities – his church does, indeed, provide good community services.

    Most of us feel strongly that there could be other ways to raise these funds (maybe selling other church properties, alternative funding, etc).

    Other churches in the area have managed this without desecrating their own graveyards.

    The NIMBYism theory doesn’t really hold water. People objecting to the churchyard proposal are from all over Guildford, and much further afield. People appear to be shocked that a church would consider doing this to it’s own graveyard.

  29. Andy Jeffery Reply

    January 25, 2015 at 12:42 am

    This churchyard has been a “closed churchyard” for as long most people can remember, which means that for the majority of that time the responsibility and cost for the maintenance of this land has fallen to Guildford Borough Council which actually means the rate payer.

    This is despite the fact that the fees paid for burials whilst it was a “open churchyard” would have gone to St John’s.

    It therefore seems to me that the church wants the best of all worlds, take the money when the churchyard was conducting burials, get someone else to shoulder the cost of maintenance when the income stream stopped and then take the profit when the land is sold.

    Surely having passed the churchyard to GBC for maintenance, if it is to be sold the money received should also go to GBC.

  30. Greg Smith Reply

    January 25, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    I had no idea they were to do this, and I am very local. He should think again, I hope if it goes through people will boycott the church. It will allow further development eventually, even though unintended.

    The place [graveyard] is very tranquil and I often stroll through. Trees are fab!

  31. Gerald Bland Reply

    January 26, 2015 at 10:05 am

    It’s good to have an acknowledgment that the western churchyard is a closed churchyard maintained by GBC and also consecrated land.

    As such the Disused Burial Grounds (Amendment) Act 1981, which allows human remains to exhumed and buildings to be erected on a disused burial ground, does not assist the church. Section 5 of that Act reads:’This Act shall not apply to any consecrated land and shall not affect the jurisdiction of the Consistory Court’.

    It follows the Notices under that Act placed by Stoke PCC in the Surrey Advertiser last November were misconceived and a nullity.

    The proper forum for these issues is the Consistory Court of the Diocese where the community are entitled to be heard as interested parties. The draft scheme not only seeks to oust the jurisdiction of the Consistory Court but attempts remove the important legal effects of consecration.

  32. Christine Maskell Reply

    January 26, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Why are we Brits so anti change?

    As a member of St John’s family for nearly nine years and a Stoke resident for just over two years, I fail to understand some of the arguments against the graveyard sale.

    The Rev’d Mark Woodward did not undertake this decision lightly, much prayer and discussion went on (in fact, over a year).

    Have any of the objectors been to see Mr Woodward to discuss their feelings?

    How many have been inside the church hall especially on a Tuesday morning when there is a toddler group on? We are almost tripping over one another because of the shortage of space

    I must agree about the trees. However, I feel that if and when development takes place this will be dealt with!

    We regularly have to turn down bookings, disappointing children and adults.

    Our desire as a church is to serve the community better. How can we achieve that if we have no room?

    I can think of 14 groups that use the facilities regularly. When holiday clubs are held we have to turn children away – no room at the inn!

    I ask that all those who object please contact Mr Woodward to arrange to visit him and speak about what concerns you.

    Don’t just say ‘no’ because it’s change.

  33. Carol Brown Reply

    January 26, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    As a local historian I was at first also very concerned about the graveyard, particularly the Paynter Memorial.

    Nobody likes to see our history disappear, but what about needs of the church?

    St John’s is a growing church, and in these days of empty churches is this not a good thing?

    A church is not a museum; it is a living, breathing family that is growing and we need space to accommodate the many groups who use our building, not just the growing congregation but those we provide a real support to in our community: Cocaine Anonymous, Prince’s Trust activities, toddler groups, Holiday Club, Outlook Lunch for the elderly, and the list goes on.

    I feel that Francis and Julia Paynter would support the plans, and I say this with the conviction of having researched the family and read their wills.

    The consultation is about ‘change of use’ for the land, not about any large scale building development. It may even be that if the land was sold a green space would remain. I understand the concern for the trees but we have no control over that, and as no plans are yet decided it is possible some may be kept.

    Much has been said about the heritage, and also the Rev’d Woodward’s comment about homeless people sleeping in the graveyard. He was not complaining about the use by homeless people (as some local residents have) but stating a fact, these were the only people using it.

    I and colleagues have spent several days in the churchyard recording and photographing the headstones. At no point did anyone else ever come in there.

    Many of the stones are illegible, broken and in a very poor and dangerous state. There is no evidence of anyone ever visiting or putting flowers or looking after any graves.

    A copy of this work will be lodged with the church and also the Surrey History Centre. And yes they are of Guildford people. As I was recording them I felt I was with old friends as I recognised many name,s but it is unlikely that there will be anything left of them.

    Historically, a wooden board would be put over a grave with the name written on it, when that had rotted away the grave was reused.

    If our plans go ahead, any remains found would be treated with respect and all names would be recorded in a memorial garden.

    These people and their families worked for the improvement of their town, their community and their church. As Christians they would have understood that all that remains after death is their earthly body, they would have had the assurance that their soul was in a better place and as such their true memorial is the good works and deeds they left behind.

    The Paynter Memorial and all the gravestones will not be destroyed, but moved over to the church side. The Paynter family vault is in fact not in the churchyard but under the church where there are also memorials in the church to the family.

    I would ask all to think carefully about what is more important, improving the lives of the many in our community, including many disadvantaged families, or the loss of a space used by a minority of people when we are so lucky to be surrounded by green spaces such as Stoke Park, so please rethink.

    I have the utmost respect for the Rev’d Woodward, and as a local historian I would not be able to condone this action if I did not have full faith in his and the church’s vision for the local community. It saddens me to read the adverse comments made against him.

  34. Rosemary Morgan Reply

    January 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    No-one is suggesting that St John’s church shouldn’t be able to expand its church hall facilities if that is what they and their parishioners would like to do.

    But I do not believe that selling off an important heritage site such as this burial ground, is the way to do this.

    This site contains the memorials and remains of important and influential families, both locally and internationally, including the Paynter family vault (Francis Paynter founded many of Guildford’s churches) and both the Stirling and Mangles families (Sir James Stirling founded Western Australia and Ross Donnelly Mangles was MP for Guildford, 1841-1857).

    Other churches in Guildford have raised funds by other means, not by selling off the heritage of Guildford, our heritage!

  35. Sally Parrott Reply

    January 27, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I think this topic (the west cemetery of St John’s Stoke) is a perfect example of the usefulness of The Guildford Dragon NEWS to our community.

    We readers have been given information about the plans for the site, its history, natural history, and legal implications; we’ve been able to read strongly-held opinions on both sides of the argument (including a poem), and express our own views.

    Whatever the outcome, we’ve learnt a lot about the implications.

    Thank you Martin and David. My only doubt is whether you’ll be too modest to publish this praise of Guildford Dragon!

    [Ed: thank you very much indeed. We only try to follow our mission statement: “For Guildford people, brought to you by Guildford reporters.”]

    • Matthew MacLachlan Reply

      January 29, 2015 at 8:29 am

      I think the debate has been carried out in a great spirit as well. We’ve managed to talk about it without getting personal, which is brilliant!

  36. John Gardener Reply

    January 27, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    I’ve been following this thread from the start with interest and to start with I was very anti destroying the graveyard on historic and environmental issues.

    Now I`m against selling the graveyard for a very different reason. St John’s Church claims to have 700 users a week so why can`t these 700 get together to raise some money, even £100 each per year for the next two years, this will give them £14,0000 surely enough money to get them all started with shovels and wheelbarrows.

    To quote one of the pro commentators: “These people and their families worked for the improvement of their town, their community and their church.”

    In 21st-century Britain this might sound like pie in the sky but I have been there and done it and if you are that committed to a project money won`t be a barrier.

    The project I was involved in dealt with listed buildings, a county council, CADW etc and I taught myself things as diverse as planning applications, listed building consents and sources of free concrete.

    Surely amongst the 700 users there are people familiar or professionally skilled in building, planning, architecture and fundraising that could be drawn on to keep costs down.

    I don`t see why the community can`t get behind this project if it is what they really believe in rather than taking the easy option by selling off part of Stoke’s heritage.

    I doubt there are many reasons why the existing centre can`t be adapted and extended to accommodate the various groups wanting to use it.

    The church states as part of its reasoning is that the Stirling Centre is possibly the only community building in Stoke, when there is another less than 200 yards from the church.

    Surely this building could be used for a couple of years while his parishioners are improving the Stirling Centre.

  37. Bill Stokoe Reply

    January 30, 2015 at 6:52 am

    Interesting to see Ross Mangles was a director of the East India Company.

    Another Guildfordian of note, Maurice Abbot, was a founder director of the same company and later, governor.

    Maurice was brother to George who became Archbishop of Canterbury. George left us with the magnificent Abbot’s Hospital in the High Street, still providing a home for the needy across nearly 400 years.

    Maurice became Lord Mayor of London and paid for his brother’s elaborate tomb in Holy Trinity Church.

    Incidentally, the rector of Stoke Church is ex-officio governor of Abbot’s Hospital.

  38. Bernard Parke Reply

    January 30, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Ross Mangles was the first civilian to win a VC during the Indian Mutiny.

    There is a memorial to his honour within Pirbright Church.

  39. Jean Milne Reply

    January 31, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Support to save the churchyard is really growing.

    The churchyard has also been featured in the Surrey Advertiser and is on the front cover of the West Australian newspaper with a six-page article.

    Support for saving the churchyard is also strong in West Australia as their founder and governor Admiral Sir James Stirling from Guildford is buried in the churchyard.

    Anne Milton, Guildford MP, has written to the Church Commissioners on behalf of constituents recognising the depth of feeling for saving the beautiful historic churchyard.

    Guildford Environmental Forum has written a well researched letter in support of saving the churchyard.

    Rex Andrew, church commissioner, has already received 100 representations, such is the public concern for securing the future of the churchyard. There will be an oral hearing in London in April.

    People appreciate the heritage significance and ecological value of the churchyard.

    We have secured a two-week extension to the deadline for objections to the churchyard sell off and development plan from the church commissioners.

    New deadline is February 10.

    If you have already emailed the Church Commissioners to object to the proposed sell off and development of St John’s churchyard in Guildford, thank you very much indeed. If however you have not but would like to please email.

    rex.andrew@churchofengland.org

    If you feel strongly about saving the churchyard please take a moment to forward this email to other interested family, friends and colleagues.

    You can also sign the online petition

    http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-st-johns-churchyard-from-development

    [Ed: It should be noted that the whereabouts of where the remains of Admiral Sir James Stirling and his wife Ellen (nee Mangles) lie are debated. Previous correspondence here from Edward Buckley states their remains are near the church and not the west churchyard. It has also been noted that their remains may have been reinterred somewhere else following the work in 1977 when the then new vicarage was built on land by the west churchyard.]

  40. Sid Breeden Reply

    February 3, 2015 at 9:11 am

    I would like to offer an update to the editor’s footnote to Jean Milne’s January 31, 2015 comment.

    I live in Perth Western Australia. Having visited St John’s Stoke several times I know the western burial ground reasonably well.

    The founder and first Governor of Western Australia, then Captain James Stirling and wife Ellen nee Mangles, were both married at St John’s and on death, buried in the western graveyard over the road from the church.

    Ed Buckley’s assertion of their gravesite location is factually wrong! The eastern (church side) burial grounds were ordered closed 11 years before James’ burial and 20 before Ellen’s.

    I may be the person referred to who some time ago suggested to the editor that James was reinterred from east to west graveyard. While based on genuine belief, I now know my level of knowledge at that time to have been wrong.

    For years I have been searching for a record of names for burials within the southern half of the western graveyard. While a comprehensive record exists for those buried in the northern section as from 1869 it seems certain no list exists of those buried in the large area of southern graveyard ripped up in 1974 when a building plot was created for the Joseph’s Road Rectory, first occupied in September 1976.

    I recently became aware of a 1976 record of western headstones that were not destroyed in 1974. Admiral Sir James and wife Ellen’s names are on that record. It can be reasonably determined where their grave lies in an essentially undisturbed area of the southern section and that their flat grave cover stone was smashed between September 1976 and March 1977. On April 2, 1977, Perth TV producer John Izzard miraculously found smashed into eight pieces the Stirling gravestone under a nearby pile of grave detritus about to go to a rubbish dump.

    Ellen Stirling was a daughter of Guildford’s influential Mangles family. Her historically famous brother Ross Donnelly Mangles and wife Harriet were buried nearby.

    Along with others, the Stirling gravesite is an historic part of the western graveyard and must be preserved. Likewise, I respect and support the local community’s wishes to preserve this historic green space, wildlife refuge and corridor plus the ancient yew and other trees. The church should find other means of raising funds!

    Another aspect concerns me. In November 2014 the St John’s press release offered a list of grave names purportedly being of all those known to be in the western graveyard. The intent was to give opportunity to descendants to have a say about the church-diocese proposals.

    The rector sent me a copy of the list which shows some 212 names. The aforementioned list from 1869 until cemetery closure has 642 names for the northern section alone. That makes a deficit of at least 430 names and excludes head stones known to have been in the southern section in 1976.

    Why has St John’s hidden these names from the Guildford community and so denied hundreds of descendants the knowledge and opportunity to comment?

  41. Gerald Bland Reply

    February 3, 2015 at 10:06 am

    I have just got hold of a copy of a Privy Council Order dated 18th February 1855 closing the Grade II* listed Stoke Church and the churchyard surrounding it (‘the eastern churchyard’) to burials.

    As Sir James Stirling and Ross Donnelley Mangles, both of whom appear in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, died more than 10 years later they can only have been buried in the western churchyard under threat.

    It would have been a criminal offence under section 3 of the Burial Grounds Act 1853 for them to have been buried in the eastern churchyard.

    By the same token it would have been an offence for any internments to have been made in the Paynter Vault under the church after 1855. So Paynter family internments after that date would also have been made in the western churchyard.

  42. Carol Brown Reply

    February 5, 2015 at 12:19 am

    I feel I need to reply to Mr Breedon’s remarks about the list of names provided by St John’s church of burials within the western graveyard.

    Any faults are mine, as I recorded only the names which were legible. Yes there are many more gravestones there but these can not be read, hence the shortfall of names.

    Also, when I undertook the recording, the very back row where the Mangles graves are was inaccessible because of heavy undergrowth and foliage. This has now be removed.

    The Revd Mark Woodward sent the list out in good faith and I apologise for any mistakes therein.

    There was no intention of hiding anything from anyone. We want this to be an open and transparent consultation and as such I readily admit to my mistakes with the list.

    I have been told of errors and am amending those.

  43. Sid Breeden Reply

    February 6, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    I look forward to an updated complete list of western churchyard burial names.

    How will the full list be widely communicated to the general public?

    And what will the commissioners do to provide more time for descendants and other interested persons to study the corrected list and submit comment?

    Common sense decrees that comment closer date 10 February 2015 needs to be significantly extended.

    Further research has found a year-by-year burial record from 1856 consecration of the western churchyard until 1883 totaling 1,810 burials.

    More burials occurred after 1883 so the grand total will be greater.

    The church must urgently research records and all names transparently disclosed.

    Why was this not done at the very beginning?

    [Ed: thank you for your comments. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you contact St John’s Church direct with your questions, as they cannot be answered by The Guildford Dragon NEWS.]

  44. Sid Breeden Reply

    February 8, 2015 at 5:11 am

    Thanks Ed: for your footnote to my comments. Please accept my apologies for not including that I was responding to the preceding comment by Carol Brown who indicates she is working with St John’s church.

    I sincerely hope either Ms Brown or St John’s Rector responds in the positive that they will widely circulate all 1,810+ names of burials that have taken place in the western churchyard and in fairness to all, significantly advance the 10th February 2015 public consultation close off date concerning their proposals.

    Posting their comments in this thread of The Guildford Dragon NEWS will be an excellent vehicle for all to see.

  45. Carol Brown Reply

    February 10, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I can only count 500 actual burials names on the 1977 list, so would be grateful information of where 1,800 comes from.

    Also, we are talking about existing graves, this list does not include the area which was dug up in 1977. Permission was given in 1974 but work didn’t start until 1977.

    The Stirling and the child Ross Mangles graves were not recorded in their original setting. The Mangles cross is broken and there is no evidence of any footing for it to have come from in the place it is now.

  46. Claudia Holden Reply

    February 10, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    We have been members of St John’s Stoke Church for six years. Or to be strictly accurate, we visit occasionally but have always been welcomed with open arms and supported through thick and thin (especially the thin) by the amazing people who make up the Leadership Team and congregation of St John’s.

    During this time and under Rev Mark Woodward’s inspirational leadership, we have seen the church grow and develop, changing from “the church we all drove past” with a small and predominately elderly congregation to a vibrant, proactive, youthful church family focused not just on God but upon God’s work within the local community.

    St John’s Stoke actively supports families and local residents with a wide range of unpaid projects from the provision of holiday clubs, lunch clubs and youth work to local area clean ups and participation in Guildford’s Street Angels scheme. The congregation seems to grow Sunday on Sunday with heaps of practical as well as emotional support for families and children, the sick and the elderly. There is a huge sense of family, love and support both within the congregation and towards visitors and local residents.

    If the church facilities were updated then this church family could do so much more for the community, ie you.

    By contrast, the graveyard has few visitors and is little used. Yes, the concept of selling a graveyard pulls on emotional heartstrings but all the remains will be re-buried and consecrated and all headstones and memorials moved nearer to the church than they currently are. In this new position, by its very proximity to the church, these remains/memorials/headstones will see more visitors and be better tended than in their current location.

    The sale of the actual graveyard land is the only way that the proposed development of St John’s Church and community centre can go ahead. If it goes ahead, Mark and his team will be supporting, enhancing and safeguarding parish residents both now and in the future, not just tending the graves of those who once lived here.

    If my remains were in one of those graves, I’d 100% be happy to be dug up and moved for the sake of improvement, love and support for those who were living. For me it’s the same as signing the National Donor Register. I’d like to be remembered as someone who helped future generations. And anyway, once I’m dead, I’m not much more than dust and worms so who cares!

    How many of you who are objecting have actually visited this graveyard or spoken to the vicar? St John’s Church is doing this for you, your families and your children. It’s not about indoctrinating you into Christianity or a religion. It’s about building a community centre, a place for you go, have a coffee, meet people, and hopefully leave feeling a bit more positive than when you arrived.

  47. Lisa Wright Reply

    February 10, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Has no one approached Guildford College to see if they have a room/hall that the church could lease for its children and community events? Surely they have some empty classrooms, especially over school holidays when kids clubs are required?

  48. Norman Hamshere Reply

    February 11, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Congratulations Dragon for bringing this devious scheme to our attention.

    Mark Woodward’s proposed new banqueting hall has certainly aroused a lot of interest. One mystery however remains unresolved the whereabouts of the illusive 120 postcards, perhaps one of Mark’s relatives can provide one for us to see.

    • Ed Butler Reply

      February 12, 2015 at 7:53 am

      A pretty civilised debate has taken place so far, then typically along comes someone to piddle in the shallow end.

      Seriously, a previous person who commented may disagree with the plan, but to suggest that Mark Woodward is acting in bad faith, or that there is something underhand or about what is being proposed demonstrates just how ill informed they are.

      Take a walk down to St John’s, actually talk to the guy, discuss it with him, then comment.

  49. Paul Smith Reply

    February 12, 2015 at 12:01 am

    Actually just up Lido Road there is a great community venue with lots of indoor and most importantly out door space for kids to play safely as its away from the main roads and quiet.

    If the church needs more space it’s just round the corner and as GBC says reasonable to hire.

    Greenark – Stoke Park’s Community Hall : Guildford Borough Council
    http://www.guildford.gov.uk/greenark
    25 Apr 2014 – Based in Stoke Park just off Lido Road GU1 1HB, the Greenark is an affordable venue available to hire for all community organisations, …

    My son went to one of the play groups at St John’s but I wasn’t happy that the kids couldn’t play outside hardly at all.

    At St Mary’s church the children are actively encouraged to learn about nature conservation in the churchyard. They learn to respect the value of God’s green spaces and the flora and fauna that inhabit them.

    It’s a great example and an educational opportunity St John’s have on their doorstep that they seek presently seek to destroy rather than celebrate.

  50. Sid Breeden Reply

    February 12, 2015 at 2:42 am

    My comment answers Carole Brown’s questions:

    The “1977” list is only one, albeit vital, list.

    The 1,810 burials are in the St John’s burial register summary for 1856 to 1883, signed off by the then parish clerk. Refer to the actual register for individual names and burial dates.

    Another cross-check list that should have been used to prepare St John’s November 2014 list is the mid-1980s alphabetical and coded transcription of the “linen roll” showing grid plan of plots (map) for 1869 onwards burials in the northern section of the western churchyard. This list contains approximately 642 names (counting the Paynter vault as one).

    Based on the significant shortfall of names in the November 2014 publicly offered “St John’s list” that purports to be “a list of those whose remains are in the site” simple arithmetic indicates there must be tens of thousands of descendants excluded from the opportunity to have their say about the proposals.

    Furthermore, the “St John’s list” as described in the Friday 7th November 2014 press release did not in any way indicate it was only for “existing graves”. By nature of its description the list should have included names for all burials in the western churchyard.

    I would also like to clarify Ms Brown’s comment about permission given in 1974 but work didn’t start until 1977.

    The authorised by “Order in Council” western part of the western churchyard was cleared late 1974 into 1975. The new rectory facing Joseph’s Road commenced construction in autumn 1975 and was first occupied in September 1976. The 1974 authorised clearance of graves had by then been well completed.

    It was the late 1976 or early 1977 (do you have the actual date?) additional clearance outside of the eastern boundary authorised in 1974 that destroyed and/or moved historical and other tombstones.

  51. Jules Cranwell Reply

    February 12, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Between St Saviour’s Church (a short stroll from St John’s) and the cathedral, the CofE, already has plenty of meeting and conference facilities. Why not share?

  52. Terry Stevenson Reply

    February 12, 2015 at 11:45 am

    I must say, the efforts and bureaucracy some people employ to try to ensure that something does not happen is creditable.

    It is just a shame that, in many cases, people are less inclined to put their efforts into embracing change and ensuring that, whatever outcome, it is in the best interests of the wider community.

    Churches are not unused follies that are merely there to be ‘gawped at’ every now and then. They are living entities, and like society as a whole, have to adapt to ever changing circumstances and opportunities.

  53. Sally Parrott Reply

    February 13, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    I wonder if it is in the interest of the wider community for social activities like holiday clubs, lunch clubs, toddler groups and youth groups to be provided by a religious organisation, unless the purpose is to inculcate religion?

    Paul Smith’s suggestion of Greenark, Stoke Park’s Community Hall, sounds excellent, a secular and inclusive meeting place for all members of the community, of all religions or none.

    The post-war London County Council provided many community activities for all Londoners, and I feel we have regressed when such services are provided largely by religious institutions.

    At a time when large parts of the world are at war because of religious differences, I feel that as far as possible, social activities should be provided in secular venues, for people of all religions and none to mix and learn to understand and love each other.

  54. Mark Brown Reply

    February 14, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    As a member of St John’s church for over 30 years, from Sunday school onwards, I have seen many changes for the better.

    The vision that the Revd Mark Woodward and his team have is trying to build on this and I totally back the church in what they are doing.

    It has been mentioned before in previous comments that the church has no room to accommodate the needs for the groups that use it.

    One example is the over 55s lunch we hold once a month; on average we have 60 guests that come along.

    There is another group that uses the hall while we are trying to set up and this means we have to get tables and chairs out before the other group starts.

    Our church has almost 100 children coming though our doors on a weekly basis, and it has been suggessted that we should come to some sort of arrangement with Guildford College for the use of some of their rooms, can I say this is unrealistic.

    I am concerned that the focus [on people buried in the west churchyard] is on just one man [Admiral Sir James Stirling] when there are others such as the Paynters and the Parson brothers who did a great deal more for Guildford.

    I am getting quite angry that Revd Mark Woodward is being accused of profitting from this. To those who are saying such things, they should meet him face to face to discuss the issue.

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