Members of the British Turkish community fed up with the poor state of Tottenham Park Cemetery are calling for a mass protest at noon on Saturday 3 November. The North London cemetery is the UK’s largest burial ground for the community, with thousands of British Turks laid to rest there.
Earlier this year, the privately-owned cemetery was closed for urgent repairs following an inspection by local Health and Safety officers, which found there to be ‘serious risk to life’. A dangerous spire on a dilapidated chapel was removed and trees in danger of falling over cut down. However, many other parts of the cemetery remain neglected: there are uneven footpaths and trip hazards, as well as rubble from broken and discarded graves strewn across the site. Visitors with walking disabilities also have immense difficulty reaching graves of loved ones due to the densely packed burial plots.
In recent weeks, the cemetery has made national headlines due to human remains being found on site. While bones in a cemetery may not seem unexpected, the disappearance of graves along with the regular discovery of bones – members of the Tottenham Park Cemetery Action Group (TPCAG) have found remains on at least six occasions in the past three months – has led many families to fear the landowners are reusing burial plots and carelessly discarding the remains of those previously buried there.
The owners Badgehurst Limited refute the allegations, claiming that the remains found are ‘those of animals or are not from the site’. The police have confirmed some of the bone fragments are human remains and continue to investigate. The law lays down strict conditions for exhumations and reburials, and it is a criminal offense to disturb graves.
In recent weeks other problems have also emerged at Tottenham Park Cemetery. A family wrote on social media that they were informed they could not bury their father at the site because ‘the owners were away on holiday for two weeks’.
Others have reported that the water supply is cut off and without any prior warning on the cemetery’s website. There are multiple taps on site, all donated by various Turkish families over the years, that are in constant use by visitors wanting to clean their loved ones’ memorial headstones or leave flowers.
Badgehurst currently charge £3,800 for a burial plot at Tottenham Park Cemetery and although it is virtually full, there is no shortage of demand from families who already have relatives buried there. The lease for each plot runs for 50 years.
In recent months notices have been placed on some graves indicating Badgehurst will remove structures on the plot they deem against “cemetery regulations” and charge back the costs to leaseholders. It’s not clear if the company has the legal authority to do this, but the notices have alarmed many families.
The management style of Badgehurst and the poorly maintained state of cemetery has incensed the community, who now want the local authority and Ministry of Justice to step in and take over the cemetery. Publicly-owned cemeteries have to adhere to a higher standard of care than privately-owned sites.
TPCAG has called on all concerned members of the community to come out and protest next Saturday. One of the activists Filiz Pirgot posted online:
“Unfortunately despite decades of charitable work the cemetery is poorly maintained and our loved ones do not rest in peace. As you wonder through the unkempt paths, weeds and trip hazards you see memorials of our forefathers with their village names. This is a unique place in North London where our heritage is remembered. Please come to our peaceful rally on Saturday 3 Nov at midday to join others wanting the cemetery improved. We must be heard!…#nomore”
Title: Time to Say #NoMore as a Community
Date: Saturday 3 November 2018
Time: 12 noon to 1.30pm
Venue: Outside main gates, Tottenham Park Cemetery, Montague Road, Edmonton, London N9 0EU