American author starts cemetery clean up campaign in Ilford

PUBLISHED: 14:44 27 February 2015 | UPDATED: 14:58 27 February 2015

The vandalism, rubbish and damage at Buckingham Road Cemetery in Ilford.

The vandalism, rubbish and damage at Buckingham Road Cemetery in Ilford.


A 36-year-old children’s author from North Carolina has started a campaign to clean up one of the borough’s main cemeteries after being shocked by litter around gravestones.

A bag of rubbish collected by Stacey Harriss Photo credit: Stacey HarrissA bag of rubbish collected by Stacey Harriss Photo credit: Stacey Harriss

Since moving to Ilford two months ago, Stacey Harriss has taken it upon herself to document the ongoing problem of rubbish at Buckingham Road Cemetery and Ilford Cemetery which are adjacent to each other.

She visits the site each day to take photos, which she later posts on social media sites, and record details of those buried there.

The campaign, called the Red Rose Remembrance Memorial Project, aims to “protect” and “preserve” war heroes’ tombstones, those who were died of Spanish Flu and other epidemics.

“People have no idea what is there – a lot of litter, bags of rubbish and furniture,” said Ms Harriss, of Ley Street, who wrote the book Myrtle Takes Tea.

Rubbish strewn across Ilford Cemetery. Photo credit: Stacey HarrissRubbish strewn across Ilford Cemetery. Photo credit: Stacey Harriss

“You cannot believe my shock when I see an empty beer can next to someone who died in the First World War.”

Mrs Harriss is hoping to pay for the cemetery’s upkeep using funds raised from selling red rose brooches online.

Barbara Hills, a church warden at St Mary the Virgin Church, in High Road, Ilford, admits social issues have plagued both the Buckingham Road Cemetery, run by the church, and the council-owned Ilford Cemetery.

“It has been vandalised to certain extent,” she said. “Broken gravestones things like that. It is very said.

“It is a long term problem – if we can help the rough sleepers then quite a lot of the litter would vanish.”

The Ilford Cemetery is managed by Westerleigh Group, based in Bristol.

Richard Evans, the group’s managing director, said his team had made “huge improvements” to the site since taking it over in 2005.

“With regards to Buckingham Road Cemetery, we have made a series of improvements to the cemetery facilities,” said Mr Evans.

“We have moved a whole mortuary where rough sleepers were conjugating.”

Westerleigh has carried out £100,000 of work to maintain the site in recent years, according to Mr Evans.

“I was there last week and I could not see any sign of rough sleepers – but of course they can return.”

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