Picking Up the Pieces


When I took the picture above last year, it never in a million years occurred to me that just a few months later it would look like this.

Or that this already-emasculated mandrake/ivy root

Would look like this

 

You know it occurs to me that it’s been over a month since the 368-character statement from Tim Delap, the continuing chairman of St Alfege’s park’s Friends which is still pretty much all we’ve had by way of an apology/explanation for the appalling desecration of ancient headstones in the old burial ground.

In case you’ve been away (or ill, ahem) the story of how a group of Community Payback workers smashed a whole bunch of ancient head stones on the watch of the Friends of St Alfege Park was first covered by Rob at Greenwich.co.uk. Rob did manage to secure a statement from the equally-appalled rank & file Friends and an angry response from the council but from Mr Delap himself? 368 characters. 400, if you count empty space.

There’s been a bit of media coverage – some rather lurid tabloid stuff as well as locals and onlines – and Private Eye devoted a Nooks & Corners to Greenwich a couple of weeks ago but everything else seems to have gone a bit quiet. Certainly I’m sure that’s how at least some people would like it to be.

But we still have a pile of broken stones to ‘do something with’ and a mystery as to who actually gave the order to desecrate a heritage site. The council’s Director Of Culture and Community, Sam Eastop, is conducting the investigation personally, and seems keen to get to the bottom of it. And it’s beginning to look a bit on the worrying side. It certainly doesn’t look like the desecration went on while the chairman was on holiday but a good couple of months before Rob picked up on the story (and I didn’t – yes, I’m still wearing the sackcloth and ashes on that one).

I understand the investigation is ongoing and I believe that Sam Eastop would be very interested to hear anything that sheds light on the situation. I know there’s related stuff that hasn’t come out yet – and I urge anyone who knows something to contact him.

On a positive note, the council are planning to try to create something out of the mess, and I’m sure they’d be interested in suggestions for that too. But so far we have not been given any real explanation of what really went on here, and as the weeks go by it’s getting easier for information to be lost.


the attachments to this post:

st alfege root
st alfege root

st alfege grave before
st alfege grave before


30 Comments to “Picking Up the Pieces”

  1. Rod says:

    Greenwich are taking the St Alfege’s Park tombstone incident seriously. The Director Of Culture and Community, Sam Eastop, is handling this personally, and I met him in the Park and was able to give him some background and local feeling etc. He honestly seemed to be horrified at what has happened, and he listened carefully to everything I said. He told me that the Council are actively thinking about ways to create some kind of memorial with the broken stones, so I think that’s good news.

    He also told me that the Payback team’s remit in the Park, as authorised by the Council was some painting, weeding and the removal of some dead shrubs. Full Stop. So even moving the stones, let alone smashing them up, was way beyond what was authorised.

    I said that criminal damage to a World Heritage site had been commited and that the community needs to see that there are consequences. If there are to be no consequences, some named figure in authority needs to say so and explain why – I don’t think Mr Eastop fancies doing this. I’m sorry if you think that this is a bit retributional, but I really just don’t think whoever ordered up the sledgehammers should be allowed to just walk away from this – sorry, but that’s my position. If drunken yobs had done this the Police would have been involved by now and not one of us would have a problem with that.

    This isn’t going to just go away, and the fact that there continue to be comments on the greenwich.co.uk thread proves that. We should all keep the pressure up, though – they can’t sweep this under the carpet if we keep asking what is happening.

  2. Nick Martin says:

    Speaking as someone who has several ancestors buried in the graveyard of St. Alfege Church, I’m appalled that this has happened, and at the lack of respect that those involved have shown to the dead. These are also important historical artefacts – the council should be doing its best to preserve them.

  3. To be fair to the council, I think they ARE doing their best. This was not something of the council’s doing – and they ARE investigating. But they need to know what happened here – and any related incidents that might colour the way this disgraceful event is viewed.

  4. paul t says:

    I’m glad to see the run-up to this is being investigated. I thought I’d noticed stones being removed near the Bardsley Lane entrance, too, but wondered if I was imagining things.

    Yes, we need Delap to go on the record, and explain why a greenhouse and some tomato plants are more important than Georgian gravestones.

  5. cerletone says:

    I often walk through grave yards and think to myself “what I crave now is a nice, juicy homegrown tomato”.

  6. Steve says:

    cerletone says:
    November 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I often walk through grave yards and think to myself “what I crave now is a nice, juicy homegrown tomato”.

    ================

    Think of all the rich compost there…

    Why isn’t this a formal police investigation? Has no-one filed a complaint?

  7. rod says:

    Delap is hanging on and the Friends’ committee don’t seem interested in a putsch to oust him, suggesting that they don’t disapprove of what he has (apparently) done, or not enough to force him out anyway. They all seem to think that if they just wait this out, it’ll eventually run into the sand.
    We absolutely must not let this happen.

    If you know anything, or saw anything, or have any pictures of stuff that use to be there (like the Ivy mandrake root in the Phantom’s picture – can you imagine how long it would have taken ivy to get that huge and form a mandrake/human form like that? What right did they have to remove this centuries-old thing that gave some much character to that corner of the Park?) please contact Sam Eastop. The link above doesn’t seem to be working, but his e-address is

    sam.eastop@greenwich.gov.uk

    The more the Central Soviet of the Friends seek to refuse to answer questions, clarify exactly what did happen and try to avoid accountability, and the more Delap clingd, like Gaddafi, to his little shred of power, the more opinion hardens. Now people are openly talking about Police investigation, whereas a month ago, we might have been satisfied with a full disclosure and the resignation of an utterly discredited Chair.
    Help us get to the truth, keep the pressure on, don’t let this get sidelined. If we just stop pushing, the bad guys will get away with this apalling act , and what sort of a precedent/example would that set?

  8. Darren says:

    Rod,

    By some oversight you seem to have missed a comparison to Hitler and the holcaust.

    I’m sure that you’ll address this in you next balanced dispassionate posting.

    Whats happened is terrible, steps need to be put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen and to create something positive from the situation.

    That said I’d like to see the Police focussed on public order and the safety of us all. This investigation sits quite rightly with the Council and they seem to be heading in the right direction.

    Darren

  9. Rod says:

    “By some oversight you seem to have missed a comparison to Hitler and the holcaust.”
    There often comes a point in this sort of discussion, when someone mentions the Nazis – you have reached this point far quicker that I would have imagined. Bravo.

    “I’m sure that you’ll address this in you next balanced dispassionate posting”
    I feel no need to be dispassionate about this, quite frankly. I assume you are not unduly unconcerned about what has happened. I am deeply concerned, without any apology. This is about the worst act of vandalism that has occured in my 30 years of living in Greenwich town centre.

    “I’d like to see the Police focussed on public order and the safety of us all.”
    I believe the Police can probably do both – investigate an act of criminal damage and protect us in our beds. A crime is a crime, after all – if drunken yobs had smashed up these stones, every single one of us would be up in arms and demanding that the Police were involved.

    “This investigation sits quite rightly with the Council and they seem to be heading in the right direction.”
    Well, actually,
    A) I know more about this than you, because I’ve actually stod with Mr Eastop in the Park and briefed him as to what happened, and
    B) it is only busybodies with an agenda (like myself) that are keeping this alive as an issue. Plenty of people would like to see this just get forgotten.
    Trust me – I’m not one of them.

  10. Lula says:

    And how long will it take without the friends for this park to turn back into a drug dealing den. Well done busy bodies.

    Yes, this is terrible that it happened, and yes it needs to be addressed, but let’s not beat up the people who were at least TRYING to do something in their community. NB, they did NOT tell the community payback to smash the (deconsecrated) grave stones, but only move them to safe place so they could be used and displayed in the future.

    I feel that the real issue (the Council don’t care at all about this little park) is being lost in the over all demonisation of a small group of people who actually care about where they live.

  11. Rod says:

    “how long will it take without the friends for this park to turn back into a drug dealing den”
    How exactly have the Friends been preventing drug dealing in the Park?

    “let’s not beat up the people who were at least TRYING to do something in their community. NB, they did NOT tell the community payback to smash the (deconsecrated) grave stones”
    Lula – the problem is that we don’t know what happened, or who exactly should be blamed, because the Friends are not telling. I know that many of the Friends were not involved in this, but they should be putting pressure on Mr Delap and/or the committee to come clean. The Friends have now been prevented from working in the Park altogether, not because of us busy bodies, but because of the committee, and Mr Delap’s, intransigence.
    A gravestone cannot be deconserated by the way – is a permanent memorial to someone who has died, placed there by people who cared. Also these stones are part of our local history.

    “I feel that the real issue (the Council don’t care at all about this little park) is being lost”
    What, in your view, is the real issue here?

  12. Kratch says:

    I find the whole situation terribly sad – both what happened and people’s reaction to it. What happened was appalling, and a terrible mistake. But does everyone really have to have such a go at the Friends group? And particularly Mr Delap himself? I don’t know any of those people involved, but as someone who (like them) volunteers to give up time and effort to serve the community, I’d hope that if I ever made a genuine mistake, as has been admitted, I wouldn’t have the wrath of the community (both local and international) come down on me like a ton of bricks. The park was virtually unusable as a safe public space before the Friends took it over. Be careful about hurting those who are prepared to make an effort. If you care about it so much – join the Friends and give them your time. Then you are entitled to have a say. Otherwise, if you’re too busy and choose to wash your hands of the responsibility, then don’t get stuck in when it comes to retribution.

  13. tintinhaddock says:

    I went for a walk around the park yesterday – the first time I’d been there in ages and was pleased to see how tidy it looked and that it was actually being used by quite a few people. For this I presume we have the Friends to thank.

    It is obviously sad that these stones were destroyed but mistakes do happen and hysterical fingerpointing will not get anybody anywhere.

    I have to say I was far more depressed by the dogs dinner they seem to be making of the Cutty Sark and its environs.

  14. Rod says:

    “If you care about it so much – join the Friends and give them your time. Then you are entitled to have a say.”

    I am not entitled to voice my opinion on the destruction of 300 year old memorials to the dead in my local Park because I’m not a member of the organisation that destroyed them?
    What a strange world you live in….

  15. Rod says:

    “It is obviously sad that these stones were destroyed but mistakes do happen and hysterical fingerpointing will not get anybody anywhere.
    I have to say I was far more depressed by the dogs dinner they seem to be making of the Cutty Sark and its environs.”

    You and I are clearly going to have to agree to differ, because you don’t really seem too upset by what has happened, and I am greatly upset. However, I do just need to say that if Mr Delap and the Friends had explained straight away what had happened and accepted the consequences there would be no need for fingerpointing
    Indeed it is Mr Delap who is doing the main bit of fingerpointing by trying to pin the blame on the Payback team.

  16. Paul says:

    Lula – how do you expect anything other than fingerpointing, when the Friends have issued only the most cursory statements about what’s happened?

    Emails are being circulated in which Tim Delap claims they are being scapegoated, and that it’s all the fault of the Community Payback team. If that’s the case, state it openly and people can make a judgement.

    Someone, somewhere has made a mistake. If Tim Delap, or someone else, were to take responsibility for it, and resign, then the Friends would probably not have been banned from dealing with the Park, as has reportedly happened.

    It’s simply not feasible to batten down the hatches, blame other people, and not be frank about what’s gone on.

  17. Rod says:

    This from greenwich.co.uk -

    “Greenwich Council has dissolved the Friends of St Alfege Park with immediate effect. They have been notified of this decision by the council in writing and will no longer have any association with the park at all.”

  18. Rod says:

    Now THIS from a member of the Friends’ committee, on greenwich.co.uk -

    “Tim Delap drafted an explanation of events weeks ago, but we were advised by several people, including the Council’s Deputy Chief Executive Chris Perry, not to issue it”

    A truly jaw-dropping moment – a bombshell. This has had a cover-up feel to it for quite some time, but now we need some answers very quickly. Chris Perry has got some big questions to answer now, and we need to press him to do so.
    This is now really starting to stink.

  19. tintinhaddock says:

    Let’s get some perspective here: the stones were illegible, they were not in their original position and they represent a small fraction of the stones that are still there.

    And now people who gave their valuable time and effort to that space have been banned??

    Well I guess that’s OK because now ‘Rod’ can take up their mantle and look after it.

  20. Shanon Hays says:

    This is terribly distressing. Several of my ancestors (I am a descendant of Nicholas Lanier and Lucreece Bassano) are buried at St. Alphege, and I was very much looking forward to visiting the churchyard when I come to London in late December and early January (I reside in the US). It breaks my heart to know that my ancestors’ headstones have likely been destroyed in this wanton manner. This kind of desecration of history would be taken quite seriously in the US, I daresay, and I sincerely hope that those responsible for this outrage are brought to justice.

  21. Paul says:

    Shanon, I suggest you rest easy – like your ancestors, whose graves are very unlikely to have been affected.

    This incident is a mess; it is neither as insignificant as tintinhaddock suggests, for the wilful destruction of even anonymous gravestones is to be deplored, nor is it a disaster which affects the majority of the Park, or the Churchyard. The gravestones affected were from the 1820s, and only a couple were identifiable. Lucreece Bassano’s earthly remains will have seen the collapse of the old church, and the burning of the present one, and I suspect his repose is likely undisturbed by the thoughtless destruction of one corner of the park.

  22. Darren says:

    Not sure what exactly it was that the friends did to keep the alcoholics and drug dealers away, however on my visit to the park today I saw the friends clearing out their stuff and the re-emergence of a couple of heavy drinkers.

    It seems to me that the only losers in all of this are the local people, be they friends or not.

    Rod – I’m impressed with the amount of time you have devoted to this issue on line. I trust you’ll be just as energetic when it comes to creating a new group to maintain the progress made in the park. Actions rather than words will ensure the park will be safe to be enjoyed by future generations.

  23. Rod says:

    “It seems to me that the only losers in all of this are the local people, be they friends or not.”
    Well, for once we can agree – the local people are, of course, the losers – a bunch of unelected, unsupervised people went way beyond their authority and smashed up some 300 year old headstones.

    “Not sure what exactly it was that the friends did to keep the alcoholics and drug dealers away”
    Nothing – the idea that the Friends rid the Park of drugs is self-serving propaganda. Did the Friends organise vigilante patrols? No
    A pensioner, tending to his tomato plants, scares off drug dealers?
    Get real

  24. Rod says:

    “I saw the friends clearing out their stuff and the re-emergence of a couple of heavy drinkers.”

    Yeah, sorry – that was me and Craig.

  25. Parky says:

    The friends of st alfege park, Including mr delap, have cleared away the undergrowth that drug takers in the park used to hide behind. They have planted flower beds and borders which make the park more attractive. Children can study the various plants introduced by the friends. The friends have acquired and installed picnic tables which enable families and others to picnic in the park. The bird tables have encouraged bird life into the park. Local children can identify the birds and all who pass through the park can enjoy the birdsong. Local families take it in turns to replenish the bird tables. This encourages the children in the st alfege community to develop a sense of community and volunteering. The greenhouse would be used by local schoolchildren to grow seedlings which could then be planted out in the park. A series of theatrical events have been held in the park which have brought the park to the attention of people from all over Greenwich who now enjoy a public space they didn’t know existed previously. As we all know, drinkers and drug takers tend to avoid areas frequented by regular citizens and families. Those are just some of the deplorable actions taken by the friends with the support of the council and other community groups. The quickest way to restore the park to its former anti social atmosphere is to call a halt to the work done by the friends. I live locally, I have four children, and I want them and their friends to want to play in the park and to be able to do so safely. The best wa

  26. Parky says:

    The best way to achieve that in my humble opinion is to get the friends and mr delay back to work.

  27. Rod says:

    Let’s be very clear -
    Nobody is denying that the Friends, in the past, did some good work in the Park.
    However, problems began to occur when either Mr Delap personally, or the Friends as a body, began to act as if they owned the Park.
    Mr Delap’s refusal to explain the chain of events which ended in the headstones being smashed, and his refusal to resign, are the reasons why the Friends have been banned from the Park.
    If Mr Delap had explained what had happened as soon as he got back from holiday in late September, and been prepared to accept his share of responsibility and offer his resignation, if appropriate, the Friends would still be working in the Park today.

    Rank and file members of the Friends and regular Park users should be very angry with Mr Delap’s head in the sand attitude, and the consequences thereof.

  28. Parky says:

    @rod

    As you note, It is very odd that regular park users, and Friends who have worked closely with Mr Delap in the park and presumably know him better than most, are not as upset with Mr Delso as you say they ought to be? Why have no Friends vented their ire on Mr Delap in this forum? It is all most peculiar. There is no way they could think he’s done little or nothing wrong and has been unfairly criticised. Is there?

  29. Rod says:

    “There is no way they could think he’s done little or nothing wrong and has been unfairly criticised. Is there?”

    It is possible that they think that, and it is even possible that they are right.
    The situation is that until Mr Delap (for only he seems to know – committee members such as Suzanne Miller, for example, don’t even know the date on which the stones were destroyed)provides the community with an accurate, detailed explanation of the chain of events (what happened, who said what to whom, why he didn’t report the incident to the council straight away, why he thought he had the authority to move the stones in the first place, and all the other questions hanging over this matter), he continues to look very culpable indeed.

    I have said this before but the message doesn’t seem to have been taken – Mr Delap’s refusal to explain, accept any responsibilty for what has hapeened and, at least, offer his resignation if appropriate is the sole reason why the Friends have been banned from working in the Park.

  30. edprattmclean says:

    I am greatly saddened by the loss of these headstones. I heartily agree with Rod et al that a full explanation ought to be provided by those involved and those responsible: how else are local people to remedy the situation and prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future? Whether the fault is shared, whether the destruction was ordered or those in charge simply failed to prevent it, in the spirit of ministerial responsibility the person responsible ought to resign his or her position. The Friends sound to me like a virtuous body but even as volunteers we owe a duty of care and good intentions alone do not excuse all wrongs.

    I sincerely hope that this issue does not go cold before we have heard a satisfactory explanation and apology and I call on the bodies involved to provide one.