Bristol man's good deeds must stop, says church
HE is a good Samaritan who has spent thousands of pounds restoring a Bristol cemetery to its former glory.
But now Stephen Jackson has been told by the church that he should not have carried out his good deeds.
The 62-year-old devotes much of his free time clearing the grounds of St Mary Redcliffe Cemetery in Bath Road and even paid to have the old gates professionally restored.
Now the Bristol diocese – which is in charge of Anglican churches in the area – has said he should not do any more work in the grounds.
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Mr Jackson, of Longwell Green, was honoured with a Post/First Gold Star Award last year for dedicating so much of his time and money to the cemetery.
He said that he has always kept the church office at St Mary Redcliffe aware of any works that he has carried out at the cemetery and they have never asked him to stop.
Yet in a meeting with Bristol Diocesan officials Mr Jackson was told he should only tend to the graves that belong to relatives. They also said he should not have arranged for the cemetery gates to be restored, even though he paid the bill himself.
He said he has never kept a tally of the money he has spent tending to the cemetery but imagines that along with the restoration of the gates it probably runs to almost £9,000 – and more work needs to be done.
Mr Jackson has been spending his spare time at St Mary Redcliffe Cemetery for almost four years after visiting the grave of Colston Marshall, the father of his foster father, George Marshall.
As a child Mr Jackson and his brother were rescued from a life in Vinney Green children's home by Mr Marshall and his wife Gladys, and he thought tending to the graves was a fitting way of showing his gratitude.
He went on to renovate five graves of Victoria Cross winners, as well as the final resting place of Bristol firefighter Arthur Wale, who died in 1906 while battling a fire at the Derham Bros. boot factory in the city centre.
Mr Jackson has since moved on to clearing other parts of the cemetery, cutting back overgrown plants and shifting rubble.
The former Cadbury worker said: "I had a meeting with the diocese and they have asked me not to do any more work in the cemetery because they think it is not my concern.
"It is the first time anyone has said anything like this.
"I had told them I was trying to get the chapel restored and they told me I was not to do anything because it is consecrated ground.
"I was so upset when I came out of the meeting. They told me I shouldn't have had the gates done.
"What I have done, I've done with my own resources.
"But they are not going to stop me."
Mr Jackson said he has done all the work at the cemetery because it had fallen into such a state of disrepair.
"For the diocese to have allowed for the cemetery to get into that position is a disgrace," he said. "If it was just left it would become more and more overgrown.
"Everything I have done at the cemetery I have always informed the church office about and they know what I have been doing because I have always informed them and the council.
"When the wrought iron gates were taken away I informed the church as a matter of courtesy but the diocese have told me that they didn't like the thought of me doing the gates."
Bristol Diocese told the Post that because St Mary Redcliffe Cemetery is now closed to burials, responsibility for its maintenance lies with the city council but that work to graves, churches and cemeteries requires a request for permission, called a faculty.
In a statement the diocese said: "Mr Jackson has been advised that, although he is welcome to look after the graves and memorials of his relatives, as a matter of ecclesiastical law, no works should be carried out on other graves and memorials or parts of the cemetery and chapel without a 'faculty' from the Diocesan Chancellor.
"The faculty jurisdiction is designed to safeguard consecrated church property, in particular graves and monuments. Mr Jackson has not applied for a faculty at this time."