They taxed me £60 to clean my parents’ grave

By Dana Gloger, September 12, 2008

London burial societies are charging mourners a tax to have a stonemason clean or repair a gravestone.
Anyone booking a stonemason for renovation or cleaning must not only pay for the service, but an extra levy of £30-£50 per gravestone.

This is a charge which three Orthodox London burial societies - the Western Marble Arch, the United Synagogue and Federation - levy on the stonemason, which is then passed on to the customer.

One of those hit by the charge was Mildred Barnett, 85, who booked a mason to clean her parents' gravestones at Cheshunt cemetery in Hertfordshire, run by the Western Marble Arch Synagogue. When she was sent the bill, she noticed an extra charge of £60.

"I couldn't believe it," said Mrs Barnett, a member of Ilford Synagogue for more than 60 years. "Surely, it is better for cemeteries to have clean, presentable stones. I live on a pension of £105 a week and I paid £220 to have the gravestones renovated and then had to pay the extra £60.

"I was an only child so it was up to me to get my parents' graves restored. I wanted to do it as it is the last respect that I can show them."

Mrs Barnett, whose husband of 65 years died last year, added: "Where is the compassion of Jewish people who should know how to be a bit helpful to those in need?"

Her grandson Richard Baker, 35, said: "I'm just staggered that this has happened. We were not asking the burial society for anything and just wanted to help with the upkeep of the cemetery. When you are living on a pension, £60 is a lot of money."

Jonathan Grossman, administrator for the Western Marble Arch burial society, said: "The money goes towards the upkeep of the cemetery. But if people come in themselves to clean, they are not charged."

Melvyn Hartog, head of burial for the US said: "Just recently, we replaced a headstone which had been knocked over, at a cost of £2,000. That's the kind of thing we use the money for. We cannot maintain the cemeteries without such income."

Manchester and Glasgow burial societies do not charge stonemasons to enter their grounds to restore or clean gravestones.

The extra cost of cleaning

The United Synagogue's Burial Society

£60 for a stonemason to enter the cemetery. No charge for individuals cleaning stones themselves.

The Federation of Synagogues' Burial Society

£50 for a single gravestone and £75 for a double. No charge for individuals cleaning stones without a stonemason.

Western Marble Arch Synagogue, which operates the Cheshunt cemetery as well as the Joint Jewish Burial Society
£30 for a single or £60 for a double.
No charge for individuals cleaning stones themselves.

Rainsough Joint Burial Board, Manchester
No charge for stonemasons or individuals.

Hebrew Burial Society for Glasgow and West of Scotland
No charge for stonemasons or individuals.


Last updated: 3:05pm, September 11 2008