'It was like a jungle': Trio spend three years fixing church graveyard

A 84-year-old retiree has spent the last three years maintaining a derelict graveyard where his wife and son are buried.

Bill Jones, front, next to his wife Margaret's and son Robert's grave, with Dennis Watkins, back left and and Bill's other son, Dave
Bill Jones, front, next to his wife Margaret's and son Robert's grave, with Dennis Watkins, back left and and Bill's other son, Dave

Bill Jones, of Princes End, Tipton, has spent every morning for the last three years taking care of Christ Church graveyard, on Church Road, Coseley, after it was left to fall into disarray.

Mr Jones, a retired builder, was inspired to clean up the grounds after visiting his late wife's and son's plot, only to find that the grounds were left to grow unruly and the graves were in need of repairs.

He spoke about cleaning the grounds and the work he has done.

"This all started about three years ago, the graveyard was in real disrepair, it was honestly like a jungle," he said.

Bill's son Dave, Dennis Watkins and Bill Jones

"When I first came there were brambles and fallen trees and the individual graves had collapsed and needed fixing. Some people had said that they had fallen on the pathways, it was a horrible."

With the permission of the church, the 84 year-old began his work on the grounds, soon being joined by new friend Dennis Watkins, 70, and son David, 58, who helps him to mow, place flowers and cut away brambles.

Bill said: "It's funny I was doing this work on the grounds and randomly Dennis came over and said 'I'll help you out with that.'

"He doesn't have any family plot in here, he is doing this all on his own back.

"We have both made some fantastic friends doing this, and we aren't volunteers, we both do this on our own. I am really quite proud of what we have achieved here."

Christ Church graveyard , Bilston

Since taking over maintenance of the grounds, Bill and Dennis have placed over 1,200 pots – each with flowers and four bags of gravel, and cut the grass daily to make sure that the grounds look respectable.

Reverend Emma Stanford, vicar for Christ Church, said: "The church in incredibly grateful for the amount of help the group have provided, this is the sort of thing that we would really love to encourage.

"With an older congregation at the church and a lack of financing it's really hard for us to maintain and mow it. In the year of Covid, myself and other volunteers tried to clear as much as we could, but we really appreciate the help of Bill and his group."

Mr Jones said: "We are doing really well here, we could use a bit more gravel or a few more pots, but I just wish we had some more volunteers to come along and help out, we would love to see some more smiling faces."

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