New group wants to clean up and restore the old Score Woods Cemetery in Ilfracombe.

A GROUP has been formed to try and get the old Score Wood Cemetery in Ilfracombe cleared up and reinstated as a public burial ground.

The last recorded burial was in 1978 and since then the site has become badly overgrown, while the adjoining Grade II Listed chapel has been converted into a family dwelling.

On Wednesday the new Score Wood Cemetery Friends group met at an Ilfracombe café - they say trees have been felled, gravestones removed, graves are overgrown, monuments demolished and that access from both Bicclescombe Road and the A361 has been totally blocked.

The land was donated to the town in 1854 by Richard and Anne Bligh “as a cemetery or burial ground for persons of all Christian denomination”, with a trust created to oversee it.

It is unclear whether the trust was eventually dissolved but a 2003 letter in North Devon Council’s planning archive from one of the two remaining trustees states the land was sold to Mr Redmore for £1 “to do something for the town”.

The Score Friends group says it wants to see new trustees appointed, the graveyard cleared and the remaining land reinstated as a public burial ground to be operated “as a going concern”.

One of the organisers, Betty Engmann, aged 79, said her father and grandfather were buried there.

“It does not belong to anybody, it belongs to the people of Ilfracombe as a public cemetery,” she said.

“As a child I went there and it was beautiful. People did not have a lot of money but they used to put away so much each week to pay for their burial plot.”

Reverend Robert Harris, who attended some of the meeting, said while the Church of England and the Exeter Diocese had no responsibility for the area, as parish priest he was concerned that parishioners whose relatives were buried there could not gain access to tend the graves as they would wish.

Planning permission for the chapel conversion was granted in 2003 and it was sold as a private home but Fred Redmore is the current owner of the adjoining land.

He told the Gazette he had no objection to anyone carrying out clearance work at the cemetery as long as they understood they were not insured.

“I would be very interested to talk to them,” he said.

“There was a family came down while I was working in the valley looking for a particular grave. One was from the Midlands and one from Tennessee – so we climbed over and managed to find it.

“I have cut it down twice since I owned it. I have put in the Focus on more then one occasion if anyone would like to help me cut it down, but no one has ever come forward.”