A Birmingham church that was devastated in an arson attack in 2007 is removing “unvisited, unsafe and derelict” gravestones as part of its redevelopment plans.
Church authorities are planning to remove 23 gravestones in the graveyard of Erdington’s St Barnabas, which was ravaged by fire three years ago.
Although some of the affected graves are from the 1830s and the 1840s, there are some as recent as the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s, according to church plans.
A design statement, which was submitted by the architects of the rebuild, suggests that the deterioration of gravestones has worsened since the blaze.
The report, from the Brownhill, Hayward, Brown firm, said: “The churchyard was formerly maintained by Birmingham City Council but the fire and the necessary protection and consolidation works thereafter have hampered this.
"Many of the graves are untended, overgrown with their stones displaced. The intention is to remove those grave markers that have been identified as untended and of no historic or architectural interest.
“This amounts to some 23 markers which will be removed in accordance with ecclesiastical procedure and guidelines. All these grave inscriptions will be recorded prior to removal to enable future genealogical and historical research.
“One other grave marker will need to be re-sited as it is so close to the footprint of the proposed extension.
"The newly cleared area will then be returned to grass to give a sparer churchyard setting off the retained historic and the tended graves to much better effect and easing maintenance.”
Archdeacon of the Diocese, The Ven Dr Brian Russell, said: “What we really wanted to do was to preserve the best of the past whilst increasing the impact of the church in the community.
"That is why we want an entrance by the side, which opens onto the High Street. We really want to make a clear visual and practical statement connecting the church with the High Street and the community.
“These are old graves, they are long standing ones, we are not talking about recent graves.”
The approved plans (which have civil approval and are awaiting approval from church authorities) propose a dramatic, sweeping steel roof and glass-fronted foyer.
The Grade II-listed church is one of the city’s few surviving examples of design by lauded architect Thomas Rickman.
More than 70 firefighters battled to save it but it was left without a roof and much of its internal structure in ruins following the fire.
The church’s bell tower, the ringing room, clock, oldest stain glass window and lectern survived the fire and work began almost immediately to rebuild the church bit by bit.