Help needed to turn forgotten burial site into memorial garden

Sue Sula, chairman of the Brookside Memorial Garden Community Group, and historian Mary Taylor at the memorial garden site next to the Brookside Industrial Estate in Rustington
Sue Sula, chairman of the Brookside Memorial Garden Community Group, and historian Mary Taylor at the memorial garden site next to the Brookside Industrial Estate in Rustington

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Rustington is a triangle of grass, boxed in by fencing.

Sandwiched between Wolstenbury Road and the Brookside Industrial Estate, the space is covered in weeds, and dead plants are piled high in the centre.

The names of some of the people who have been buried at the site

The names of some of the people who have been buried at the site

To the untrained eye, it appears to be just another derelict space; but a few feet below lie the bones of 57 men, women and children who were laid to rest here.

Sue Sula played in this space as a child – and now she is leading the charge to transform this site into a memorial garden with village historian Mary Taylor.

Sue said: “I want to keep my promise to Mary and to the relatives of those buried on the site by creating a lasting memorial so they will never be forgotten again. This project is for them, let’s make it a reality.”

The conveyancer from Mallon Dene, Rustington, set up the Brookside Memorial Garden Community Group to get the ball rolling.

The burial site next to the Brookside Industrial Estate in Rustington

The burial site next to the Brookside Industrial Estate in Rustington

An £8,000 grant from West Sussex County Council allowed the group to put up fencing around the site last Easter. Now the group needs sponsorship to build the garden, and extra hands to level the ground for landscaping.

Mary, 87, rediscovered the burial site 11 years ago after looking through the Rustington parish records.

The 57 people interred there between 1926 and 1952 included people Mary knew.

A newborn baby girl is listed as well as Leslie Clark, a 28-year-old man from Wendy Ridge who was killed by a bomb in the Second World War on July 10, 1940.

The burial ground was deconsecrated and the land was sold to the housebuilding company Hargreaves, and under its ownership the site became a wasteland.

When Mary first set eyes on it, she said she was confronted with the ‘terrible sight’ of car tyres and broken televisions strewn among gravestones, which have since been removed.

With her husband Beverley, 86, Mary successfully campaigned to get control of the land, which has been handed to Rustington Parish Council.

Mary said it would feel ‘wonderful’ to see the site restored, adding: “It must feel terrible for the relatives to see it like this.”

To get involved, email sue@rustingtonpastandpresent.co.uk.