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Swale families back plans for Covid memorial gardens which could come to Sittingbourne, Sheppey and Faversham


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Three memorial gardens could be created across Swale to remember the hundreds of residents who have died from coronavirus.

Proposals to erect the spaces for reflection in Sittingbourne, Sheppey and Faversham, will be discussed at a council meeting this month.

Chris and Stella Gilley, from Queenborough, died from Covid-19 in January 2021
Chris and Stella Gilley, from Queenborough, died from Covid-19 in January 2021

Tens of thousands of people across England have lost their lives to the virus, with more than 450 coming from the borough.

It is proposed that residents in Swale have an area set aside and designated as a place to remember loved ones and provide somewhere to reflect on the pandemic.

A council document discussing the idea said: “It is intended that a place be created where generations to come can take refuge from their daily lives and reflect.

“It also provides a focus on creating public outdoor space at a time when the importance of having access to gardens and outdoor space has been so vastly recognised as a core factor in maintaining good mental and physical health.

“Memorial gardens have traditionally been created to remember the victims of conflict or terrorism attacks, but their background does have relevance to the current pandemic.”

Memorial gardens could be introduced to Sheppey, Sittingbourne and Faversham
Memorial gardens could be introduced to Sheppey, Sittingbourne and Faversham

It is not proposed for the names of those who lost their lives from Swale to be featured, due to the pandemic’s ongoing nature and the complex way deaths are recorded.

Sittingbourne man Daryl Gilley endured the unimaginable heartache of losing both of his parents to the virus earlier this year.

Chris and Stella Gilley, from Queenborough on Sheppey, died hours apart in January after the family contracted Covid-19.

Son Daryl has backed the idea for a garden, but would like to see personalised names on the memorials.

He said: “The pandemic is an event which will become a historical moment beyond my lifetime and I think a memorial garden or a statue is a good idea for any sort of representation, showing those who lost their lives.

Stuart Charlesworth and his daughter Rebekah, before he sadly died from Covid
Stuart Charlesworth and his daughter Rebekah, before he sadly died from Covid

“Losing both my parents was the most horrific day of my life, but I think this would help some way with the grieving process.

“I think a wall of people’s names are very important for the recognition of the impact Covid-19 has had. As with service men and women’s statues it personalises the number you see reported.”

At the meeting councillors will discuss how the gardens might be funded, where they might be and also whether a single memorial would be preferable to one in each town. The council will also consider whether or not a time capsule might be a better option.

Emma Charlesworth lost her 45-year-old husband Stuart to the virus and backs the idea of the memorial garden.

She said: "Many other places in the UK have done something similar and I'd like to see it include yellow hearts as this has become a symbol of those lost to Covid.

"I think having one memorial could have a great impact and I know from personal experience that connecting with people who have lost someone to Covid that no matter where they live it helps you not feel alone.

"Having a place to come together does help with the grief process. The memorial wall in London is a good example of this and is incredibly powerful."

Read more: All the latest news from Sheerness

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

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