COLCHESTER Council bosses have promised to respect city centre gravestones after concerns were raised about damage and vandalism.

St Nicholas Square, off High Street, is undergoing a £1.6million revamp under the government’s Town Deal fund. 

According to the plans, the square will see wider pavements with space for bars, cafes and restaurants in the area to have outside seating. 

The old gravestones, which were in the former church's grounds, will be removed and repositioned.

Colchester Council assured residents the stones would be incorporated into the new design. 


Colchester resident Wendy Buck was left concerned after spotting what she said appears to be recent damage.

She said: “I walked across the road to take a closer look and saw that there were dark blank marks against the walls where the gravestones have stood and drag marks in the ground.

"My eye was then drawn to the broken-up headstones that lay scattered on the grass a few feet away.  

“After the destruction of the ancient Yew trees in the churchyard, I was actually quite angry that this could be another wanton act of destruction."

She said the gravestones on the opposite side of the yard, near Roots and Groves cafe, have also been disturbed. 


“Some of the gravestones were actually stacked on top of one another and the very large tomb markers now have fresh scratches and chips on them as though someone has tried to lift those up too,” Mrs Buck said. 

Colchester’s High Stewart Sir Bob Russel said: “Gravestones in the former graveyard of St Nicholas Church have been open to vandalism and disrespect for the past 70 years, so if there has been further damage then it comes as no surprise. 

“What is of much greater concern is the decision of Colchester City Council to open up the closed churchyard of Holy Trinity Church with the near certainty that this will allow anti-social behaviour to take place in what is currently a protected wildlife oasis. 

“In what is a total lack of respect for Colchestrians buried there, the council is planning on moving 30 of the gravestones.” 

Colchester's Civic Society highlighted the sensitivity of moving gravemarkers and that the works would need to proceed in a respectful manner.


Society president John Burton said: "We appreciate the council wanting to improve St Nicholas Square.

"We have been talking to them and warned about the sensitivity of graves and gravemarkers because there is a lot of sensitivity around the stones, which we made clear to the planning organisation.

"It needs a more sensitive approach."

Bosses at Colchester Council said the broken gravestones were not damaged during the works and were noted in a survey prior to the start of the project. 

A spokesperson for Colchester City Council said: “Colchester’s rich history is at the forefront of our plans to regenerate St Nicholas Square.  

“We will ensure that historic headstones are treated with respect while contributing to the square’s attractive new landscaping, similar to the approach taken at St Giles Cripplegate in London.  

“This includes incorporating headstones, some of which may have been damaged over time, into the design of new benches where possible. 

“This preservation will adhere to all legal requirements and will be completed under archaeological supervision.  

“It is important to note that archaeological work suggests the headstones are no longer linked to corresponding graves due to previous removals.  


“This project does not disrupt existing burials, and the process will provide an opportunity to repair numerous headstones. 

“The broken stones in the photographs are concrete pavers and headstones that were already broken prior to the works on site, and which were noted as broken previously in our surveys. No headstones have been broken during these works. 

“With careful integration, the headstones will continue to be seen and appreciated by future generations. We are confident that this sensitive approach will strike a positive balance between commemoration and regeneration.”