A COUPLE have been left heartbroken to find their relatives’ memorial plaques were removed by crematorium staff.

James and Nadine Loxham could not find the memorial kerbstones for Enid and James Loxham, Mr Loxham’s parents, at Overdale Crematorium, off Overdale Drive in Bolton.

And they were devastated to learn the memorial kerbstone had been crushed and the plaques had been “buried in an unmarked grave”.

Mrs Loxham, aged 53, said: “We are absolutely appalled and upset, it was a shock. My husband has said he wishes he had had his parents buried now even though they wanted to be cremated, so we would have a grave to visit and put flowers.

“If my mother-in-law had been alive and her husband’s stone was taken away she would have been heartbroken. My mother-in-law’s ashes were scattered there.”

The couple, from Astley, visit the site each November, when both Mr and Mrs Loxham died, and on their birthdays.

They say staff told them the stone had been crushed and the plaques placed in an unmarked grave because 25 years had passed since Mr Loxham died — the cut-off point for stones having a place in the garden of remembrance.

Mrs Loxham died 10 years ago but the date is calculated from when the stone was initially taken out, which was after Mr Loxham’s death in 1984.

The cemetery is believed to be home to between 80,000 and 100,000 memorial stones.

Mr and Mrs Loxham senior both spent their lives in Bolton and were living in Heaton when they died.

Mr Loxham owned John Twisse & Co, a cotton and dye works, in Bury New Road.

Mrs Loxham, the owner of a transcription and secretarial company, said: “It should be increased to 50 years — the stones aren’t taking up much space.”

The couple were told they could have extended the placement of the stone by paying for a further period but were not aware the stone was not permanent.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “We understand the distress this may have caused and are sympathetic to the predicament this couple are in.

“We are discussing the options with them and trying to resolve the situation.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to contact each family individually to remind them due to the high volume of kerbstones involved.

“However, in 2002 the family concerned would have been reminded of the end of lease date when they contacted us to add another relative’s name to the stone.

“We hope this issue can be resolved and have agreed with the family that they will contact us when they have chosen a new memorial.”

The stones differ to plots for graves and for ashes to be buried which are permanent.

A new York kerb stone, on lease for 20 years, would cost £265, while a granite one would cost £295. It costs £100 to renew for a further 10 years on the lease.