The overgrown state of West Lane Cemetery, just off Upper West Lane in Lancing, prevented residents from visiting their loved ones, but now Lynne and Paul Mason have transformed the area and uncovered hundreds of headstones.
Lynne said: “I have nine relatives in the cemetery. We’d lived in Cornwall for a few years so we hadn’t been to the site for some time, but then Paul became ill so we moved back down.
“We returned to see the graves and I couldn’t find any of them because they were just mangled and the grass was overgrown. I was devastated.”
Paul added: “We were heartbroken.”
The cemetery is under the management of St James the Less church, in Manor Road, and has not been maintained for years, according to Lynne.
The Masons, of Rustington, decided to take matters into their own hands and took to the Lancing History Facebook page to appeal for help.
In November, they came to the cemetery armed with a few helpers, a new bush strimmer and a car full of rakes, shears and gloves.
“We went back and cut the grass down, along with weeds, stingers and brambles. It took me three weeks to find one of my relatives,” said Lynne.
Now having formed the self-funding group, West Lane Cemetery Volunteers, the couple has spent more than £800 of their own money to breathe new life into the site.
They have also received £4,000 from West Sussex County Council and £1,800 from Adur District Council (ADC) for a new fence.
The church has since applied to the privy council for ADC to take over responsibility for maintenance, but until this has been approved councillors Carson and Carol Albury have been pitching in.
Although a vast amount of work has gone into making the cemetery a beautiful haven for residents, there is still much to be done.
Paul said: “We do need volunteers to carry on the work – our health is not the best and we do need some rest after we’ve had a splurge.”
Lynne and Paul would like to extend a huge thank-you to Chris Sevante, Terry Kennard, Clare Verlander, Peter Jennings, Maxine Bishop, Lisa Sleep, Carson Albury, Carol Albury and Lydia Schilbach for their assistance with the ambitious project.
To get involved contact Lynne on 07919458246.