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Grave concerns have inspired Anton to develop innovative system to make cemeteries safer

Anton Matthews’ heart sank when he heard the tragic news that a six-year-old boy had been killed in a cemetery when a gravestone toppled over and fell on the youngster.

Like so many, Anton, who owns and manages the Memorial Stone Centre in Bognor, was horrified that one so young should meet such an awful demise.

The death of Reuben Powell shocked a community when it happened in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, back in 2001. Reuben’s mother, Jeanette, witnessed the accident, and said: “Reuben was a happy boy with lots of friends and his death has shattered our lives.

“The council knew that old tombstones posed a risk to anyone going into the cemetery and knew also that children congregated there. All they had to do was lock the gate to prevent anyone being able to gain access to the cemetery.”

The details make for especially grim reading for Anton, who has spent many years – and overcome many bureaucratic hurdles – designing and developing his innovative stone-safe stability system. It’s a system, says Anton, that has obvious safety benefits and at the same time, has improved the image of memorial installation.

The system is an innovative memorial base which, when attached to a headstone, can resist an overturning force of 250kg-plus. This more than meets the required standard of 150kg.

Speaking from the Memorial Stone Centre, in Shripney Road, Anton has revealed his thoughts on the continuing concerns of the managers of churchyards and cemeteries over the safety of existing memorials.

He said: “There have been examples of deaths to both children and adults across the country, caused by memorials falling on to cemetery visitors. Serious injuries have been sustained even from modern style low level memorials.

“To overcome this serious risk, with Stonesafe, I have developed stabilising systems to meet all conditions of memorial safety. To avoid future risks, Stonesafe have designed a safety base which when fixed to a memorial stone, can withstand the aforementioned pressure applied to the top of the stone that more than meets safety regulations.

“The design was tested by the civil engineering department at Southampton University. To give reassurance to members of the public, who want the best for their loved ones and confident of the security of his revolutionary headstone fittings, Stonesafe is offering a 30-year product liability guarantee.

“If you are considering having headstones fitted in a cemetery or churchyard, they should realise the importance of peace of mind – which comes through having a secure memorial base fitted.”

Anton explains that the foundation, which utilises a pre-cast base with a raised centre section, allows the memorial stone and plinth to be bolted to the concrete base.

He added: “The base itself is secured with stainless steel anchors into bored concrete plugs which penetrate 450mm into virgin soil at either side of the grave.

“Because the system relies only on mechanical fixing between the memorial stone and the stability base, there is no reliance upon a mortar joint. The mechanical fixing system also allows for the memorial stone to be easily removed should the need arise.”

Stonesafe is just part of Anton’s business, and comes under the umbrella of his Memorial Stone company.

He added: “The choice of memorial stone is very personal and to ensure the right choice it is important that the stone can be seen in the appropriate setting.

“So we created with the largest display of memorial head stones and cremation plaques in the district, arranged within a quiet garden where visitors will be left in peace to make their choice.

“Our staff will always be available to give help and advice, and to discuss any particular requirements, but it is our aim to allow visitors to make their choice in their own time in a quiet and dignified environment.”

Telephone: 01243 867005 Email: [email protected]

Carl Eldridge
Carl Eldridge
Carl Eldridge is a hugely experienced journalist who has worked on local and national newspapers, magazines and written for websites over the past 30 years. He lives in Bognor Regis with his wife and son.