THE SALE PACK
The discovery of the substantial Sale Pack produced by Beachcroft Wansboroughs on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health was crucial in providing an unequivocal understanding of the status, ownership, and specific conditions attached to the proposed sale in October 2000.
This detailed booklet was produced on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health to provide all the necessary information which interested parties and prospective purchasers of the Cemetery might need to assist them with their decisions.
It is assumed that those responsible for due diligence in the original and any subsequent sales of the cemetery would have been familiar with the status, ownership and specific conditions referred to in this sale document.
It is understood that a copy of this Sale Pack was provided to Mr Tony Walsh, who it is believed to have purchased the Cemetery prior to auction in October 2000.
Index to Sales Pack
The Index deals specifically with Further Special Conditions, Transfer Deed, Plan of the Property and Epitome of title, originals, or copies of which were included in the substantial Sales booklet.
The Cemetery is consecrated ground, there are several references to that status in the documents, and there is a full copy of the hand-written Sentence of Consecration document dated 25th May 1916 and an attached map, within the papers. It would be reasonable to expect purchasers of the Cemetery might have been advised of this position by their legal advisers.
Full details of the many conditions of sale are included in this comprehensive document and it is difficult to see how there could be any misunderstandings of those details .
Enquiries made at the time
Section 8: The Standard Set Plus Pre Contract General Enquiries, highlights the questions which the prospective purchaser such as Mr Walsh and his legal representative might have been asking and the answers and clarifications which the Secretary of State for Health was providing.
Of particular interest among many other sections is the answer to question 32 "The consecrated land has been used as a burial ground since consecration"
Question 36 asks "Please confirm that any fixtures fittings and chattels included in the sale are owned absolutely by the Seller, free from any third party rights". The answer is significant poignant and telling. "This confirmation cannot be given. Tombstones, coffins and monuments etc. will continue to be the property of their existing owners."
The original and subsequent purchasers of the Cemetery should have been aware of this position, its significance, and their responsibilities as owners of the site who did not own the tombstones monuments and coffins etc, to the families and individuals who did.
Response to Question 32 -
Response to Question 36.
The misleading history
When the current research of the cemetery records first began in 2017, there was a common belief that the Calderstones Hospital authorities had arrogantly sold off the cemetery site without consultation with the families of the deceased or the staff of the Hospital who had cared for them. See Dr Ingham's timeline notes
After two years of still incomplete research, the picture appears to be quite different. The NHS at national and regional level did sell the Cemetery, and appears to have ignored or not consulted with the local Calderstones Hospital management and staff in arranging that sale.
However, contrary to what was claimed, the NHS at regional level was concerned about the future of both the Calderstones and Brockhall Hospital cemeteries. Both those hospitals were scheduled to close as their occupants were being resettled into community facilities across the North West as part of the move to Care in the Community.
The resettlement programme was a huge logistical challenge which was led by the Regional Health Authority with Department of Health oversight. In essence, it required the efficient transfer of resources and responsibilities from the Hospitals to the District Health Authorities and Local Authorities who would assume responsibility for future care provision.
As part of that transfer of responsibility, the Regional Health Authority was routinely transferring staffing and capital resources from central to local commissioners. Most of these transfers would involve the establishment and funding of new accommodation and support packages, which were to be set against the savings of running down, closing and then decommissioning the Hospital wards at Calderstones and Brockhall.
The same officers who were responsible for arranging this huge logistical challenge of moving hundreds of people into completely new services within the community, whilst simultaneously managing the run-down within the Hospitals, were left with two notable anomalies to resolve. - the two cemeteries.
Whatever criticisms might be made about the outcome of their actions, there can be little doubt that these officials were motivated to secure the long term future of both cemeteries, and to that end, we believe that they began negotiations at the request of the Ribble Valley Borough Council to transfer or sell the cemeteries to the Authority. The same officers would be negotiating with senior officers of Local Authorities on a daily basis, and it is assumed that the same officers who negotiated the "resettlement packages" with Ribble Valley Borough Council were involved in negotiating the transfer of the cemeteries.
The disposal of Government property is subject to strict legal controls and audit which is perhaps why the sale was routed through independent agents to sell at auction. However, it is understood that the Ribble Valley Borough Council expressed its wish to purchase the Calderstones Cemetery a few days before the Auction took place.
At this point, days before the Auction was to be held, some confusing developments take place which we still do not fully understand. It was suggested that instead of the RVBC purchasing the cemetery directly, they had nominated somebody else who proceeded to purchase the cemetery, but we had no documentary evidence to confirm that this was the case.
On the contrary, the "new" owner, Tony Walsh, insisted that he had had no connection or understanding with the Council, most of whose officers by 2017, had changed and they could find no record of any such agreement or intention to purchase.
With the benefit of hindsight it now looks as though despite the best intentions of the two Regional Health Authority (RHA) officers their plans backfired badly. Any examination of the details in the "Sale Book," which had been prepared on behalf of the RHA and the Department of Health would reveal the extent to which the Health Authority had set out to protect the interests of the deceased and their families.
It is difficult then to understand why these two officers do not appear to have discussed their plans with the Calderstones Hospital management or the relatives of the deceased prior to the sale, deservedly attracting the criticism which followed. It has been suggested that the confidentiality of their negotiations, might have precluded wider discussion, but that is merely speculation.
In continuing the research during 2019 contact was initially made with the very helpful Estates section of the Department of Health in Derby, which provided a valuable insight into what had happened in 2000 and clarified some of our misunderstandings. Subsequently, with the valued assistance of Nigel Evans MP who has been so supportive to the Friends, we made contact with Mr Stephen Hammond, then Minister of State for Health.
A copy of his two page letter which clarifies the position is below -