A grieving mother has been denied permission to put this ‘princess castle‘ headstone on the grave of her late disabled daughter – because it “may look out of place”.
Distraught Penni Hall, 41, vowed to decorate her daughter Alycia McKee’s burial plot with a pink and purple castle when she passed away aged 18.
The teenager, who was born with Down’s Syndrome and suffered from life-long heart problems, defied doctors to reach the milestone birthday and was buried in her tiara.
But a year later her mother, an emergency care assistant, is locked in a battle with the Church of England over her chosen headstone.
Officials at the Diocese of Exeter say the design falls outside churchyard regulations and needs to be referred to church bosses – a process Ms Hall said would cost £250.
Heartbroken Penni, from Great Torrington, Devon, said: “She fought all her life and I will not give up the fight for her now.
“Yes the stone is a little bit over the top, but it is cute and more importantly it is so fitting for her.
“I had no idea that churches had such fussy, outdated regulations.
“She was always a little ray of sunshine and joy to anyone who met her.
“Every year she lived, she always wanted a princess fairy castle cake for her birthday and she always had one.
“I won’t allow her to be denied her final wish of being a true princess, with a true castle.”
Alycia was born with Down’s Syndrome and had a hole in her heart, forcing her to undergo complex operations aged just 13 weeks and aged three.
But the condition proved terminal and affected her other organs, leading to renal failure when she was aged ten.
Doctors told Penni her only daughter had just a year to live, but the little fighter battled to survive until she passed away on April 19, 2015.
Distraught Penni picked a fitting gravestone in the shape of a princess castle, complete with pink and purple turrets, which she found online and took to a stonemason.
But she claims St Margaret and St Andrew’s, in Littleham, Exmouth, where Alycia was buried, forbid the design because it is not in keeping with the other headstones.
Heartbroken Penni, who works for the ambulance service, said: “I feel like I have failed her. She was 18, but was still very much a child.
“She had a colourful personality and I wish for her to be in her resting place with her colourful headstone reflecting who she was.
“Because it’s carved into turrets, rather than rectangular, it is not allowed.
“Churchyards don’t have to be depressing, grey, boring places and, should get with the times and be more modern.
“Everyone I have spoken to has said that they think it would make a nice change.”
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Exeter said the existing design fell outside churchyard regulations and needed to be referred to the diocese for consideration.
She said: “Rev Benedict has been supporting the family after the tragic loss of their daughter, and has discussed the headstone with them for Alycia’s grave.
“He had hoped that a way forward had been found but as the existing design falls outside churchyard regulations, it will need to be referred to the diocese for consideration.
“Regulations over what headstones can be put up in churchyards exist in order to keep them as places of peace and beauty for everyone to enjoy.
“A memorial that might be suitable for an urban, civic cemetery may look out place near an historic church building.
“The diocese has a responsibility to make sure that the churchyard remains an appropriate setting for a parish church for the next several hundred years.
“We very much want to work with the family to ensure that a headstone marking Alycia’s life can be placed on her grave and will last as a fitting memorial for many generations.”
Penni has launched a petition against the rules, which has attracted 1,726 signatures.