West Ham United fans remember loved ones as Upton Park memorial garden closes temporarily
PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:32 22 January 2020
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A service has taken place to mark the temporary closure of a memorial garden dedicated to West Ham United fans.
About 100 people gathered at the tribute-filled site at the club's former Upton Park home on Saturday, January 18 to collect "cherished" plaques, statuettes, flowers and scarves left to mark the passing of their loved ones since the garden started in 2001.
West Ham United chaplain Rev. Alan Bolding said: "[This is] a special place that is so close to all our hearts. A special place belonging to the West Ham family. A special place where family and friends could come and remember those we have lost and reflect on those great moments: the highs, and even the lows, all shared together at our Boleyn ground."
Hammers fan, Ray Fuller - whose wife Rita's ashes were scattered at the garden - joined Rev. Bolding in giving a reading before West Ham family members sang the club's anthem, I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles.
Family members gathered their tributes to take home or place in storage before Rev. Bolding led everyone in prayer.
Linda George, whose mum and dad were remembered at the garden, said afterwards: "It was highly emotional.
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"It's nice the garden is being preserved. This is part of the history of West Ham. This place will always be known as West Ham's home."
Jake Heath, supporter services manager at the club, said: "It was lovely to see so many at the ceremony. The families have said it was a fitting tribute to their loved ones at a place that will always be very special."
He added the club had gone to great lengths to contact anyone with relatives remembered at the garden, but people who haven't been should email firstname.lastname@example.org
There is also a Facebook group dedicated to the garden which is run by Anthony Kaye whose brother Larry was remembered at the site.
The area in Green Street is being closed so developer Barratt London can begin the next stage of the 842 homes Upton Gardens redevelopment.
Stephen Thompson, managing director of Barratt East London, said: "We are proud to be working closely with West Ham United and the families to ensure the memorial area remains a fitting and lasting tribute to those remembered."
The trees and soil in the garden are being moved into a planter at Upton Gardens on which the names of those remembered at the ground will be engraved.