Woman 'devastated' after memorial bench at Blaise Castle vandalised for second time

The bench was installed in memory of Janet Fleet, who died from cancer in 2011. Credit: BPM Media

A memorial bench installed to pay tribute to a Bristol woman who died from cancer has been vandalised for the second time.

The bench, in the grounds of Blaise Castle, has had graffiti written on it and a number of rude drawings added.

It was originally installed by Nicky Weech, from Kingswood, to honour her mother, Janet Fleet, who died in November 2011. The bench was commissioned a year later on the anniversary of Janet's death.

Janet and her husband Mike married at 17 and 19 and went onto share many precious moments with their family walking around the grounds.

"They spent all of their courting times up at Blaise," Nicky said. "Mum was from Henbury and Dad was from Lawrence Weston, so that was their neck of the woods so they would go to Blaise an awful lot."

Nicky also spent time having picnics and visiting the grounds as a child, and later took her own children there regularly. It made the park an important place for the whole family and they became the first to place a memorial bench there.

The bench has been defaced with writing that includes: "Neil & Kelsey 2.7.2022" Credit: BPM Media

"My dad goes there every week, every Friday, and has a coffee on the bench and reflects, looking at the mansion house. He’s got a photo from that scene sitting at the benches as a large canvas in his house as a memento as well. It’s the view he gets when he sits on the seat.”

'The bench means an awful lot to us... It's devastating'

But the family discovered the bench had been graffitied at the beginning of the month.

'Neil and Kelsey' has been scrawled on the bench, with the date '02.07.22' alongside some more rude drawings. Nicky's father wasn't able to visit until 15 July, having only just recovered from Covid.

"That seat does mean an awful lot to us and the thought of somebody thinking it’s okay to deface it. We’ve got teenage kids and there is no way they would sit on something they could see meant something to someone else and just decide to scribble on it.

"I just don’t understand why anyone would ever think that is okay to do. It’s devastating. My dad has to go up there every week with his coffee and sit on that."

Nicky said it's the second time the bench has been damaged.

"Some silly person decided to use it as the base for their disposable BBQ, which then burnt a chunk of it, so we ended up having to turn the seated bit over. We can’t do that again because obviously, it would reveal that burn mark again."

Since sharing news of the vandalism on Facebook, a stranger has offered to sand down and revarnish the bench for the family.

"It’s lovely someone offered to do that with us," Nicky added. “It’s bringing strangers together in a nice way.”

But despite the happy ending, Nicky remains concerned that it could happen again. She said: "the only thing is - how long until some other person goes up there and does it again?”