How the pandemic has affected births, marriages and deaths in Lancashire

When little Theadora Enid Rosemary Burckhardt was born on the first day of lockdown 2020, her family wanted to make sure they made memories for all the right reasons - and followed up her milestone birth by getting married and having her Christened during the Covid crisis.

Saturday, 27th March 2021, 7:00 am

Mum Sarah said: “She was born slightly early due to complications with gestational diabetes and so I had a C-section in the afternoon, just hours before Boris’ announcement.

“It was very strange because when we went into hospital everything was normal, but when we came out 11/12 days later, it had all changed.”

Sarah and now husband Mark, 40, a support worker, spent almost two weeks with Theadora in Royal Preston Hospital due to her needing extra support.

Sarah and Mark Burckhardt from Leyland, on their wedding day in September 2020. Image courtesy of Tiffany LS Photography

They didn’t have to wear masks and we were kept as separate as possible in a side room rather than on the ward. It was when the couple - who have three older children aged 10, 9 and 7, got home to Leyland, that they noticed big changes.

Sarah said: “Whereas you normally get constant visitors and people turning up unannounced, or delivering meals, we didn’t have any of that.

“This time it was much more private and actually nice to have the family unit together. My husband has also been off work for longer.”

She added: “When we were able to go in gardens we were able to meet with a few people then, but she still hasn’t met my mum, her grandma, because she’s a shielder. But we Facetime and she’s learned to smile at the camera and she seems to adapt better than us.”

Theadora Burckhardt from Leyland, who was born on the first day of lockdown, March 23, 2020.

The couple were also due to get married at St Ambrose Church in Leyland in May, but had to postpone due to the first lockdown.

Sarah said: “We decided, if it’s going to be such a strange, memorable year, then lets make it memorable for nice reasons.”

So undeterred, they rearranged to September, when rules dictated only 30 people could attend.

Sarah said: “We were a family of six, and then there was the vicar, so that meant we could have 23 guests. We still had all the main people there, but felt bad saying that children couldn’t come.

The late Colonel Graham Longdon with his grandchildren Bradley and Danni

“We found it relaxed and personal and we weren’t running around having to entertain lots and lots of people.”

The couple didn’t have to wear masks inside the church, although guests did, and there was no hugging due to social distancing rules.

At the alter, the couple also had Theadora baptised, and they held a small reception afterwards in a local club.

On Tuesday the family of six celebrated Theadora’s first birthday together at home, with party games and balloons. The simple affair reflected how Theadora’s entire life has had to be lived so far. But her parents are positive about the experience.

The late Colonel Graham Longdon with his eldest son Mark

“You figure out what’s important to you when you strip it back”, said Sarah.

Grief in lockdown

Experiencing the other end of life’s journey, 21-year-old Bradley Longdon lost his “hero” grandfather Graham to dementia one week before the first lockdown.

While his family were able to be by his side when he died at Chorley Hospital on March 13, strict rules in the weeks afterwards meant only two people were allowed at the funeral, and no wake was allowed.

Reflecting on the anniversary , Bradley, from Hutton, said the restrictions have left him feeling like his OBE and MBE-winning grandfather was forgotten about, and the experience has left mental scars for many people.

He said: “The following weeks were tough for us all.

Sarah, Theadora and Mark Burckhardt in Worden Park, Leyland

“The week after he passed was when the first lockdown came into place and as we were all from different households we couldn’t mourn together. It’s not something you ever expect to experience.

“You always seem to get the chance to celebrate that persons life with a funeral, surrounded by the people who loved them the most. Obviously we didn’t get this. My father and Granny were the only ones able to attend the funeral, for witness purposes.

“Although it’s understandable why we weren’t able to have a funeral, it’s very hard to move on as we haven’t really had the chance to celebrate his life as a whole family and say goodbye together to the coffin.”

Graham Malcolm Longdon was a highly-decorated Army Colonel, who passed out from Sandhurst in 1956 and then was station in Germany, Oman, Cyprus, Sheffield, Harlow Newtown, Ireland, Ghana, Belize, The Falklands, Romanian and Bangladesh.

During his career he experienced military coups, recruited in the jungle for trackers, and was jailed for speaking out for those in need. For his services, he was awarded the MBE, OBE, Ireland, Jubilee, Muscat, and the Colonel Bands and Cold War medal for Germany and Romania.

Bradley said: “As a man who had achieved so much in his life - being awarded the MBE and OBE as the highlight - I don’t think he got the recognition he deserved at all.”

He added: “Don’t get me wrong when Covid is somewhat ‘over’ we do plan on getting family together from all over the world and give him the send off we never had the opportunity to give, but is it really the same?

“My sister and I were lucky enough to have never lost a loved one before my Grandpa’s passing, but to lose someone in this way was never how I imagined it to be like.

“Part of me does feel like he was almost forgotten about.”

Bradley says that constant news about deaths has made it harder to get on with life, as the constant reminder of deaths brings back all the memories.

He said: “I fully sympathise with every other family who have lost someone and have had to mourn for them whilst being stuck at home for the majority of the time. Not only do I sympathise with those who weren’t able to have a funeral, but to those who have experienced problems mentally.

“For example, with my sister living elsewhere, we went over three months without seeing her. So she had just experienced the first major loss in life and she wasn’t even able to have the comfort of her parents to get her through it.

“I live at home with my parents so I was fortunate to have their support, but I don’t underestimate how hard it must have been for my sister and anyone who had to go through the same.”

Bradley says he remembers his grandfather as someone who “above all, faced life with a smile and a wink”, and an “incredible serviceman”.

Having being stationed in Bangladesh, he became a director of the Sandy Galls Afghanistan Appeal in Peshawar from 1993-1995, after which he then moved back to South England to Woolsery and worked for the Calvert Trust on Exmoor.

He then moved to Martock in 2002 and was Regional Secretary for SAFFA for 10 years. In October 2019, when things started to take a turn for the worse in terms of health; the family moved both him and his wife to Lancashire so they could be cared for properly.

Lancashire's registration service

Steve Lloyd is the head of the registration service for Lancashire County Council.

In the past year he and his team have faced huge challenges carrying out their work as policies regarding births, marriages, deaths and UK citizenship ceremonies all changed.

“There have actually been quite a lot of positives with death registrations”, said Steve.

“Even though sadly we’ve had lots more deaths, there has been an easement that means we can do a lot more over the telephone now, and we can receive files electronically when we were not usually allowed to.”

Steve said that people have been spared making long journeys to register a death, which can sometimes add to distress.

Births, by law, still have to be registered in person.

During the first lockdown, births could not be registered, and staff have worked hard to get through through a backlog of 4,000 babies since then. As parents have to make a face-to-face appointment, buildings have been made Covid-secure and appointments brief.

Due to restrictions, waiting rooms cannot be used, so parents are being advised to wait in cars or outside the main building before their appointment time.

Steve said weddings and civil ceremonies have been “extremely challenging” due to the ever-changing restrictions, and some weddings have had to be rearranged seven or eight times.

In a normal year, 4,000 couples are married, but in the past year the figure has been around 700. Until Monday, weddings are only allowed for up to six people, in exceptional circumstances.

This will change to six attendees, but without the requirement of exceptional circumstances on Monday.

Then on April 12 at the earliest, the number allowed will increase to 15, and the places where weddings can take place will be broadened.

Steve said: "When the Government announced the roadmap out of restrictions, our inbox was flooded with literally thousands of emails from couples wanting to know what it meant for their wedding.

"Sadly, this has meant that we haven't been able to get back to people as quickly as we would normally like."

The team is having to prioritise people who have had to reschedule weddings last year and this year ahead of those wanting to get married in 2022/23.

Steve said: "People don't suddenly stop want to get married, so there is a big backlog for us to work through.

"And we can only do what the Government tells us we can. If infection rates start going up again, then we might have to put some more weddings back.

"It's been emotionally draining for our staff. We are used to dealing with key life events, but we are not in the business of saying no to people. We don't like being the people who say that what's in your imagination isn't going to happen."

British Citizenship

If you have successfully applied to become a British Citizen, usually you must attend a citizenship ceremony within three months of receiving your invitation from the Home Office.

Because of coronavirus, this has been extended to 6 months.

In Lancashire, around 400 ceremonies are held each year at the registry office in Bow Lane, Preston.

During the ceremony, the new citizen swears their allegiance to the Queen and their loyalty to the United Kingdom.

But during the past year, restrictions have meant that in-person ceremonies have not been allowed, and instead the ceremony takes place on Zoom.

Steve Lloyd said this has never been done before, but has been well-received.

He said: “We still have the picture of the Queen and the union flag, and the feedback is that people still very much enjoy it. It’s a celebration of the last part of their journey.”