A Guide to the
RULES AND REGULATIONS
WHO CAN BE BURIED IN A CHURCHYARD?
As a general rule, any person who lives in the ecclesiastical (church) parish, is on the church electoral (membership) roll, or dies in the village, as long as there is space available. A person may also be buried in an existing family grave if there is space.
CAN GRAVES BE RESERVED?
This is a long and costly process and, in the interests of fairness, unlikely to be agreed.
WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THE CHURCHYARD?
Although by ecclesiastical (Church) law the Incumbent (the Vicar) owns the churchyard, the Chancellor of the Diocese has control of churchyards. He/she can delegate some authority to the Parish Priest (Vicar).
The Parish Priest has the right to decide where in the churchyard a burial or interment shall take place.
WHO IS THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DIOCESE?
The Bishop’s legal officer, who is a judge.
WHOSE PERMISSION IS NEEDED TO PUT SOMETHING IN A CHURCHYARD?
Every change in a churchyard, including the erection or removal of a monument, kerb, ornament or inscription requires the authority of the Chancellor. In certain cases the Chancellor delegates to the parish priest the authority to give permission for the erection of a gravestone or the addition of an inscription.
MANY OLD GRAVES HAVE KERBSTONES. WHY ARE THEY NO LONGER ALLOWED?
It is for practical reasons. Grass-cutting machines do not fit between graves with kerbstones, and strimmers can damage monuments. Hand trimming is impractical in a large churchyard. The upkeep of churchyards is hard work and time-consuming. Although some individual graves are lovingly cared for by the family of the deceased, many are not. The bulk of the work is carried out by volunteers who are retired. These days churches can no longer afford to pay someone to care for the churchyard: burial fees barely cover the cost of the repair and maintenance of equipment.
WHAT IF MONUMENTS, KERBS, ORNAMENTS OR INSCRIPTIONS ARE INTRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION?
The Chancellor has the legal power to order the removal of any item introduced without permission, or which does not comply with the conditions set out in the permission form, which is signed by the person applying for the monument or inscription.
Any person responsible for such unlawful items may be ordered to pay the cost of removing them and the legal costs involved.
SOME PEOPLE HAVE PUT THEIR OWN EDGING STONES, FENCES OR WOODEN SURROUNDS TO
These are unlawful and have to be removed. We understand that people want to make the grave look nice; however, it is inappropriate for a churchyard to resemble a garden or a park. The Chancellor expects the Vicar and Church Council to arrange the removal of unlawful items. It is not a job we like having to do, therefore we hope people will not introduce unlawful items to the graves.
SURELY WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE THE MEMORIALS WE WANT?
There is no right to place a memorial over a grave. The Chancellor controls what type of memorials and inscriptions are appropriate for a Christian burial ground.
SO WHAT DOES THE CHANCELLOR ALLOW?
The Incumbent (Vicar) can authorise a plain headstone or cross, of traditional shape and simple design. There are Regulations regarding height, width and style (details can be provided on request). The base may incorporate a vase. Individually designed memorials are encouraged as long as they fall within the Regulations. The stonemason is responsible for providing a satisfactory and stable base.
Memorials in the shape of hearts, figures, open books or bird baths, etc, will not get permission. Kerbs, railings, ledgers and chippings are not permitted either.
WHAT TYPE OF STONE IS PERMITTED?
The colour of the stone must be in sympathy with the surroundings. Certain sandstones, limestones, slates and granites are permitted, and only in particular colours. Marble is permitted in dove grey only. The finished memorial must have a matt, non-reflective surface. It must not be polished or be finished to appear polished.
WHAT ABOUT THE INSCRIPTION?
NAMES: Dedications should be simple, reverent and appropriate. The full names of the person to be commemorated are to be included. Any name by which the person was usually known can be included in brackets after the Christian name, if the Parish Priest gives permission. Dates should also be included.
WHAT ELSE? Tombstones should be informative to future generations, so any wording should express something of the life and character of the person, rather than just the sense of loss. The wording should be consistent with Christian beliefs, and reflect our hope of eternal life. An appropriate quotation from the Bible may be used. (A helpful booklet is available).
WHAT ABOUT DECORATION?
The Vicar can authorise vertical lines, a small flower, bird, cross or other suitable Christian symbol. Requests for other motifs (e.g. one relating to the occupation of the deceased) need to be referred to the Chancellor, and might need a faculty (which entails a costly fee).
WHAT ELSE CAN BE PUT ON A GRAVE?
Fresh Flowers are encouraged as the symbol of the gift of creation and the brevity of life. No plastic or artificial flowers of any kind (except Remembrance Day poppies) are allowed by the Chancellor.
Trees, shrubs and roses are not permitted.
Pots of flowers may be temporarily placed on the base of the gravestone.
Any planting must not exceed the grave space (5ft x 2ft) in front of the headstone, and no surrounds are permitted.
No other ornaments or chippings of any kind may be placed on or near a grave.
The Vicar and Church Council are obliged to arrange the removal of anything which is contrary to Regulations.
HOW DO WE ARRANGE A MONUMENT?
About a year after the burial, the grave should be levelled. Once this is done an application may be made for the introduction of a memorial. You will need to visit a stonemason to discuss your requirements. He/she will help you to fill in two copies of the Diocesan Application Form and give you a guide to the Churchyard Regulations. The forms will be sent to the Parish Priest, who will sign them if you have not requested anything beyond what he/she can authorise. It is a good idea to discuss your thoughts with the Parish Priest before you complete the forms.
WHAT ABOUT INTERMENT OF ASHES?
Ashes may be interred in either the Garden of Remembrance or in an existing grave, providing it can accept no further burials. Inscriptions may be added to a memorial on a grave, but no memorials are permitted in the Garden of Remembrance. Eligibility for interment of ashes is the same as for burial