In memory of our loved ones
Installation of memorials and how to care for them
In the Bath & Wells Diocese.
If you are reading this then it usually means that you have recently lost a loved one. Losing someone who is very special to us can be incredibly traumatic bringing up all kinds of emotions and feelings about what has gone before, but also how we want to remember them from now on. You may have already made a decision as to where you want you loved ones remains to rest and if it is in this Churchyard it is important that you have some knowledge of the grounds.
This Churchyard has gone through the process of becoming consecrated land, in other words it has been blessed and prepared by a Bishop to accommodate the deceased. This makes the ground hallowed or holy and the local Priest and Parochial Church Council have a responsibility to protect it. Each priest holds the responsibility to ensure that their Churchyards are kept in good order according to the Rules and Regulations set out by Parliament and the Local Authorities for the appearance of the surroundings of listed buildings. The interpretation and application of these are delegated to the Diocese of Bath & Wells and the Parochial Church Councils. (The diocese is a district in which the Church of England operates).
In order to ensure that our Churchyards remain the places of beauty and peace that they have been for so many years, it is important that these rules are adhered to and so it is vital to make sure that you are given as much help in your choice as possible before you make your final decision. The following guidelines will help you and your Stone Mason/Funeral Director to make a clear decision from the beginning so you can get on with creating a lasting symbol of your loved one’s life.
Can we have what we want?
The average bereaved person usually knows little about Churchyard procedures, in fact it can seem like the last thing on your mind, but one thing is for sure if you choose to have your loved ones buried or their ashes placed here, then the design needs to be meaningful.
For some that may be a simple design, for others something more decorative or distinct.
Often people are inspired by more elaborate designs that they have seen either abroad or at home in local run council cemeteries. However, the dilemma that we have is that a Churchyard is not the same as a Council cemetery: rules have been set for churchyards for hundreds of years, although regularly reviewed it has been generally agreed to keep the Churchyard as a special place of simplicity and peace. However, in some cases if it is pastorally felt that an alternative design outside the rules and regulations would be appropriate, then before any decisions are made talk to your parish priest who will advise you and discuss it on your behalf with the Archdeacon and Parochial Church Council. If they feel that your choice of memorial and design cannot be supported by them, you are still able to petition for a Faculty (similar to Planning Permission) which will involve paperwork and statutory costs.
Please note the diocesan legal advisors and the Chancellor of the diocese hold the final decision.
What kind of materials and designs can I have?
Headstones: All headstones shall be a simple shape and including a plinth and must not be more than 4 feet high above ground level, or over 3 foot wide or more than 7 inches thick. The stone should preferably sunk without any plinth having one third of its total length below the ground, alternatively it maybe securely fixed below the level of the turf to a ground anchorage system complying with British standard 8414 or the equivalent stability.
Memorial plaques: Must be placed over cremated remains and must be placed just below the level of the turf to ensure it can be mowed, it must measure not more than 18 inches x 8 inches.
Vases: Must be separate from the headstone, not measuring more than 12inches x 8 inches x 8 inches
Crosses: should not be more than 4 feet high.
Horizontal Ledgers: Are to be placed over burials and shall be just below the turf to allow for mowing access and not measure more than 7 Feet x 3 Feet x 16 Inches.
What kind of materials can be used?
All memorial stones must be made of natural stone traditionally used in local buildings or similar to them in colour or texture. The stones must not be polished or reflective and not be made of Black or pearl granite , marble of any colour or synthetic material.
Also they must not have raised kerbs, railings, stone or other chippings and cannot include a built in vase, statue or birdbath. You may of course choose a wooden cross.
What kind of wording can I use?
The words should be simple including Name and date of birth and death, other inscriptions are permitted as long as they are not deemed inappropriate for the setting. You can talk to your parish priest if you are seeking advice about what to write.
The name or trademark of the Stone mason is not permitted anywhere on the stone.
Please note: No photographs or pictures or statues can be used.
What are the Churchyard rules set by the local Parochial Church Council?
In order to preserve the dignity of our churchyards and ease the task of maintaining them, these regulations have been agreed upon.
- You must obtain permission to erect a tombstone of any kind, your mason/undertaker or parish priest will help you do this for you.
- The surface of the churchyard shall be kept as level as possible. The PCC may level any mound at its discretion after a 12 month settling period.
- Wreaths and cut flowers may be laid directly on the grave or in an authorized vase.
- Bulbs may be planted, but no shrubs. Flowers may be placed in removable sunken containers of unpolished metal. If not kept tidy the PCC may remove plants and flowers and treat the grave as part of the turf by reseeding it with grass.
- No artificial flowers, ornaments or lights will be permitted to be placed on a grave. However, the PCC and Parish priest may at their discretion give temporary permission for a maximum of 6 months.
- You are liable for the safe installation. If this headstone or any part of the grave becomes unsafe and is likely to cause a health and safety issue you will be contacted to address the concern. If after an attempt to make contact fails the PCC holds the right to remove it.
Who maintains the memorial?
Once the monument is in place it is your responsibility to maintain the grave space according to the rules and regulations set out by the Diocese of Bath and Wells and the Parochial Church Council who cares for this Churchyard.
What happens now?
Ask your undertaker/Stonemason or Minister to help you fill out the ‘Application for a Memorial’ and discuss costings. When this is finalized your loved one’s grave space remains valid for 50 years, you yourself have a right to buried here if you live in the parish boundaries. But remember as the graveyard fills up it may become closed in future years. You can book yourself a plot through a faculty. For prices and faculties please contact the Diocese of Bath & Wells.
If you would like to read the rules in more detail please look at the Notice relating to Churchyards Part 1. Introduction of tombstones or other monuments and Part 2, Burial of cremated remains and the appendix relating to these both. Which can be found in the Church Porch or notice board.