Churchyard Regulations - Guide
A brief guide to the Diocesan Churchyard Regulations
Making arrangements for the last resting place for loved ones is an important and often distressing responsibility. Many choose burial or interment of cremated remains in consecrated ground. Christian burial in a churchyard must always be reverent and basic rules – the Diocesan Churchyard Regulations – exist to maintain the highest possible standards and to guide those charged with making sensitive decisions.
The Diocesan Churchyard Regulations describe the type of memorial that the minister (a rector or vicar) of a Parish may permit in a Churchyard. Memorials that do not comply with the Regulations need a special legal permission known as a Faculty. The minister may not approve a memorial that does not comply with the Regulations. If a minister is not willing to approve the application, an application may be made to the Chancellor of the Diocese for a Faculty.
A copy of the Diocesan Regulations is available on request either from the minister of the Parish or from the Diocesan Registrar, Friars, White Friars, Chester CH1 1XS. An initial request for a Faculty should also be made to the Diocesan Registrar.
A few Parishes have added their own additional regulations – including reductions to the maximum permitted dimensions - to reflect local circumstances.
An application for the approval of a memorial should initially be made to the minister of the Church and an order for a particular memorial should not be made with a memorial mason until the minister's written approval or a Faculty has been received.
Please respect and comply with the Regulations – the maintenance of churchyards is a considerable task for Parishes and the Regulations are designed to achieve a fair balance between the need to ease the task of maintenance and the wishes of families to commemorate the persons they love – and continue to love.
Please remember that you need the Minister’s permission for a memorial, the inscription and anything that you want to place on the grave. Always discuss matters first with the minister and ask what he or she is likely to approve. Compliance with NAMM Code and British Standard
All memorials must comply with the Code of Working Practice of the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) and with the British Standard BS8415. The NAMM Code applies to all memorials exceeding 20 inches in height.
A Memorial marking the place of cremated remains
Normally a memorial tablet not exceeding 21 inches x 21 inches (533mm x 533mm) to be laid horizontally in the ground will be permitted. The memorial must be laid in the ground so that its surface is not above the level of the surrounding ground. This is to limit the risk of the memorial being damaged by a mower. Some Parishes have adopted a size of tablet which is smaller than the dimensions stated above.
Vases of metal or stone may be placed on the memorial tablet – but not on the surrounding ground. Otherwise they are at risk of being damaged – and are likely to get in the way of a mower.
Stones, kerbs and anything similar must not be placed around the memorial.
In some Churchyards, the Garden of Remembrance in which cremated remains are interred is laid out as a lawn without any memorials marking the place of interment. In these cases, the minister will not approve a memorial. Usually there are alternative means of commemorating the deceased – either by an entry in a Book of Remembrance in Church or there will be a wall where memorial plaques are fitted.
Alternatively, in some Churchyards, small vertical memorials are permitted. Note that the NAMM Code applies to memorials exceeding 20 inches in height. A small base or plinth may be installed in front of the memorial on which a vase may be placed.
The colour and type of memorial stone and the wording of the inscription must comply with the Regulations.
A Memorial marking the place of burial other than cremated remains
The Diocesan Churchyard Regulations provide that a Faculty will always be required in respect of any vertical memorials exceeding 4 feet (900 mm) high, measured from the ground, more than 3 feet (900 mm) in width. In many Churchyards, the general height of memorials does not exceed 3 feet and in such case a memorial four feet high may look out of place in that Churchyard and the minister may not be willing to approve the memorial – even though the height is less than 4 feet. An application for a faculty may be made and the Diocesan Chancellor will give careful consideration to the design and height of the proposed memorial in the context of its setting in the churchyard.
The memorial will normally be placed on a plinth (made of the same stone as the memorial) and the dimensions of the plinth must not exceed 12 inches (300mm) from front to back and projecting not more than 2 inches (50 mm) beyond the reverse side of the memorial and not more than 3 inches (75mm) beyond the sides of the memorial.
The plinth will be placed on a base – normally concrete - acting as a foundation and this base must not project above the surface of the surrounding ground. Vases may be placed on the plinth – and the plinth may incorporate a vase or flower holder.
The dimensions of the memorial and the plinth must not exceed those stated above.
Alternatively, in some churchyards, simple horizontal stones not exceeding 4 feet (900mm) in length - measured from the ground surface - and 3 feet (900mm) in width but without a plinth or concrete base but sunk so that part of the surface of the memorial is below the level of the surrounding ground may be permitted. Such a memorial must be fitted into a below ground concrete or hardstone shoe or something similar to ensure the stability of the memorial – see the Recommended Code of Working Practice of the National Association of Memorial Masons.
Kerbs and other means of enclosing the area of a grave are not permitted.
Once the soil has settled – normally six months after the burial – the ground in front of the memorial must be levelled and seeded for grass. The ground must not be laid out as a garden. Early spring flowering bulbs may be permitted so long as it is accepted that they are likely to be cut when the grass is mowed. It is important that nothing impedes a mower cutting the grass.
Shapes and Designs of Memorials
Memorials should be simple in design but are not restricted to rectangular shapes and indeed curved tops are preferred. The memorial – its colour, type of stone etc – should be appropriate to the particular churchyard. Some types of memorials may not be appropriate in a particular churchyard or a particular part of a churchyard, taking into account the setting of the churchyard and the memorials in nearby parts. Do not simply order a memorial out of a catalogue.
If the minister is in doubt whether the memorial complies with the Regulations or the policy and practice that has been adopted in the Parish to reflect the character and setting of the churchyard, the minister will consult the Diocesan Registrar to see whether a Faculty is necessary.
Materials/Stones for Memorials
The minister of the Church will give guidance as to the type and colour of stone that is permitted in a particular Churchyard. The Diocesan Regulations provide that the stone used must be “harmonious with its surroundings”. For example a modern highly polished memorial will be out of keeping in an old country churchyard and in an old section of a churchyard where all the surrounding memorials are unpolished. Unpolished stone will be more appropriate in a section of a churchyard close to an ancient church.
In other cases, the minister may be willing to permit modern highly polished stones but again care must be taken regarding the choice of the colour of the stone. A white marble stone will be out of place in a churchyard where the other memorials are of dark coloured stone and will not be permitted except for an infant’s memorial.
It is important that memorials – their shape design colour and type of stone – are sympathetic to their surroundings.
The wording of inscriptions should be simple reverent and respectful. The wording must first be approved in writing by the minister.
Kerbs edgings railings etc
Kerbs, railings and other means of enclosing a grave must be the subject of an application for a Faculty. The minister of a Parish cannot give consent. In most cases, kerbs etc obstruct the mowing of grass and are not likely to be permitted. In cases where the grave is in an old section of a churchyard where the surrounding graves have kerbs, a Faculty may permit good quality kerbs integral with the memorial headstone.
The type of edging and railings that can be bought in a garden centre are unlikely to be approved.
Metal railings are likely to be dangerous and must not be installed.
Stones, pebbles and other coverings
It is not permitted to place or scatter stones pebbles chippings on or around the grave or a memorial. They will impede a mower or strimmer and may cause injury and damage.
Plants, trees, shrubs and “mini-gardens”.
The planting of trees, shrubs and perennial plants in a grave is not permitted. The planting of annuals is generally not permitted apart from the period immediately after the burial or interment. “Mini-gardens” obstruct the mowing of surrounding grass. Once the soil of a grave is settled, the ground should be seeded for grass or turfed.
Spring bulbs are generally permitted – subject to acceptance that once grass mowing starts, the flowers will be cut down.
Photographs, portraits, engravings and other representations of the deceased on a memorial are not permitted without the authority of a Faculty which is unlikely to be granted save in exceptional circumstances.
Vases, flowers, wreaths and artificial flowers
Vases should always be placed on the Memorial – either on the plinth or in the case of a cremation tablet on the tablet itself. Vases placed on the surrounding ground are at risk of being damaged and are likely to impede a mower and therefore will be removed. A good design for a memorial plinth or cremation tablet will include a vase holder “sunk” into the plinth or tablet.
Artificial flowers are permitted but they should be of good quality and appropriate to the season. Plastic flowers are unlikely to be permitted. Blue roses and summer daffodils are not appropriate and are liable to be removed. Flowers, whether natural or artificial, which have withered or decayed, are more a sign of neglect rather than of respect for deceased and should be removed.
Reservations of Grave Plots
Grave and cremation plots in a consecrated churchyard cannot be bought – as a matter of law. A Faculty may reserve a grave or cremation plot but such Faculties are granted in exceptional cases only.
Once human remains have been laid to rest in consecrated ground, they are not to be disturbed. An exhumation – including the exhumation of cremated remains – can be authorised only by a Faculty and again such a Faculty is granted in exceptional cases only.
On occasions – normally after the death of a widow or widower, permission is sought to exhume the cremated remains of the first spouse to die and to place those remains in the grave of the person who has recently died – and who did not wish to be cremated. Generally such permission is granted in exceptional cases only.