Guidelines for Churchyard Burials and the Interment of Ashes

This information is designed to answer any questions you may have
regarding the burial or interment of ashes in the churchyard.

Churchyards are sacred ground and very special places of peace, tranquillity, beauty.  For these and other reasons, people continue to want a churchyard burial or interment of ashes either for themselves or for their loved ones. 
We are very pleased that you are considering this churchyard and we hope this leaflet will guide you through the questions you may have.

Is the Churchyard Open?

We are pleased to advise you that the churchyards at Hornby, Patrick Brompton, Finghall, and Hauxwell are open.  This means that there are still plots available.  Please do not make the assumption that where there are no memorial stones in the churchyard, there are plots.  It is most likely that these are unmarked graves.  Always check where the available plots are with your Rector (or their designated person) before setting your heart on a particular plot.

What happens when the Churchyard is Closed?

This means that there are no more available plots.  If you see a burial take place in a closed churchyard, it is because a plot was previously reserved or there is space available in a family grave.  When a churchyard is closed, its maintenance shifts from the Parochial Church Council (the PCC) to the Local Authority.

Can anybody be buried in the Churchyard?

Anybody who lives within the parish boundary, those named on the church electoral roll and those who die in the parish all have a legal right to be buried in the churchyard.  Where there is still space available, relatives may be buried in an existing family grave.  If a person is not baptised or a worshipper at this church, just so long as the above criteria are met, this will not pose a problem.

The Final Resting Place

The nature of the rite of burial is to say ‘farewell’ to the deceased and to commend them to the mercy and love of God in Christ and to await the transformation of resurrection.  There is accordingly a theological finality to all interments, including those of cremated remains, in ground consecrated according to the rites of the Church of England.  This is inconsistent with the concept of portability of remains and the future prospect of exhumation.  It is therefore important that the grave is understood as the final resting place.  Only in exceptional circumstances will an exhumation be granted.  You will need to get the signature of any close relatives, the owner of the grave plot and the burial authority and make an application through the Ministry of Justice.

Can I reserve a Burial Plot?

Provided you are living in the parish or you are on the church electoral roll or there is a qualifying connection it may be that you are able to reserve a plot.  This can only be done with the expressed approval of the Rector and PCC and by a faculty granted by the Chancellor.  For more information, do please speak to your Rector.

How soon after the funeral can there be a headstone?

You need to wait at least twelve months for the ground to settle.  This will also allow time to think about what sort of memorial and inscription you would like.      

Memorial Stones

The type of stone, its design and memorial inscription is regulated by the Consistory Court.  This may vary from church to church.  It also means that we may not always have our first choice of design.  To avoid any disappointment, please first find out what is permissible and get this approved in principal by the Rector.  The stonemason will then work with you on this and will submit a final draft for approval by the Rector. 
Only once the draft has been approved can the stone be authorised.

We regret that any stones placed illegally in the churchyard will be removed at the expense of  the next of kin.  It may be that a stone has been introduced illegally, but for whatsoever reason, it has remained in the churchyard.  We regret these stones do not set a precedent for future introductions.

Types of headstones which may be permitted by parish clergy

The Rector has authority to permit the introduction of a headstone, which complies with the following requirements.

Memorial plate

Height (from base)       2ft 3 ins (min) to 4ft (max)
Width                              1ft 8 ins (min) to 3ft (max)
Thickness                      3ins (min)* to 6 ins (max)
*except when slate is used, in which case 1.5 ins (min) is permitted

Memorial base(if included)

Height (from ground)    3ins (min) to 6 ins (max)
Width                                2ft (min) to 3ft (max)
Depth                               10 ins (min) to 1ft (max)
The base may incorporate up to 2 integral sockets for flower vases.

Materials

The following stone is permitted for a headstone, but combinations of two or more types of stone are not allowed:

  • Limestone
  • Sandstone
  • Slate
  • Granite*

*honed light to dark grey BUT NOT black, red, blue, green, white or multi-colour

Appearance

Polished stone or mirror finish is not permitted.

Photographs or representations of objects or motifs such as a child’s toy, or flowers, are not permitted nor is the use of ‘pet names’.  Bronze or ceramic inserts are not to be used.  Badges, crests, or emblems may be used provided they are seemly and appropriate for the deceased.  Any representation will need to be designed so that it may be accurately cut by a skilled craftsman.  Incised lettering may be painted in gold, silver, matt white, matt black or matt grey.  Plastic inserted lettering is not permitted.  The wording of inscriptions should interest and inspire the reader.  They should be reverent and seemly and avoid the bland.

Memorials after Burial of Cremated Remains

If cremated remains are buried in an existing family grave then the headstone may be altered to add the loved one’s name, or a new headstone may be erected if necessary.  The same rules apply to this and authority will need to be sought from the Rector. The placing of small flat memorial stones is not generally permitted on a grave.  A faculty would need to be sought for this from the Chancellor, but it is not guaranteed to be given.  Some churchyards already have faculties in place which allow small flat memorial stones to be placed in designated cremated remains areas.  
Please do check with the Rector for clarification and authorisation must be granted by the Rector before any stonework is commissioned or introduced.

Graveside Flowers and Ornamentation

We recognise the importance by some of placing fresh flowers at the graveside of our loved ones.  In order to keep the graveside beautiful, they need to be removed from wrappings or bows and we kindly ask that flowers are removed before they decay.  We also welcome the planting of small spring bulbs.  We regret that free-standing vases, artificial flowers, balloons, lights and ornamentation are not permitted under the Chancellor’s Directions and will be removed.  Poppies for Remembrance Sunday and Christmas wreaths are permissible during the relevant season.

Who owns the Grave?

Every grave is the property of the incumbent (i.e. the Rector as office holder).  By contrast, any memorial belongs to the person who paid for its erection.  After their lifetime it then belongs to the heir-at-law of the person commemorated.  That person has a duty to maintain it and a legal liability for its safety.

Who is Responsible for the Care of the Grave?

The churchyard is cared for by members of the PCC who may instruct professional gardeners or form a gardening team of volunteers to ensure its upkeep.  Some of our churchyards have sheep grazing in the older areas, but not near modern burials.  Once the churchyard is closed, its upkeep becomes the responsibility of the Local Authority.  Many people find it therapeutic to join the church gardeners from time to time.  If at any time you would like to join the gardeners, please speak to the Rector to arrange this.  
The upkeep of the churchyard relies upon voluntary contributions.  If you would like to make an annual donation towards the upkeep of the churchyard this would be very much appreciated.  

In Memoriam

We do our utmost to ensure that the churchyard is a place of peacefulness and solace where people can feel near to their loved ones, close to their thoughts and in gentle communion with God. 

For further questions or enquiries, please contact

The Rector at: The Vicarage, Patrick Brompton, Bedale. DL8 1JN
01677 450 920 – 07814 731 265 rector@lowerwensleydale.church

The Chancellor, The Diocesan Registry: Yorkshire House, East Parade, Leeds, LS1 5BD. : 0113 280 2241.

July 2019