Churchyards

Pluckley churchyard

Pluckley churchyard

For many hundreds of years, people of our communities who have died have been buried in our village churchyards. The churchyards have for many generations been central to the community as the burial ground for those who lived, worked and worshipped in our villages. As the years have passed our churchyards have also become the natural habitat of plants and animals which may not be found elsewhere in the community.

The following Regulations have been devised to reflect a careful balance between the special nature of this land and the aspirations of the families and friends of those whose earthly remains will be interred here in the future.

We are very happy to discuss issues raised by the Regulations, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Churchyards Generally

The Incumbent generally owns the freehold of the churchyard, whilst the Parochial Church Council takes responsibility for the care and maintenance of it (in most cases). The PCC and the Incumbent together have complete control over the churchyard, subject to the Faculty jurisdiction (see below) and any rights granted by Faculty.

It is good practice for the Incumbent and PCC to prepare and maintain an up-to-date plan of the churchyard with all known graves, grave spaces, and spaces for the interment of ashes marked on it, one copy of which should be available for inspection on reasonable notice.

It is the duty of the Incumbent and PCC to maintain a system of regular inspection of memorials in the churchyard to ensure that their condition does not pose a risk to the safety of others, especially young children.

It is the duty of the Incumbent to bring these Regulations to the notice of the relatives of those whose remains or ashes are to be interred in the churchyard.

When considering applications for new interments, Incumbents should bear in mind the need to allow sufficient space to facilitate routine maintenance and inspection of the church building and for the occasional erection of scaffolding. For this reason new burials and memorials are not permitted within four metres of the exterior wall of the church.

When ashes are interred, biodegradable containers should be used unless the ashes are placed directly into the ground without any container. (“Biodegradable” includes containers made of wood.)

Memorials in Churchyards

Application for a Memorial, Tablet or Container for Flowers

A memorial, tablet or container for flowers may only be introduced into the churchyard with the written permission of the Incumbent of the parish or of the Commissary General of the Diocese.

“Incumbent” in these Regulations means Rector or Vicar, or Priest or Deacon charged with overall pastoral responsibility, or when there is a vacancy, the Area Dean. The law does not permit the Incumbent to delegate his responsibility to any other person.

Applications for memorials or tablets or flower containers must be made on the standard Churchyards Application Form.

Application for the Introduction of a Memorial can be made after six months have elapsed since the burial, or one month after the interment of cremated remains.

Applications must be submitted to the Incumbent at his usual address. If the Application falls outside the scope of the permissions that may be granted by an Incumbent under Regulations 2, 3 or 4 below, the Incumbent will pass it on to the Diocesan Registry for consideration by the Commissary General, if requested to do so by the Applicant, together with the Incumbent’s own comments upon the Application.

The Incumbent, the Churchwardens and the PCC have authority from the Commissary General to ensure the removal of any memorial, tablet, flower container or other object introduced into the churchyard without permission, or which is not in accordance with permission which has been granted. Legal proceedings will be brought to enforce removal if the matter cannot be resolved by local discussion.

Form of Memorial

A memorial in the form of a cross or headstone at the head of a grave will normally be permitted by the Incumbent if the Conditions set out below are met.

Any other memorial which does not meet these Conditions, or which in the opinion of the Incumbent is otherwise unsuitable, requires special permission (known as a “Faculty”) from the Commissary General. The purpose of this system is not to produce dull uniformity or stifle creativity but to authorise the Incumbent to make day-to-day decisions whilst providing for more searching consideration of fresh ideas which will have a long-term impact on the churchyard and its environment. Each case will be sympathetically considered on its individual merits. Appropriate originality is encouraged.

The Diocesan Registry is willing to give informal advice on this procedure and the cost involved.

Conditions

Full documentary particulars of any proposed memorial including the inscription, design and lettering must be provided to the Incumbent in advance of seeking approval for its introduction into the churchyard.

The choice of stone or wood for a memorial needs to be in harmony with the church building and with existing memorials in the churchyard. For this reason highly polished granite or other marbles are not permitted. Unpolished Portland, Hopton Wood, Purbeck, York, Nabrasina, Celtic Limestone or Slate are suitable stones. Oak or Teak are suitable if a wooden memorial is preferred.

The size of a memorial above ground must fall within the following dimensions:

Height above Ground Width Thickness
Imperial Metric Imperial Metric Imperial Metric
Maximum 4’ 0” 1200mm 3’ 0” 900mm 6” 150mm
Minimum 2’ 6” 750mm 1’ 8” 500mm 3” 75mm

A memorial for a child may be smaller than the standard sizes specified above.

Experience has shown that kerbs around burial plots cause problems of maintenance and in cutting the grass, whilst chippings give rise to problems of vandalism. For these reasons in particular, kerbs, railings or chippings are not permitted.

Good artwork in the form of statuary is encouraged but must be approved by the Incumbent after consultation with the DAC. Moulded figure work is not considered suitable for incorporation into a memorial.

The inscription on a memorial should contain, at least, the names of the deceased, the date of his or her death, and the date of birth or the age of death. All factual material in the inscription must be accurate.

The words to be inscribed on a memorial, together with any emblem, badge or other design, must be appropriate in the opinion of the Incumbent. The Incumbent is entitled to refuse permission for matter which he considers inappropriate.

Photographic reproductions are not permitted in a memorial.

All words inscribed must be well lettered and the overall layout and design must be suitably set out in the opinion of the Incumbent.

All letters must be of sufficient depth and width to be clearly visible in good light. The use of hand cut letters is encouraged.

If infilling of the lettering is used it must be of grey matt finish or earth colour paint in harmony with the material from which the memorial is made. Lead, plastic, cement or other materials must not be used, since these are particularly vulnerable to vandalism and are likely to degrade and fall out.

The name of the craftsman who produced the memorial may be inscribed on its side or reverse, in lettering similar to the main inscription, and not more than 15 millimetres in height. No advertisement or trademark is permitted.

The anchorage of all memorials must be in accordance with the best practices of the industry and must comply with current Health and Safety Regulations. Memorials which are not safely anchored or which are allowed to deteriorate can pose a serious safety risk, especially to young children.

The primary responsibility for the safe maintenance of a memorial rests on its owners i.e. those who have introduced it into the churchyard.

Interment of Ashes

Where a Faculty has authorised the setting aside of an area for the burial of ashes, it will have specified whether or not individual memorials are permitted and where they may be placed. In some churchyards the rules relating to the Garden of Remembrance do not permit the placing of any individual memorials. The Incumbent should be consulted about this before any steps are taken to apply for ashes to be interred. In many churchyards the Incumbent may be in a position to permit the marking of each interment with a tablet if the following conditions are met:

  • The tablet must be of unpolished stone and otherwise in accordance with Paragraph 2(a) above, unless the Faculty setting aside the area specified a particular stone to be used. The Incumbent will have further details of this.
  • The size of the tablet must not exceed 525 millimetres square unless the Faculty has specified other dimensions.
  • The inscription should not extend beyond four lines of text including the names of the deceased and dates of birth and death. All factual material must be accurate.
  • The words to be inscribed on a tablet, together with any emblem, badge or other design, must be appropriate in the opinion of the Incumbent. The Incumbent is entitled to refuse permission for matter which he considers inappropriate.
  • Photographic reproductions are not permitted.
  • All words inscribed must be well lettered and the overall layout and design must be suitably set out in the opinion of the Incumbent.
  • All letters must be of sufficient depth and width to be clearly visible in good light. The use of hand cut letters is encouraged.
  • If infilling of the lettering is used it must be of grey matt finish or earth colour paint in harmony with the material from which the memorial is made. Lead, plastic, cement or other materials must not be used since these are particularly vulnerable to vandalism and are likely to degrade and fall out.
  • The name of any craftsman, trademark or other advertising may not appear on the tablet.

Flower Containers

A flower container will normally be permitted if it is set in the base of a memorial and its top does not protrude above the level of the base; or if it is buried in the ground immediately in front of the memorial and its top does not protrude above ground level.

Flower containers in areas where there are cremated remains are only permitted where a Faculty has provided for tablets to be placed over individual interments. Such containers must be incorporated into the memorial tablet or should be buried in the ground within the plot, in such a way that it does not protrude above ground level or project beyond the plot itself.

Except for Remembrance Day poppies and good quality silk flowers approved by the Incumbent, artificial flowers are not normally permitted in the churchyard. Any which are so permitted may be removed at the discretion of the Incumbent or PCC once their condition has substantially deteriorated.