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Memorials in churchyardMEMORIALS

Memorials in Churchyards
Memorial Application Forms
Diocesan Churchyards Regulations
Memorial Maintenance in Closed Churchyards
Testing Memorials for Safety
Memorials Inside Churches
Stonemasons and Funeral Directors


Memorials in Churchyards

There is no legal right to place a memorial in a churchyard. Permission must be obtained from the Chancellor of the Diocese, acting on behalf of the Bishop. The normal method of applying for permission for a memorial would be to apply for a Faculty (see Faculty Jurisdiction). However, this is rarely necessary, because (a) the Chancellor has given authority to the clergy, through the Diocesan Churchyards Regulations, to allow memorials which fall within the guidelines set out in the Regulations, and (b) for cases falling outside the Regulations, there has for many years been in the Diocese of Peterborough an informal procedure for applying to the Chancellor for permission to introduce a memorial into a churchyard.

At a meeting of Diocesan Chancellors in October 2012, concern was expressed about a new practice of attaching a QR (Quick Response) code to memorials. A person using an electronic QR code reader is able to access data from the code. The Chancellors were concerned about the inability of the incumbent, or indeed anyone else, to control the content of material in circumstances where a QR code has been attached to a memorial. The Chancellor of the Diocese has decided that no QR codes should be placed on memorials unless authorised by a faculty. In view of the absence of control over the content of material on a QR code, it is unlikely that QR codes will be approved in the foreseeable future.

The freehold of the church and churchyard belong to the Incumbent for the time being and the contents are said to be vested in the churchwardens. A memorial, on the other hand, is said to belong, in the first instance, to the person who purchased it and had it installed and after that person's death a memorial is said to belong to the heirs at law to the person who is commemorated. Any work which is to be carried out to a memorial (see below Safety Testing of Memorials) must be with the consent of the owners of that memorial, if they can be found. Furthermore, because most churchyards are within the curtilage of a listed building they are subject to Listed Building Control (see below for the Church of England exemption) and all churches and churchyards are within the Faculty Jurisdiction of the Bishop. The Faculty Jurisdiction is delegated by the Bishop to the Chancellor of the Diocese.


Memorial Application Forms

When a person wishes to place a memorial in a churchyard, he or she should first approach the local minister, who has delegated authority from the Chancellor of the Diocese to approve a memorial on behalf of the Chancellor, provided that the specification falls within the Churchyards Regulations. If any feature of a proposed memorial falls outside the Regulations, the local minister may not approve it, but must refer the application, via the Diocesan Registrar, to the Chancellor. Most churchyards are within the curtilage of a listed building. The Church of England has an exemption from Listed Building Control but because of this exemption it has an obligation to exercise strict control over what it allows to be done in its churches and churchyards. Some memorials are listed separately and are not subject to the exemption.

The informal procedure for applying for approval of a memorial involves the completion of a special memorial application form. This form should be used in all cases, as letters from applicants or stonemasons do not always include all the details covered by the form

Memorial Application Form in Acrobat format
Memorial Application Form in Word format

Upon receipt of a completed application form, the Registrar will normally send a copy of the form to the Archdeacon and request his or her advice to the Chancellor, before submitting the application to the Chancellor for consideration. In due course the Chancellor's decision will be communicated to the applicant or the stonemason.

Applicants are advised to consult their local Minister before visiting the stonemason and choosing a memorial, so that the Minister can advise as to which types of memorial are appropriate to a particular churchyard, and which can be authorised by the Minister. The Minister can also advise on inscriptions.

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Diocesan Churchyards Regulations

To view, print or save a copy of the Churchyards Regulations, click on the following link:

Churchyards Regulations

Anyone wishing to place a memorial in a churchyard should consult the Minister of the church before placing an order with a stonemason. The Churchyards Regulations set out the types of memorial which the Chancellor of the Diocese has authorised the clergy to permit. The minister can advise as to which types of memorial are normally allowed.

All parish clergy should have a supply of memorial application forms, which are supplied by Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance. The forms are not supplied to stonemasons and so anyone wishing to introduce a memorial into a churchyard is advised to consult the Minister in the first instance, so that he or she can advise on what types of memorial the clergy can permit on the Chancellor's behalf, and which types need to be the subject of an application to the Chancellor for approval. Where an application to the Chancellor is necessary, the Minister can supply the application form to the applicant.

No fees are payable to the Diocesan Registry when an application for approval of a memorial is made using the memorial application form supplied to the clergy. Fees will only be payable if the Chancellor decides in a particular case that the appropriate method of application should be by way of Petition for a Faculty, for example, in a case where the design of a proposed memorial is such that the Chancellor feels that he needs the advice of the Diocesan Advisory Committee, or if the proposed design is likely to be contentious.

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Memorial Maintenance in Closed Churchyards

Local authorities are responsible for maintenance of closed churchyards when responsibility for that maintenance has been passed to the local authority under Section 215 of the Local Government Act 1972 or in accordance with the previous legislation applicable before that Act came into effect. It is the opinion of the Church of England Legal Advisory Commission that liability for maintenance of the memorials also passes to the local authority and in the event that injury is suffered then the PCC, if faced with a claim for injury, is entitled to claim an indemnity or contribution from the local authority, whose breach of duty resulted in the injury. Notwithstanding this arrangement, it is strongly recommended to PCCs that, in any event, they maintain public liability insurance for their closed churchyards. Not all injuries necessarily arise as a result of failure of maintenance and a PCC may still be deemed an occupier (and therefore liable) for the purposes of the relevant legislation.

The Legal Advisory Commission has published an Opinion concerning the maintenance of memorials in closed churchyards.

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Safety Testing of Memorials

The Legal Advisory Commission have issued advice on the obligation to maintain memorials and monuments. That advice confirms that the owner of the memorial is the party primarily responsible for maintaining it in a safe condition and that party may have to satisfy a claim for damages if injury is caused by negligent failure to keep it in good order. In the case of the churchyard maintainable by the PCC, ie an open churchyard, liability for personal injury secondary to that of the owner of the memorial may arise by failure of the PCC to exercise its powers in relation to a dangerous monument. Those powers are identified in the Legal Advisory Commission's report which states that they are ancillary to the duty of the PCC to keep the churchyard "in decent order" which is a concept which extends beyond cosmetic appearance. Safety to the public is one necessary aspect of what, in the context of a place of a burial, amounts to "decency". The existence of a general duty to maintain the churchyard coupled with the power (with the authority of faculty) to make safe any dangerous monument constitutes a sufficient degree of control for the PCC to be liable as an occupier under the legislation applicable to occupier's liability. It is very important, therefore, that even where the legal owner of the memorial is known that the PCC ensure that memorial, together with all others in the churchyard, are tested and maintained safely.

On 22 March 2012 the Chancellor of the Diocese issued a Practice Direction (replacing previous guidance) concerning the procedures to be followed by Parochial Church Councils who wish to test and repair memorials which appear to be unsafe. The procedures also apply to Parish and District Councils in relation to closed churchyards which they maintain and the consecrated areas of public cemeteries. The Practice Direction refers to Guidance issued in 2009 by the Ministry of Justice, which has also provided guidance in the form of some Questions and Answers.

The following PCCs, Parish and District Councils have signed and lodged the Practice Direction with the Registry:

Parochial Church Councils
Abington St Peter & St Paul
Alderton St Margaret
Ashton St Michael and All Angels
Brafield on the Green St. Laurence
Brixworth All Saints
Byfield Holy Cross
Courteenhall St Peter & St Paul
Daventry Holy Cross
Desborough St Giles
Essendine St Mary Magdalene
Grafton Regis St Mary the Virgin
Great and Little Oakley St Michael & All Angels
Guilsborough St. Ethelreda
Hambleton St Andrew
Hartwell St John the Baptist
Horton St Mary Magdalene
Long Buckby St. Lawrence
Longthorpe St Botolph
Wadenhoe St Michael & All Angels
Weedon Bec St. Peter & St. Paul
Welford St Mary the Virgin

Parish/District Councils
Daventry District Council - Welton Road Cemetery Daventry
Kettering Borough Council
Newnham Parish Council
Raunds Town Council
Welton Parish Council

Parochial Church Councils, Parish and District Councils are advised to ensure that they have adequate insurance cover for themselves and any contractors they may use for testing memorials, as well as having public liability cover.

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Memorials inside Churches

As a general rule, the erection of memorials inside churches is not normally permitted. Anyone wishing to erect a memorial inside a church must apply for a Faculty, and must satisfy the Chancellor that a departure from the normal rule is justifiable, for example, because the person to be commemorated was a major benefactor of the church, or made some major contribution to the church or parish, or was an important local or national figure, etc.


Stonemasons and Funeral Directors

Attached are lists of stonemasons and funeral directors who work in the Diocese. Any stonemason or funeral director whose details have changed, or who is not on the list and wishes to be added, should send details to the postal or email address on the Contact Us page. We will be happy to amend and republish the list.

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