Churchyard Regulations    

Download Churchyard Regulations

Here are the rules and regulations which govern the Churchyard

  1. General

1.1 The consecration of a piece of land as a churchyard, whether or not it is used as a burial ground, has the effect of bringing it, like a church building, under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of the Diocese. Such jurisdiction is exercised through the Diocesan Chancellor.

1.2 Parishioners and all persons dying within the parish boundaries have the right to burial in the parish churchyard, provided it is still open for burials.

1.3Permission for burial to other persons may be granted by the Incumbent and the Parochial Church Council, which by resolution should normally give a general consent to the Incumbent to give such permission at his/her discretion.

1.4 There is no right to burial in a particular part of a churchyard, but a gravespace may be reserved by means of a faculty for which see paragraph 3 below.

  1. Recording a Churchyard

2.1 It is necessary to have a churchyard plan, which is maintained accurately and kept up-to-date, so that no error is made when an interment takes place and the spaces available are known.

2.2 It is desirable that all parishes should maintain a list or card index of all monuments in the churchyard with a record of the inscriptions and the names and addresses of both the person who caused the memorial to be erected and the mason who carried out the work. This will help the Parochial Church Council locate the appropriate person should repairs to the memorial be required and assist those carrying out family or other research.

2.3 The Diocesan Advisory Committee is willing to give advice on the preparation of such a list or record.


  1. Reservation of a Gravespace

3.1 A gravespace may be reserved, but such reservation cannot be granted by the Incumbent or by the Parochial Church Council. Reservation can be obtained only by the grant of a faculty. The petition, together with the appropriate faculty fee, must be lodged by the person applying for a faculty for this purpose with the Diocesan Registrar, who is willing to give such advice as may be necessary.

3.2 A separate record of all gravespaces reserved by faculty must be maintained in the parish concerned. Each gravespace reserved must be identified precisely in such record. Great distress is caused when bodies are mistakenly interred in a gravespace reserved for another person and exhumation almost always follows such an error.

  1. Exhumation

4.1 No human remains or cremated remains may be exhumed without a faculty.

4.2 Anyone contemplating applying for a faculty for exhumation must consult the Diocesan Registrar.

  1. Interment of Cremated Remains

5.1 The interment of cremated remains (‘ashes’) in a churchyard may take place at the discretion of the Incumbent, provided the churchyard remains open for burials.

5.2 Cremated remains disposed of in a churchyard must be buried. They must not be scattered.

5.3 It is desirable that only the cremated remains should be buried, but at the discretion of the Incumbent such remains may be buried in a casket or urn, but only if such casket or urn is made of a material which eventually decays in the ground. In no circumstances may a casket or urn be made of plastic or other permanent material.

5.4 Where it is desired to reserve an area of a churchyard, which is open or closed for burials, for the interment of cremated remains, a faculty is required and the conditions attaching to such faculty must be complied with strictly.

5.5 Where a churchyard is closed for burials, a faculty is required before cremated remains may be interred in it, unless the interment is in an area of such churchyard which has been reserved by faculty for such interments.

5.6 No memorial may be erected on the site of buried cremated remains, unless a faculty has been issued in respect of an area set aside for cremated remains or unless the interment has been in a family grave. Wherever possible an existing memorial should be used to add an appropriate inscription, but, if there is insufficient space, a small stone of the same material as the existing memorial may be placed immediately in front of the existing memorial provided the additional stone is laid flat and slightly below the level of the surrounding ground.

5.7 A faculty is always required before cremated remains may be deposited in a church. Such a faculty will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

5.8 All interments of cremated remains must be recorded in the Burial Register.

  1. Regulations for Memorials and Inscriptions

6.1 The relatives or personal representatives of a deceased person buried in a churchyard have no right to erect a memorial over the grave. Permission is required before any memorial can be erected.

6.2 No memorial stone shall be erected within six months of a burial.

6.3 No order should be placed with any mason for a memorial before the necessary permission has been obtained in writing.

6.4 By custom limited authority is delegated to Incumbents and Priests-in-Charge to permit the erection of memorials which come within the limits of that delegated authority.

6.5 Where it is desired to erect a memorial which falls within the limits of the delegated authority, written application, giving full details of both memorial and inscription, must be submitted by the mason on behalf of the family of the deceased or by a member of that family to the Incumbent or Priest-in-Charge for his/her approval and his/her written consent must be obtained before any work is put in hand.

6.6 Where the Incumbent or Priest-in-Charge is uncertain whether the proposed memorial comes within the limits of the delegated authority or is in any way doubtful about the suitability of it, he/she must consult the Archdeacon and advise the person applying for permission that a faculty may be needed. The Diocesan Chancellor is always willing to help in cases of difficulty, if approached through the Diocesan Registry or the Archdeacon.

6.7The Incumbent or Priest-in-Charge may permit memorials to be erected only if they come within the following defined limits:

6.7-1 Memorials must be of hardwood or natural stone but not of any kind of marble, granite or slate.

6.7-2 Stone shall not be finished with a polished or reflecting surface.

6.7-3 Headstones or crosses shall not be greater or less than the following dimensions:

Maximum: 1200mm x 900mm x 150mm (4’ 0” x 3’ 0” x 6”)

Minimum: 750mm x 500mm x 50mm (2’ 6” x 1’ 8” x 2”)

6.7-4 All headstones and crosses must be securely fixed in the ground and due regard must be paid to the nature of the ground and the risk of settlement.

6.7-5 A headstone or cross may stand on a stone base of the same stone as the headstone, provided that it is an integral part of the design and does not project more than 100mm (4”) beyond the headstone in any direction, except where a receptacle for flowers is provided, in which case this must be flush with the top of the base and may extend up to 150mm (6”) in front of the headstone. The base must be fixed on a foundation slab, which is flush with the ground so that a mower may pass freely over it. The foundation stone must extend from 75mm (3”) to 150mm (6”) all round the base.

6.7-6 Memorials in the shape of vases, books, images or statues, or comprising kerbs, railings or chippings are not allowed. Grave mounds are also not permitted.

6.7-7 Inscriptions must be simple and reverent, and appropriate to a churchyard. The dates of birth and death or the life-span with the date of death of the deceased must be stated. Relationships must be stated accurately. Relations named should be limited to parents, children and spouse and, if space is available, grandparents may also be named. Pet or nicknames should be avoided. Quotations compatible with the Christian faith are permitted.

6.7-8 No photograph or coloured drawing as part of a memorial shall be allowed.

6.7-9 Any illustration carved on a memorial must be appropriate to the occupation or interests of the deceased.

6.7-10 No advertisement or trademark shall be inscribed on a gravestone. The name of the mason may be inscribed at the side or on the reverse of the gravestone in unpainted and unleaded letters no larger than 15mm (1/2”) in height.

6.8 The limits set out in paragraph 6.7 above apply only to graves where bodies have been interred. Reference should be made to paragraph 5 above where cremated remains are buried.

6.9 Where it is desired to erect a memorial, which falls outside the limits set out in paragraph 6.7 above, a faculty is required before it is erected.

  1. The Sward

7.1 Bulbs and small plants may be planted in the soil of any grave.

7.2 Plants and flowers may be placed in a removable sunken container, which preferably should be made of unpolished aluminium.

7.3 Wreaths and cut flowers may be laid on any grave or set in containers as above. They must be removed when they appear withered.

7.4 No artificial flowers may be placed on any grave other than Remembrance Day poppies on graves of men and women who served in the armed forces.

  1. Incumbents and Priests-in-Charge have at times a very delicate pastoral duty to discharge in discussing with bereaved relatives the appropriate type of memorial. Parochial Church Councils can help their Incumbents and Priests-in-Charge in this matter by passing a formal resolution adopting paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 of these Regulations.
  1. Care of Churchyards

9.1 The Parochial Church Council is responsible for the care and maintenance of the churchyard, and together with the Incumbent are occupiers of it for the purposes of the Occupiers’ Liability Acts 1957-1984. These Acts place on occupiers a duty of care to see that a visitor in the churchyard will be reasonably safe.

9.2 Therefore there is a duty to ensure, particularly but not exclusively, that walls, trees and memorials are regularly inspected to ensure that there is no risk of danger to any visitor.

9.3 There is also a duty in law on the person who caused a memorial to be erected to see that that memorial is kept in proper repair. This duty is entirely separate from the duty of an occupier, who cannot escape liability by the existence of this duty. However, when such person moves or dies, it is often not possible to trace that person or to locate the heirs at law of the deceased to enforce repairs or recover the cost. The burden of maintenance in effort and cost thus often falls on the Parochial Church Council.

9.4 Reference should be made to the separate written guidance on the care of trees already issued (see Appendix IV).

  1. Alterations to Churchyards

10.1 A faculty is required before any alteration can be made in a churchyard or burial ground, other than interments, the erection of memorials as provided in these Regulations, and routine maintenance.

10.2 Any Parochial Church Council considering making alterations or improvements to a churchyard, its paths, boundary walls, fences or hedges must seek the advice of the Diocesan Advisory Committee.

10.3 Where proposed work in a churchyard includes the levelling of grave mounds or the repair, removal or relocation of headstones or grave kerbs, the Parochial Church Council must consult the Archdeacon or the Diocesan Registrar and obtain directions as to the proper procedure to be followed before a faculty is sought or any work is put in hand.

11 These Regulations are issued after consultation with the Diocesan Advisory Committee and with the approval of the Bishop of Portsmouth.

Christopher Clark