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Churchyard, cemetery and memorial maintenance

Use this page to learn about how we look after council-maintained churchyards and cemeteries, and who is responsible for the safety of memorials.

Grounds maintenance at churchyards and cemeteries

We are responsible for the maintenance of all of our churchyards and cemeteries. In practice, this work is most often supervised by district or parish councils and carried out by volunteers, with our assistance where necessary. This means agreeing a maintenance plan for each site.

View areas covered by burial ground maintenance plans
  • Mowing the grass fortnightly during the growing season (We encourage maintenance plans which foster biodiversity, which may mean leaving some areas to grow naturally. At a minimum, mowing should maintain grass paths through the burial ground, so that it is suitable for visiting)

  • Maintaining fences or hedges which surround the burial ground and cutting back larger plants and shrubs during the winter season

  • Inspecting any trees on site (Our tree officers will carry out any necessary work to trees, or subcontract this to approved experts. We will ensure there is no work done to trees during bird nesting season) 

  • Carrying out a risk assessment to ensure that the maintenance plan is safe for volunteers to carry out

Memorial maintenance and safety

All of the following people and organisations are responsible for the safety of a memorial. Select a section below to learn more about what they are responsible for, and the steps they should take to meet these responsibilities.

The owner of the memorial

You can only purchase a memorial, or have one installed, if you own the right of interment on a private grave. If the original owner of that right has now died, you have to arrange a formal transfer of the right before any work can be done on a memorial. Please see our page on choosing and managing a burial plot at Haycombe for more details of what's involved.

You are responsible for the condition and safety of any memorial on a private grave where you own the right of interment. This means you are responsible for regularly looking at the memorial to assess its condition, how likely it is to fall, and if it fell, what damage it could do.

A memorial is an expensive investment with great personal value, so we recommend buying insurance to protect it. You can get cover against damage to the stone itself, accidental damage to other memorials nearby, or injury to people visiting the burial ground, in the event of a fall. Your funeral director or an authorised local stonemason can give you details of companies specialising in this type of insurance. To find an authorised stonemason, search on the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) website.

We only allow authorised stonemasons to work within our cemeteries and burial grounds.

Worried about your memorial falling?

If you're worried about your memorial falling, contact our cemetery staff, who can give advice on what to do. This may involve our assessors testing the stability of the memorial. You can be present for this test if you wish. Alternatively, consult your local authorised stonemason.

Report a problem with a memorial

The stonemason who installed the memorial

The stonemason has a duty of care to manufacture, supply and install a memorial which meets our safety regulations. Any instability due to bad workmanship, or failure to comply with the our regulations and code of practice, is the mason's responsibility.

We require all contractors to comply with the following code of practice for new memorials, and for the removal, repair or updating of existing stones:

  • To take out £5,000,000 public liability insurance, to cover against damage caused by any memorial they supply or install

  • To sign an undertaking that they will comply with National Association of Memorial Masons' (NAMM) recommended methods of installation

  • To provide details of their health and safety policy and procedures (or to sign up to those required of our staff). 

The landowner

As the landowner in council-maintained cemeteries, we are responsible for the safety of staff and visitors, and are committed to taking a number of health and safety measures.

Our Bereavement Services team carries out a 5-year rolling programme of memorial safety testing. We don't have the right to restore memorials, but we are responsible for making our cemeteries safe places to visit. Therefore, we can lay down any memorials (or parts of memorials) that our tests show to be in danger of falling. Falling memorials can smash, or cause nearby monuments to smash, so we take this responsibility very seriously.

If our tests show that a memorial is unstable, we will take the following steps (as agreed with the Chancellor and the Diocese of Bath and Wells):

  • Notify the owner by letter on the same day as the test (if still living)
  • Attach a warning sign to the memorial
  • Prop with a wooden stake (if in an open cemetery: Haycombe or Harptree) or lay the memorial down with the inscription clearly visible (if in a closed cemetery or churchyard)

We will only lay down memorials where our responsibility to public safety makes this essential. Where possible, we will make every effort to work together with conservation societies, to achieve the restoration of memorials which have fallen into disrepair. For further information on our role as custodians of our region's cemeteries and burial grounds, contact the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Managers (ICCM).

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
(war graves and memorials only)

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is responsible for the maintenance of two areas of war graves in our region: Locksbrook Cemetery (World War I) and Haycombe Cemetery (World War II). There are Crosses of Remembrance in addition to rows of individual headstones in both cemeteries. The records for these and other graves of war interest are kept at Haycombe Cemetery and all enquiries should be directed there.

The CWGC also supplies memorials for war veterans who are buried in individual family graves. It regularly monitors the maintenance and safety of these memorials and of the grounds maintenance in the war grave sections. We as a council have the contract to maintain these sections, to standards set by the CWGC.

It may be possible to have cremation ashes of a spouse or only child interred in an existing war grave. Please contact the CWGC directly to ask about this. 

Report a problem with a cemetery, churchyard or memorial

We make regular checks on the safety of memorials in our churchyards and cemeteries, but problems may still occur. If you want to report a problem with a memorial, or concerns about grounds maintenance, please first ensure that the site is one of the churchyards and cemeteries in our care. Complete our online report form, and a member of our team will review your report within three working days.

Report a problem