If a church has a churchyard that is still open for burials, a person who has been living or has died in the parish has the right to be buried there or to have their ashes interred.
After a burial, many people wish to have a headstone or memorial to commemorate the person who has died. The minimum time between burial and installing a headstone or memorial is six months but before you finalise your plans for a headstone, it is a good idea to chat to your vicar about what you have planned.
Many people are not aware that there are guidelines in place for headstones, to help to ensure that the churchyard remains an appropriate setting for many years to come. It can be quite upsetting for people to choose a certain headstone only to find it cannot be approved. There is no automatic right to a churchyard memorial. All memorials have to be approved before they are installed.
The guidelines are contained in the Churchyard Regulations, which are drawn up by the Chancellor of the Diocese. Every diocese will have its own Churchyard Regulations and, while many points are the same throughout the country, there may be differences from diocese to diocese. The vicar is allowed to authorise memorials, provided they comply with the Churchyard Regulations.
If you wish to have a memorial that does not comply with the Regulations, you will need to apply to the Chancellor of the Diocese for permission (a faculty), for which there is a fee. The Diocesan Registry will be able to send you the application form for this, and give you details of the current fee.
The Diocesan Registry
Tel: 020 7593 5110
The Churchyard Regulations can be found here, but the main points can be summarised below:
Materials: A headstone must be in natural stone, or hardwood. Some stones are not permitted under the Regulations, including black, red or dark grey granite and marble. The stone must not be mirror polished, or polished beyond a good smooth finish.
Size: There are maximum and minimum sizes for headstones. Simple headstones should not be more than 1200mm (4ft) high and 900 mm (3ft) wide, or less than 750mm (2ft 6in) high and 500mm (1ft 8 in) wide. The stone must be no thicker than 150mm (6 in), or less than 75mm (3 in) in thickness.
Design: There must be no pictures of people or photographs on the monument, and the monument should not include kerbstones, railings or fences, or chippings. Headstones must not be in the shape of a heart or open book.
Inscriptions: Any inscription should include the forename and surname of the deceased, together with dates (or years) of birth and death. The lettering must not be gilded or silvered.
Work in churchyards falls under faculty jurisdiction including repair works to boundary walls and lychgates, the creation of new paths, the introduction of benches, repairs to memorials, and tree work. If you are in any doubt whether a faculty will be needed, please contact the DAC Secretary who will be able to advise you further.