Burials & Memorials
Before a burial may take place in a churchyard, the Incumbent or minister conducting the service must be satisfied that a ‘certificate of disposal’ of the body (“the green form”) has been issued by the registrar of births and deaths, or a corresponding order made by the coroner (see section 1 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1926). The certificate (or coroner’s order) should be produced to the incumbent before the burial. Clergy should ensure that their Churchwardens are also aware of the need for the green form to be produced before the burial, so that the requirement is not overlooked if the regular parish clergy are unavailable for any reason.
Clergy and others (such as readers) taking a burial service are recommended to have in place a requirement that the green form should be produced to them at least 48 hours before a burial is scheduled to take place, to avoid any last minute misunderstandings.
If the Incumbent is satisfied by a written declaration that the certificate or order has been issued, but has been left behind or mislaid, the burial may proceed. However, the Incumbent must obtain an undertaking that the missing certificate or order will be produced as soon as possible.
Before a burial is arranged, the bereaved family should consider the Chancellor’s guidance notes on Churchyard matters
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 Applications). However, this is rarely necessary, because the Chancellor has given authority to local clergy, through the Diocesan Churchyard Regulations, to allow memorials which fall within the guidelines set out in the Regulations. For cases falling outside the Regulations, there is a simplified Faculty procedure for applying to the Chancellor for permission to introduce a memorial into a churchyard.
The members of the National Association of Memorial Masons work to accredited standards, and the Association will provide contact information for memorial masons working within the Diocese.
The Diocese is keen to encourage good quality interesting and imaginative memorials within its churchyards where appropriate, and those considering memorials are recommended to visit the website of the charity Memorials By Artists for ideas and suggestions about suitable memorials, and names of individual craftsmen working in stone and other materials.
Individual Lettercutters and Stone Carvers producing unique, bespoke memorials and other artwork in stone include
- Russell Purdham, who works in Norwich and can be contacted at email@example.com , telephone 01603478874
- Teucer Wilson, who has a studio at Burgh-next-Aylsham in the Bure valley in Norfolk
- Charlotte Howarth – Making Marks Ltd, Dair, Church Green, West Acre, King’s Lynn PE32 1GE Telephone: 01760 755045 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Cardozo Kindersley Workshop at Victoria Road in Cambridge.
The memorials and other work in stone produced by these craftsmen can be very impressive, often witty or moving, and sometimes really extraordinary. They are practising skills which have been handed down over many hundreds of years, and produce some outstanding work. Commissioning work from them will help to keep these skills alive and enable them to be handed on to succeeding generations.
Diocesan Churchyard Regulations
To view, print or save a copy of the Churchyard Regulations, or an Application form for a new memorial, click the following:
Anyone wishing to place a memorial in a churchyard should consult the Incumbent of the church before placing an order with a stonemason. The Churchyard Regulations set out the types of memorial which the Chancellor of the Diocese has authorised the clergy to permit. Where the Regulations are silent on any point there is no delegated authority to approve the memorial, and a Faculty would need to be sought.
The Regulations were updated in 2010 to take account of the considerable advances since the previous revision in 2002 in computer aided design techniques, enabling stonemasons to offer a much wider range of memorials, inscriptions and etchings than used to be the case. The revision followed a consultation exercise with local stonemasons and clergy, taking into account modern practice in the safe fixing of new memorials.
For full details of the fees payable please refer to the current version of the Parochial Fees Order, currently The Parochial Fees Table 2023 which you can review here: Parochial Fees Table 2023
Testing of Churchyard Memorials
PCC’s should note that they have a responsibility for ensuring the safety of their churchyards, including any memorials, and should undertake a regular check to identify any potential problems. If a memorial has been identified as presenting a risk to health or safety, advice should be sought from the Diocesan Registrar as to how this should be dealt with.
Guidance on the safety of memorials is available at Managing the Safety of Burial Ground Memorials
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. Once installed, the memorial becomes a fixture of the church and therefore owned by the incumbent as part of the building.