Wow! I bet that title got the juices flowing. It’s a life I live, I tell you! Still, that was the course I went on yesterday, run for Parish Councillors and Clerks in Long Ashton, North Somerset. I went, along with my Clerk, in order to understand the issues, obligations and liabilities that come with running a burial ground. Our Parish has been unable to bury its dead in the parish for more than a decade due to the local church cemetaries being deemed full and closed, but recently we have been gifted with a plot of land which makes it possible to build a new burial ground – happily adjacent the old church yard.
Obviously we don’t have old monuments to look after at the moment. I was already against having upright memorials already, but after the training we were both determined that vertical monuments would have no place in the new burial ground. Many monuments fall over each year, sometimes harming folk who were using them to pull themselves to their feet after kneeling to tend the grave. Responsibility for the maintenance of memorials is down to the people (presumably heirs and family members) erecting them, but often they cannot be found or cannot / will not fund the repairs and so the costs fall to the management committee – in our case it would be the Parish.
Many local authorities have taken the modern option and developed a Risk Assessment against the hazards these memorials pose. In doing so many have decided to lay flat any memorial or monument that shows signs of instability. This of course creates a tripping hazard, and in some cases legal action has been taken to force the authority to re-erect the monuments at their cost. All these issues can be averted by maintaining a “no-vertical-memorial- policy”. All I have to do now is persuade the rest of the Parish Council, and of course the parish residents… (who would bear the costs of repair or litigation through the parish precept).
I’m off in a few weeks time to visit a friends burial ground where the area is laid to meadow grasses and wildflowers. That would be my ideal solution. Watch this space.