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Kerb-sets project a big deal

03 July 2015

MAY I add something to your article about churchyards (5 June), please?

For many years, besides being the PCC treasurer, I was also chairman of the churchyard committee of our church. The churchyard is 12.5 acres, and there are more than 12,500 graves; so there are probably more than 20,000 people (or their ashes) buried in the area.

The churchyard is still open, and we received a grant from the local authority to assist with maintenance, mainly because there is no civic cemetery in the town. We do not make any distinction as to who is buried there. The upkeep of the whole area is a huge problem, and grass-cutting is part of it.

To help with this, many kerb sets were removed in the 1950s, although no paperwork exists to show how this was achieved. In 2007, we repeated the exercise under my chairmanship. We sought a faculty; we checked with the planning authorities; and we persuaded the local papers to carry the story. I met about a dozen objectors: in some cases, we agreed to leave the sets; in other cases, the objectors agreed to support the project.

As a result, there were no formal objections to the Chancellor, who gave permission for certain sections to be cleared at once. Permission for other sections to be done in due course was devolved to the Archdeacon.

The project was not easy. Contractors removed all the kerb sets, carefully recording where the inscribed ones were to be returned. The area was then re-seeded where necessary, and the inscribed ones were returned and set into the ground. While all this was going on, the area looked bad, and it was reported in the local paper as looking like the Battle of the Somme. My telephone was red-hot. But we got through it, and the result had been very successful. It has saved many hours of work.

So, to summarise: we did not remove the headstones; we removed uninscribed kerb sets. Inscribed kerb sets are now flush with the ground - names upwards - so that the mower can go over them.

With regard to finance, I wound up 20 or so little trusts that were for the maintenance of graves, and sought permission to use the funds "for the upkeep of the churchyard". I used all of it - and some more - on this project.

It seems that our DAC may be slightly more sympathetic than others in the country. We have obtained blanket permissions to vary the restrictions on highly polished headstones, and also to allow vertical cremation headstones. Now we have a Natural Burial area as well.

 

THIS correspondent not only tells the story, but explains what is involved in possible changes to a churchyard. Further advice is available on the Churchcare website (www.churchcare.co.uk), in the guidance section.

 

Send issues and questions to maggie durran@virginmedia.com.

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