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Crisis over graveyard maintenance - Discuss

admin

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#1
A conference is taking place to discuss what is described as a crisis in the maintenance of graveyards.
English Heritage says Britain has the world's best graveyard heritage, but that gravestones are deteriorating through weathering and vandalism.
The meeting in Oxford will discuss how the neglect of the sites also means a decay of their social history.
English Heritage hopes renewed public interest in genealogy will improve conservation efforts in cemeteries.
Britain has thousands of parish churches with graveyards dating back to Medieval times, which English Heritage says are repositories of a rich social history.
BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says so many people have been buried and slowly decayed in churchyards that they are often conspicuously higher than surrounding ground.
He said collections of stone monuments and gravestones have been built up over the centuries, often bearing colourful inscriptions.
But they are slowly succumbing to weathering and the onset of undergrowth, and many gravestones have been removed by local authorities concerned for public safety, our correspondent added.

=================================================


We have discussed this problem in our graveyards previously here on the FHUK Website and forums and no doubt we will do so again...


The problem is compounded by outmoded burial laws which make it an offence to tamper with a grave.
The Burial Act of 1857 made it illegal to disturb bodies without a special licence from the Home Office.
The law dates back to the days of Burke and Hare when grave robbers pillaged tombs for bodies.
Today the exhumation of both buried and cremated remains requires a Home Office licence unless the site is to be cleared for development.


So we really should have someone to look after the maintenance - such as English Heritage with the obvious funds to maintain them. If we do not soon, we will have no graveyards and certainly no headstones.........


Regards,
Dave
 
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#2
Dave,

Today I went with my daughter to our old graveyard, which is 'supposedly' being allowed to go wildflower/natural (ha ha). We had to argue with the non existant paths and struggle to find any/many headstones/grave markers/kerbstones. ANYONE that is hoping to find any relatives graves will have a very tough job on their hands. The whole graveyard was strimmed about a week/fortnight ago, the actual graves are still about 8/10 inches covered over with grass/moss etc.. I wasn't holding out ANY hope of finding any stone/marker whatever for one of my relatives, daughter was getting bored so I thought I'd have a quick look at the lumps that were in the pathway where I was attempting to walk.. and there it was.. a grave marker for my relative, virtually covered by grass/moss etc.. (I didnt have anything with me to tidy up the area, but I am going back tomorrow!! armed and ready to do battle and give my lovely little graveyard abit of dignity)!!

This is after I had cleared away 'some' of the grass that had covered it

 
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#4
I have seen the same problems here too, even though many are well maintained, I was visiting in Maryland for the weekend and went checking out some of the graveyards there, and went down one of the road in the cemetery to find hundreds of old tombstones stacked one on top of each other making a wall. I was going to put in a picture of it I took but it must be on my computer at work sorry:'( Joyce
 

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#5
I suppose it must be very difficult -My grandparents are buried in a plot together, whilst able my mother & her siblings would try to go to the grave at least three times a year. Christmas time and the deceased birthdays.However ill health & old age start to make this impossible.The grave is now very unkempt - as are thousands of others. Workers if you are lucky cut the grass about twice a year. - Who to blame? perhaps there are not enough council workers? perhaps there are more important jobs to do? I do not know but commonwealth graves are immaculate. Is it a sign of the times? again I do not know, but I guess so. But old and unkempt graveyards are very eerie places. The last time I tramped around an old graveyard was a cold wet day. Which seemed to me to be the ideal setting for a gothic tale! I know there is a law that states the last body to be buried in the graveyard must have been there for a hundred years. Perhaps burials are out of fashion - it seems so with the current trend for cremations. Perhaps it is also due to a certain amount of vandalism that seems to take place nowdays.
 
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#6
Well true to my word I went back this morning... I will need to go back though as I have more work to do. (and 2 more family graves to find)

anyway pic one shows the state of it before.



and the second one is after I had hacked, :rolleyes:, at the grass, It will obviously need more work, but as an interim solution it works for me.
There is still at least 10-12 inches of grass that has hidden obscured many many markers and kerbstones. I was lucky but if somone that was visiting wasnt so steady on their feet then they could quite easily break their ankle of they slipped on a covered kerbstone. THEN who would pay out the compensation that would follow??

 

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#7
Well done Julie.

I have many times been to a graveyard in Pinxton where many of my family are buried. Then last year I took some of my family (in their 80's) to show them the graves of their mother and grandparents - could not find them! The grass was easily a couple of feet high with other plants growing. Got no chance of finding them. Though the later graves in another part of the graveyard are kept quite nice.

It seems money is the big issue. Yet as Julie says
THEN who would pay out the compensation that would follow
Maybe they believe that leaving everything overgrown will deter people? I even offered to get some people together to clean them all up, but was refused - may have an accident!

Pejay says
I do not know but commonwealth graves are immaculate
They are immaculate - but there is money to maintain them.

Money money money........ With all the credit and bank crisis at the moment - it can only get worse.

Dave
 
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admin

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#8
UPDATE

It seems that when answering Julie on another thread, I found a website dedicated to this:
http://cemeteryfriends.org.uk
The formation of the National Federation of Cemetery Friends was the result of heritage and conservation minded groups concerned about the decline in care of our Victorian cemeteries meeting like minded volunteers.
Also please view this on their site:

Community groups urged to apply for Government cash
Whether it's helping local clubs get hold of new kit, coaching new volunteers or simply giving a community space a fresh lick of paint, Grassroots Grants aim to make a real and immediate difference to the work of any small and local community groups with annual incomes below £20,000. The programme, funded by the Office of The Third Sector in the Cabinet Office and administered by the Community Development Foundation, offers grants of between £250 and £5,000 to support activities that lie right at the heart of our local communities.

To keep the process as simple and easy as possible for applicants, the money is being distributed directly through local funders.


Local, regional and national businesses are also invited to get involved through investing in the scheme's innovative endowment match challenge; the first of its kind in England.

Within the programme, the Government has set aside a £50million pot from which it will match endowment investments from businesses. This offers businesses the chance to contribute directly to supporting and sustaining the communities in which they operate.
Contact for further information: Lesley Chambers
Head of Grassroots Grants
Lesley.Chambers@cdf.org.uk
regards,
Dave
 

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#9
You've done a good job there. I recently found a joint grave for my ggrandparents. The inscription is along the base and still easily read. However, there did seem to be a lot of stone flower containers on the top of the grave - I wonder if they have been dumped there - afterall who would have so many? I did try to tidy it a bit but I was reluctant to remove them completely as I did not know who put them there. The containers could, I suppose, have been theirs but as there were so many, I think not. It did look a bit better when I left but as I do not live in the area and cannot keep it up, I expect that it will soon start to get messy again. Despite that, I was still thrilled to have found their grave and the joint grave of my other ggrandparents and their daughter.
 

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#10
I have read in one of the Genealogy magazines that people have to be careful when cleaning headstones as some of them are cover in a type of lichen that is a protected species.
Liz
 

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#11
Further update:


One MILLION gravestones vandalised - or removed by health and safety officials- Health & Safety gone mad again!!


As many as a million gravestones and memorials have been defaced or
removed by over-zealous health and safety officials, MPs said today.


The decision, based on unfounded fears that they might fall over, has
deprived hundreds of thousands of families of the chance to grieve at
their loved one's grave.


Labour MP John Mann said tombstones and memorials have been shored up
with unsightly plastic bindings or removed entirely to avoid possible
injuries or compensation claims................

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1083333/One-MILLION-graveston...

Regards,
Dave
 

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#12
Some councils have been forced to re-instate (at their own cost) all the headstones they have unlawfully vandalised under the guise of health and safety.

It is about time that individual councillors should be forced to pay for the costs of re-instatement from their own pockets rather than using the funds supplied by council tax payers.
It is about time they were made to pay for their unlawful actions.
Cheers
Guy
 
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#13
I have seen reports on the television about this,

while I do think that it is just mad that someone can go into a graveyard, and either stumble (esp if the graveyard isnt being actively maintained) and then put in a claim?? for damages? the council or whoever have to find the money for the claim, so why not find the money to maintain the graveyard?

I also think that it is about time to address the actual problem also, if the headstones are dangerous/unstable why not attach them to a stable foundation?

for example, in a local cemetery the local council on all new graves actually lay paving slabs in a row and then dig the plots off the slabs, which then give a solid base for ANY headstone to be affixed to.

the older headstones surely could be affixed in a similar manner?
 

AthenaLou

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#14
Hi
haven't been here for a while due to ill health

i think removing headstones is nothing more than scandelous really that headstones are removed.....especially as most of them end up as runnble! .....the headstones are a permanent tribute to those people we loved and adored in life.......and no one should have the right to move them......with the older type headstones that were made from stone surely it would better to lay them down and make sure that the surrounding grass is kept short enuf for people to see......i recently visited a graveyard in Margate, looking for my ancestrors graves only to find that the 'authorities' have removed, i would say 90% of the memorials......a few memorials were laying down but the grass had not been maintained and had grown over the stone so was hard to see......
another graveyard i visited in Plumstead 2 weeks ago, on speaking to the graveyard attendant, was told that a lot of the memorials they remove end up being smashed up ...........the council have to write to any grave owners (which appears on the deeds to the grave) to gain permission for memorials to be removed........if they get no reply then they go ahead and dispose of them......this is awful as only one persons name appears on the deeds to the grave so how are the council to know whether there are any close living relatives or descendants to ask?? also when u buy a plot.....u actually only lease it for a number of years and the number of years u can lease it is being reduced all the time by the authorities because grave space it 'limited' ..........once the lease has expired u can apply to extend it but at a huge cost.....who can afford this these days??? i buried my brother in 2003 plot cost £500 i buried my mother in 2007 plot cost £1030! ......then theres the cost of placing the memorial headstones can cost anything from abt £600 upward.......and the cost of the 'cemetary' fee.....the fee includes any memorial just crossing the gate to b placed on your loved ones grave....when my dad passed away 11 years ago it cost me £48 just to have the memorial cross the gate so heaven knows how much it would cost now.......the memorial was a 'desk set' no bigger than 18 inches by 18 inches if i had installed a proper sized headstone it would have cost much more.....my dads grave already has a kerb set as 2 other family members are in the grave and no room was left for another name on the foot stone so i had to buy the desk set to sit on top......all this is added to how much the funeral cost in the first place........with all the money these cemetery's are making why are they not maintaining these cemetery's properly.....why arent they installing CCTV in a bid to prevent vandalism and damage to graves ......... theres a grave yeard in canterbury....cant remember the name but its right next to to canterbury prison......the grave yard isnt maintained at all really over grown.....stones left to rot.......it has obviously been vandalised as it does have CCTV......
the authorities dont really pay enuf respect to our dead.....and not enuf thought to us as genealogists......

ps as many of us are aware.....a lot of cemetery's charge to search for graves as well......a few months a go i went looking for the graves of my great grandparents and great great grandparents £16 per search!!! thats £16 (it depends on the cemetery to how much they charge...some cost as much as £22) for EACH person they look for..... they take a big book from a cupboard which holds the names of all those in the cemetery and look for a name u want......but u have to be armed with the month and year of death as well..... so its not 'costing' them anything they haven't gotta walk round a cold wet cemetery looking for your ancestors or anything like that .....i have been told that since the 'Who Do You Think You Are' programs have begun.....family search has increased considerably.....so just how much are these cemeteries making every year???

<gets off soap box>
 
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#15
Hi Athenalou,

sorry you havent been well :(

I couldnt agree with you more about the scandalous charges being attached for the information out of the burial book. (I think it is totally disgraceful that 'someone' wants to make a 'quick buck' out of someone elses sorrow)

why dont they get all these people that are doing community service clearing the graveyards/cemeteries? and making them look like they are loved and cared for?

I guess they can't be bothered eh? bit too much like hard work and graft, something that the layabout society "can't be bothered with"...

I know I'm doing MY bit for our local cemetery, hopefully, just hopefully we might be able to get 'something' done about it.
 

AthenaLou

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#16
hiya DC

now there's an idea! i didn't think of that ya know maybe those doing community service might gain some sort of respect if they had to clear graveyards up keeping graves and surrounding areas nice and those on benefits thats a right good idea DC u should take that further write to an MP or something living relatives would definitely appreciate that
 

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#17
Hi

In Suffolk an ancestors grave area which was partially overgwown has been cleared. The graves of my ancestors were not covered in lichen and were very legible but since they have been cleared, lichen has grown tenfold. Sometimes a grave that is surrounded by vegatation or under trees is more good as it preserves it.

I have seen many headstones thrown into the side ditches of graveyards.

Ben
 

p.risboy

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#18
Dave,

Today I went with my daughter to our old graveyard, which is 'supposedly' being allowed to go wildflower/natural (ha ha). We had to argue with the non existant paths and struggle to find any/many headstones/grave markers/kerbstones. ANYONE that is hoping to find any relatives graves will have a very tough job on their hands. The whole graveyard was strimmed about a week/fortnight ago, the actual graves are still about 8/10 inches covered over with grass/moss etc.. I wasn't holding out ANY hope of finding any stone/marker whatever for one of my relatives, daughter was getting bored so I thought I'd have a quick look at the lumps that were in the pathway where I was attempting to walk.. and there it was.. a grave marker for my relative, virtually covered by grass/moss etc.. (I didnt have anything with me to tidy up the area, but I am going back tomorrow!! armed and ready to do battle and give my lovely little graveyard abit of dignity)!!
This is after I had cleared away 'some' of the grass that had covered it

Whilst I was back in England doing family research, I was pleasantly surprised by the marvelous condition of the graveyard where most of my family have been laid to rest. Although it was not always at it's best in the past, it was an absolute pleasure to walk around. There were, at the time of my visit, two men in the process of straightening up and levelling all of the grave markers and surrounds and even washing the various coloured stone chippings that filled some of surrounds.
The grass and hedging were in excellent order, as were the many trees that had been there for decades.
There are roughly about 500 graves, but not all with markers. If this can be achieved in a small town with a population of about 6000, then there is NO EXCUSE for the rest of our graveyards to be let go and abused by lazy, inept, and PC correct, councillors and politicians.:mad:
The Vicar at 'my' graveyard, pulled out a map of all the burial plots and each one had a ref.no. Within 10 minutes he had given me 11 of my relatives plots.
Plus he also gave a lot of details of baptisms, and a host of other information.
In that short visit I had more info. than I had gathered in two months.
I asked if he required any payment, and his answer was to put a donation in the collection box. I then proceeded to empty my wallet. Wonderful.:kissu:

Forgot to give credit where credit is due:- St.Mary's Church. Church St. Princes Risborough, Bucks.
 
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benny1982

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#19
Somewhere underneath this bracken and leaves lays the body of my great, great, great grandfather William Thomas Coombs who died in London in 1885. There must be around 5000 other bodies with him so deciding which skeleton was Williams is like finding a needle in a giant, giant haystack.

 
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#20
The goverment cant look after ones we have now let alone preserve plots/stones that do indeed hold alot of historic value to our country.

As many have posted before me here are some shots, I am faced with every year when visiting my fathers plot. He is in Bradford, Im in London so its hard to find the time, plot in the middle.

BEFORE


AFTER (My handy Work...lol)


Bradford council stated to me when I complained that it is the responsibity of family members of the plot to individually maintain it. I stated the growth was from the plot behind and what if there was no relatives to maintain the plot behind, they stated that was not there problem....:eek:
On my last visit the stone was totally surrounded, and most of the gold lettering has now faded. I dunno, the council want shooting they really do!
RANT OVER....lol:D
 

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