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Churchyards are sacred and cherished places; their ambiance comes from the memorials, the church, and from the history of the community in which the churchyard is situated. They offer a tranquil space for peace and quiet reflection and are home to a rich diversity of plant and animal life. 

These regulations provide practical support and guidance for parishes that need to understand the legal permissions and procedures involved with the care of churchyards.

Download Churchyard Regulations 2016 (rev. August 2019).

The most consulted section of the regulations relates to Memorials in Churchyards. For ease, we have replicated this section below:



1.1. An appropriate variety of design is encouraged in choosing memorials. Relatives should take the surroundings of the grave and the churchyard into account. A suitable choice can often be made from the range of memorials offered by some stonemasons but individually designed memorials are encouraged. In order to ensure quality and suitability of material and design, memorials which are outside the range of simple designs, commonly found in churchyards, must be authorised by faculty.

1.2. Incumbents have the discretion to permit the introduction of a memorial providing it is of a type which complies with the detailed provisions set out below but Incumbents may refuse to permit the erection of the same if they believe that it would be detrimental to the churchyard.

1.3. If the proposed memorial is outside such discretion or the Incumbent declines to exercise such discretion, application should be made to the Chancellor. In most cases the Chancellor will consider the application on an informal basis but he reserves the right in appropriate cases [for example where he may wish seek the advice of the DAC] to require the application to make a formal application by way of petition for a faculty.

2. Headstones

2.1. Size

2.1.1 Height Maximum 1200 mm [4 feet] Minimum 750 mm [30 inches]

2.1.2. Width Maximum 900 mm [3 feet] Minimum 500 mm [18 inches]

2.1.3. Depth Maximum 150 mm [6 inches] Minimum 75 mm [3 inches]

2.1.4. If slate is used a thickness of 50 mm [2 inches] is permitted.

2.1.5. In the case of infant burials headstones may be smaller than above but the minimum measurements are: Height - 600 mm [2 feet] : Width - 375 mm [15 inches] : Depth - 50 mm [2 inches].

2.1.6. These measurements are not intended to define standard proportions of memorials and memorials may be of any dimensions within the given maxima and minima.

2.1.7. Provided that a headstone complies with the above dimensions, it may have a curved or straight top.

2.1.8. Headstones provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are distinctive in design and dimension so as to indicate their particular nature. Although these are smaller than the minima permitted by these Regulations, the Incumbent may give permission upon proof that the headstone is supplied by the Commission.

2.1.9. A base forming an integral part of the design of a headstone may be included, provided that it does not project more than 100 mm [4 inches] beyond the headstone in any direction and that it is fixed on a foundation slab of an approved material which itself is fixed at least 50 mm [2 inches] below the surrounding ground and extending no more than 75 mm to 100 mm [ 3 - 4 inches] all round so that a mower may freely pass over it. If desired, the base may include the provision of a socket to receive a vase, in which case it may extend by up to 150 mm [6 inches] forward of the headstone.

2.1.10. Any material used to support the headstone or base shall be completely sunk into the ground and not visible.

2.2. Materials

2.2.1. Materials must be of natural stone or hardwood. Stone must be sandstone, limestone, granite or slate. Stone must be quarried within the Diocese or similar in appearance thereto and in keeping with the particular type and colour of the stone of which the church and any surrounding buildings are built. It may not be black, blue, dark grey or red and no memorials or vases shall be of marble, synthetic stone or plastic.

2.2.2. The stone, including the surface to be inscribed, shall not be mirror polished (i.e. polished so as reflect) or be above what is commonly called an eggshell finish. 22 2.3. Position 2.3.1. No memorial may be erected within 3000 mm [10 feet] of the outer wall of the church building save by authority of a faculty.

2.3.2. Graves may not be fenced or otherwise individually delineated.

2.4. Appearance

2.4.1. Memorials of `eccentric` shapes [for example, teddy bears] are not permitted.

2.4.2. Lettering should be clearly incised or carved and may be painted in matt white, matt black, matt grey, silver or gold but in no other colours. Plastic, lead or other inserted lettering is not permitted. 2.5. Inscriptions

2.5.1. The wording of an inscription must be included in the application and approved by the Incumbent. 2.5.2. Inscriptions should be simple, reverent and theologically acceptable. Three principles should be observed : epitaphs should honour the dead, comfort the living and inform posterity. In cases where Incumbents may have any doubt as to whether to grant permission for an inscription, they should seek the advice of the Archdeacon.

2.5.3. Brief epitaphs may reflect the life, work, interests or concerns of the deceased, provided that offence is not likely to be caused. Appropriate biblical or other quotations may be helpful in emphasising that life, but these must be entirely compatible with the Christian faith.

2.5.4. The Christian and surnames of the deceased should be given, with dates of birth or death [or age and date of death]. Relationships must be stated correctly. Relations named should normally be limited to parents, children and spouse or partner but, if space is available, grandparents may also be named. Whilst a full form of address [for example, mother] is to be encouraged, the Incumbent has a discretion to approve diminutives in common or regional usage [for example, mum] but before giving such approval the Incumbent should consider

[a] whether he, the PCC or any other person objects,

[b] whether there are any other aspects of the proposed memorial which are not normally permitted,

[c] whether the grave is in an obvious position, [d] whether the church is one calling for a high standard of inscription writing [for example, a Grade 1 listed church with historic churchyard] and [e] where there are any other memorials in proximity bearing such terms.

23 2.5.5. Inscriptions must be incised or in relief. Hand-crafted letter-cutting is welcomed and encouraged. Plastic, lead or other inserted lettering is not permitted.

2.5.6. Photographs and etched images [whether from photographs or otherwise], porcelain or plastic portraits or representations of objects or motifs are not permitted, nor are the use of pet names or nicknames or personal comments. Bronze or ceramic inserts are not to be used.

2.5.7. A badge or insignia of the Armed Forces of the Crown is permitted provided that the Incumbent has a letter of authority from the branch of the Forces in question.

2.5.8. No advertisement or trademark shall be inscribed on any memorial but the name of the stonemason may be inscribed low down on the side or reverse of the stone in unpainted and unleaded letters no larger than 13 mm [½ inch] in height.

2.5.9. No QR [Quick Response] codes [which provide an instant link to a memorial internet page showing a virtual memorial of the Deceased`s life] or other link electronically or otherwise to web-based memorial pages may be placed upon any memorial without a faculty. This is due to the possibility of non-theological content and/or defamatory statements which might leave the Incumbent liable to action in defamation.

2.6. Fixing

2.6.1. Regard must be had to health and safety concerns. In particular all headstones must be securely fixed in the ground and due regard must be paid to the nature of the ground and the risk of settlement. Stonemasons and funeral directors are strongly encouraged to have regard to the Guidelines issued by the Association of Burial Authorities.

3. Horizontal stones or ledgers

3.1. Horizontal stones or ledgers should have a maximum length of 2100 mm [7 feet] and width of 900 mm [3 feet] including the base. They should be flush with the surrounding ground so that a mower may pass freely over them.

4. Crosses

4.1. Crosses not exceeding 1200 mm [4 feet] in height may be permitted by the Incumbent.

4.2. Between a burial and the erection of a permanent memorial, with the prior approval of the Incumbent, a small temporary wooden cross, not more than 450 mm [18 inches] in height [measured from the surface of the ground] and 300 mm [12 inches] in width may be used to mark 24 a grave. The cross may bear a small plaque stating the name and date of death of the deceased.

5. Prohibitions

5.1. The Incumbent does not have delegated authority to permit the following :

[a] Kerbs, railings, fencing or chippings.

[b] Memorials in the shape of a vase, heart, book or statues.

[c] Memorials incorporating photographs, portraits or etched images.

[d] Momentoes, windmills, toys or little animals.

[e] Anything affixed to or hung upon any monument, including insignia, crosses, images, models, paintings or photographs.

[f] The use of `pet names`.

[g] Artificial flowers.

[h] Any arms, crests, badge or insignia [save as permitted pursuant to paragraph 2.5.7. above].

[i] Any kind of lighting.


1. An Incumbent has no authority to permit the erection of a memorial which does not comply with these Regulations.

2. A memorial which does not comply with these Regulations [whether or not the Incumbent has purported to give his authority] may be removed by order of the Consistory Court.

3. A faculty may be sought for the erection of a memorial which does not comply with these Regulations. A petition for such a faculty will be considered on its individual merits and the views and policies of the Incumbent and the PCC, together with the opinion of the DAC, will be taken into account.

4. Parishes are encouraged to consider adopting by faculty their own Regulations for use in a particular churchyard. Such regulations must take into account local practice, tradition and custom and the particular environmental, architectural and aesthetic considerations of the church and its setting. It may be appropriate for different provisions to apply in particular zones within the churchyard depending upon their proximity to the church, visual amenity or the nature of existing memorials.


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