Lots of people like to have a grave stone or ledger stone to mark the place where someone is buried or interred.
There are various rules and regulations governing memorials in churchyards. These are outlined in the Churchyard Regulations 2016 and you can read them in full at www.oxford.anglican.org/support-services/legal-diocesan-registry/churchyard-regulations/
The purpose of the regulations is to try to maintain the character of our country churchyards and ensure that they remain Christian places of peace, beauty and remembrance.
Gravestone or ledger stone?
If someone has been buried, then you may erect a standing gravestone.
If they have been cremated and their ashes interred, then you would have a ledger stone, a square or rectangular stone which is laid flat on the ground. You need to wait 6 months from the burial before a memorial can be placed.
What size can it be?
A grave stone can be up to 1220 mm (48 inches) high and 915 mm (36 inches) wide. It must be between 75 and 155 mm thick (3 and 6 inches), except for slate monuments, which can be as thin as 40 mm (1.5 inches)
If it has a visible base, this can protrude behind the stone by 50 mm (2 inches) and in front of the stone by up to 205 mm (8 inches).
It can have up to two flower vases fitted into it.
A ledger stone can be up to 460 mm square (18 inches). It must be rectangular or square.
What sort of designs can I choose?
A grave stone cannot be a statue or a shape like a heart or a person or animal.
It could be shaped like a book, but a ledger stone cannot.
It cannot have kerbs or lighting or sound as part of it.
What can it be made of?
Natural stone or hardwood is fine. Marble, synthetic stone or plastic is not.
The stone must not be, or appear to be, black, blue, red or green or otherwise brightly coloured. It must not be painted
Etchings - You can have a black, white or uncoloured etching or carving that covers less than 1/5th of the stone.
It cannot depict an individual, and it must be reverent and not contrary to the beliefs of the Church of England. So a cross, flower, ear of wheat, or bird would be fine, but a picture of the person who has died would not be.
QR codes are unacceptable.
Inscription - You may have an inscription as long as the words are simple and reverent words. They must not be contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England, which would include something that is a message to the deceased. (So whilst you can have ‘in loving memory of Fred Smith, beloved husband and father’, you couldn’t have ‘Fred, we love you and miss you’
You can have quotations from the Bible or from other literary sources.
You can have nicknames, as long as these are within brackets or inverted commas
Inscriptions need to be uncoloured, grey or black. Plastic , lead or other inserted lettering isn’t allowed.
Hand crafted letters is fine, but cursive script isn’t.
Adding further inscriptions - You can add to a gravestone or ledger stone following a further burial or interment of ashes in that plot.
Your stone mason should be familiar with these regulations and help you through them. Once you have agreed with them the memorial that you want, they will fill in the approved application form which is then signed by you and sent on to the Rector.
You also need to complete the application form for any additional inscriptions to an existing stone.
Upkeep - You cannot plant shrubs or individual gardens on the grave, but you may have bulbs.
You must not have plastic flowers or wreaths (although artificial poppies or poppy wreaths are acceptable to commemorate those who died in the service of their country)
Cut flowers and silk flowers are allowed, but please remove these once they start to decay or fade
You may have up to 3 toys or similar objects for up to a year from a burial, but then these must be removed.
Memorials outside these guidelines - If you want a gravestone or ledger stone that does not fit these guidelines, then you will need to make a special application to the Chancellor of the Diocese using a different form. There is an additional fee for this, and there is no guarantee that the chancellor will approve it.
For further information
Please contact me if you would like to discuss these guidelines further or to get a copy of the regulations and application form for authority to introduce a gravestone or ledger stone.