Haycombe Cemetery is the main open cemetery currently in use for burials, administered by Bath and North East Somerset Council.
Haycombe Cemetery is a large open cemetery on the southern edge of Bath (BA2 2RQ), overlooking the beautiful Englishcombe Valley to the south and east, with views as far as the hills of Wales on a clear day to the west.
- We aim to provide an effective and professional burial service in a compassionate and caring manner. In 2001 the service signed up to the Charter for the Bereaved which lays down standards of service and care the bereaved should be entitled to expect. (An annual assessment is carried out to ensure that these standards have been reached and national tables of the results are published.)
- Approximately, 300 full burials are carried out per year, with another 100 - 200 burials of cremated remains.
- Haycombe Cemetery won the prestigious 'Cemetery of the Year' award in 2003 and came runner up in 2002 (the first year it was entered), 2004 and 2005.
- Haycombe Cemetery entered for a Green Flag Award (equivalent to a Blue Flag for beaches) for the first time in 2008. Staff were very pleased to received the award at the first attempt and just as proud to have retained it. It is one of relatively few cemeteries to receive this award.
- Bereavement Services staff are committed to providing a service free of discrimination.
How do I buy a grave?
The answer is that you don't. You buy the right of interment in a grave space for a given number of years, currently there is a choice of 30 or 50 years at Haycombe Cemetery. Consequently, burial is usually a dearer option than cremation. Although when the purchase of the right of interment fee is divided by the number of years purchased you will see that the council invests heavily in its cemeteries.
You do not have to purchase a right of interment in a grave in order to be buried; there are 'public' areas in Haycombe Cemetery, although the interment fee is payable for both public and private graves..
What is the difference between a public and a private grave?
- The difference between a public and a family grave is simply that only people designated by the owner of the right of interment may be buried in the specified grave, whilst unrelated persons may be buried in a 'public' grave.
- Similarly, only the owner of the right of interment may apply for the right to place a memorial on a family grave. The council may approve a memorial on a public grave in certain circumstances. Please note that memorials can only be erected by stonemasons approved by the council; a list is available from the main office on request.
If you own the right of interment in a grave, you should:
a) always notify the cemetery of any change of name or address.
b) make provision as to who will inherit this right in your will.
c) if you inherit such a right from a near relative, you must come to the office to arrange a transfer of ownership.
d) familiarise yourself with Bath and North East Somerset's Cemetery Rules and Regulations, which are available on request from the main office.
Transfer of ownership of Right of Interment in a grave.
The owner of the right of interment can transfer that right at any time, either to someone else outright or to share the right of interment jointly with them. Such transfers are fairly straightforward and staff will prepare them on request.
When an owner dies the right of interment allows the burial to take place. However, no other burials may take place in that grave without a transfer of ownership to the appropriate living relative.
- If the owner dies leaving a will for which an Order of Probate has been granted, the original document must be brought to the cemetery office in order for staff to effect a transfer to the executors. Where such documents have been lost the probate office can be contacted to provide certified copies.Similarly where there is no will but Letters of Administration have been obtained.
- If the owner dies leaving a will but with insufficient estate to warrant applying for probate, the original will may be brought to the office in order that staff can prepare a Statutory Declaration based on the will.
- If the owner dies leaving no will, the next of kin will need to supply details so that again a Statutory Declaration can be prepared by cemetery staff.
A Statutory Declaration must be signed and sworn before a Commissioner for Oaths or a Magistrate. Any statements it contains must be the truth as it is the equivalent of giving evidence on oath in a court of law.
Once the transfer has been completed, all the new owners' signatures will be required on any applications pertaining to the grave e.g. new memorial, etc.
Unfortunately, the law regarding transfer of ownership has not been practiced for a number of years throughout the country. People have assumed that their family grave automatically reverts to them on the death of the owner without any contact with cemetery staff or formal claim, although they would not expect any other asset, such as a bank account or house, to automatically transfer in that way. Authorities too have relied on forms of disclaimer when relatives rather than the original owner have requested burials in a grave. These are now found to be worthless in legal terms. So sometimes there is more than one generation between the original owner and present claimant. This can lead to difficulties in establishing just who is entitled to claim. Staff will always help in any way they can. Training is updated regularly and they have access to specialist advice, should any unusual problem arise.
Areas of Haycombe Cemetery
The area to the left or east of the approach road to the crematorium chapel was consecrated when the cemetery was first opened. The area to the right or west of this road is unconsecrated.
Consecrated means that this is the preferred area for those whose religion is the Church of England. It is governed by ecclesiastical law, in addition to the Law of Burial, Cremation and Exhumation which governs all cemeteries.
Unconsecrated areas are preferred by all other denominations (including Roman Catholic) and religions.
However, the lines between religious denominations has blurred considerably since 1937 and anyone of any denomination may choose to be buried in either consecrated or unconsecrated land.
There is a specific area set aside for Muslim burials and another for Ba'hai burials.
In both consecrated and unconsecrated sections of the cemetery, there are areas for lawn graves and for traditional graves.
The Lawn sections are grassed sections where only a headstone* is allowed as a memorial. Only 2' 6" is available for the headstone and any planting. The remainder of the grave is grassed and will be maintained by mowing by grounds maintenance staff. All headstones must be as specified on the reverse of the memorial application form. Forms available on request from the main office.
Any type of memorial* may be allowed in these sections, provided that they are approved by the Cemeteries Superintendent and erected by an approved memorial mason.
However, the maintenance and upkeep of these graves is the sole responsibility of the purchaser of the right of interment.
All memorials wherever situated, remain the property of the owner. Bath and North East Somerset strongly recommend that all memorials are insured against damage e.g. by vandalism, and that a suitably qualified mason is employed to give regular checks on the condition of the memorial every five to ten years.
*Please note that there is an extra fee for the right to erect a memorial. Your stonemason may pay this for you and include it on his invoice as a disbursement, or he may request a cheque from you to accompany his application to the council. The fee is a payment towards the costs of checking that the right person (the owner of the right of interment) is making the application, approving the wording, size and suitability of the memorial, checking the credentials of the stonemason to carry out the work in a council cemetery, ensuring that the correct grave number is used throughout the process and that the memorial ends up on the correct grave - a memorial safety check is also carried out some time after the erection of the memorial to ensure that your stonemason has carried out his task properly.
Half grave spaces
Right of interment in half grave spaces which can accommodate up to six caskets are available. Memorials for these can be obtained from any stonemason who is authorised to work in the cemetery.
There is an area of Haycombe set aside for burials to take place with a tree planted in place of a headstone. Grass pathways are kept mown to enable the graves to be visited, but the majority of the area is cut once a year when the cuttings are removed to encourage the growth of wild flora as part of Bereavement Service's environmental maintenance policy.
The burial service
Your funeral director will have made most of the arrangements on your behalf (unless you intend to undertake the arrangements yourself).
Only two forms are required for burial:
- the application form, which should be completed by the executor or next of kin of the deceased.
- either the disposal form given to you by the Registrar of Births and Deaths when you went to register or Coroner's form 6.
You may have opted to have a service in the Top Chapel (immediately inside the cemetery gates - the main entrance to the rear of the chapel), or have a service elsewhere, or to have a graveside service, but whichever of these you choose the hearse will be met by a member of the cemeteries staff who will be there throughout the service to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.
The Top (or Burial) Chapel has the same facilities as the crematorium chapel i.e. CD player, organ, loop system, wheechair, large print service books, etc., but the services of an organist are not included in the cost. Your funeral director will employ one on your behalf if required.
The grave will have been dug and 'dressed' i.e. grass matting placed over spoil to be used to backfill the grave and planks for the bearers to stand on to lower the coffin into the grave. Staff will show you where to stand, having previously carried out a risk assessment to find the safest place, sometimes difficult when re-opening older graves. All of the memorials immediately surrounding the grave will have been checked for safety before grave-digging commenced.
Following the service, our groundsmen will backfill the grave as soon as the mourners disperse. They will 'mound' the grave to allow for sinkage as the ground settles back around the coffin - however you should still not be surprised if the grave sinks well below the level of the surrounding ground. In general we like to allow six months before 'topping up' as the maximum shrinkage occurs during that time, but if you think it is sinking too far, or is becoming a safety hazard, please report this to the main office who will alert cemeteries staff.
The groundsmen will place the floral tributes on the length of the grave, but be aware that deer visit the cemetery especially during the winter time.
How to Contact Us
The cemetery and crematorium office is open to the public from 9am - 4pm (except 12:30pm - 1:30pm Wednesdays when it is shut for staff training). It is not open at weekends or bank holidays.