Bath and North East Somerset Council maintains 2 open cemeteries and 31 closed burial grounds (cemeteries and churchyards).
The two ‘open’ cemeteries administered by Bath & North East Somerset Council are Haycombe and Harptree Cemeteries. The bigger and more frequently used site for burials is at Haycombe Cemetery on the south side of Bath. Whilst, Harptree Cemetery is to the far south west of the Authority and is a site used mainly by the three surrounding communities of East Harptree, West Harptree and Bishop Sutton.
Conceptions of what memorials and memorabilia are acceptable in a cemetery are so diverse and potentially at odds with each other that it is necessary to have rules and regulations to keep these cemeteries generally pleasing for the majority of visitors and to mitigate the effects on general maintenance. A copy of Bath and North East Somerset Council's regulations governing cemeteries is available from the Bereavement Services office (see contact details).
An open cemetery, or churchyard, is one that is currently in use.
Responsibility for a number of smaller open cemeteries has been retained by local town or parish or parochial church councils - see related information.
Closed burial grounds
‘Closed’ cemeteries or churchyards are those which have been closed by an Order in Council because there is no space left to dig a new grave in them. However, there may still be space in family graves which can be used for other members of the family. There are 15 closed cemeteries/churchyards in the Bath area and 15 outside of Bath - see list to left of this page.
The Council has the responsibility for maintaining the grounds in all of these cemeteries or churchyards. However, the ownership of the land itself remains with the relevant Parochial Church Council and ownership of the memorials remains with the original purchaser or his heirs. The council is classed as the 'occupier' with attendant responsibilities for safety. This work is co-ordinated by cemeteries staff based at Haycombe Cemetery, who can be contacted during office hours.
Closed Cemeteries and Churchyards Policy
Section 215 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides that where ‘a churchyard has been closed by an Order in Council the parochial church council shall maintain it by keeping it in decent order and its wall and fences in good repair.’
(This responsibility may be bounced on to parish or district councils)
- ‘Decent’ order is taken to be in accordance with a management plan, which will be designed to meet the council's commitment to biodiversity whilst taking into consideration the condition in which the cemetery or churchyard was at the time of closure .
- Where possible the council will agree grants to parochial church councils (PCCs) to carry out their own maintenance, providing that such grants do not exceed the costs that would be incurred if maintenance was carried out by the council’s own workforce.
- Before agreeing a maintenance contract, a risk assessment will be carried out by cemeteries staff.
- Individual management plans where appropriate will be agreed in conjunction with the council’s environmental planning department.
- All grass pathways will be mown at regular intervals throughout the summer.
- Repairs needed to walls, fencing and pathways should be reported to cemeteries staff in the first instance, these requests will be forwarded to the Council’s Property Services section for their action. Maintenance of Mortuary chapels remains with the church.
- Memorial Safety tests will be carried out as part of a five year rolling programme of memorial testing. Any found to be dangerous will be cordoned off or laid down under the provisions of a faculty granted to Bath and North East Somerset Council by the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and in accordance with Health and Safety practices. (Such memorials to be placed on the correct grave in such a way as to preserve the memorial with any inscription uppermost). This procedure not only ensures that visitors to the cemetery or churchyard are entering a relatively safe environment, but will hopefully preserve memorials for future reference and/or re-instatement.
- The council’s tree officer will be responsible for all work relating to trees; to be carried out by one of the Council’s tree teams unless the work is considered to be of a specialised nature in which case the work will be sub-contracted to organisations who are on the Council’s approved suppliers list. No tree work to take place during the nesting season.
- Brambles, shrubs, etc. to be cut back as required (or requested) as winter work.
- Cemeteries staff will respond positively to any reasonable request for assistance with maintenance difficulties, within the limits of the council’s responsibilities.
- The Bereavement Manager and/or cemeteries staff will meet, and work with, PCCs and other users if they wish to be involved, to plan and implement maintenance programmes in all closed burial grounds to the benefit of all users, regardless of sex, age, nationality, colour, creed or disability, and to the best standard possible within budgetary, health and safety, legal, ecclesiastical and environmental constraints.
Procedure to close a churchyard
The Church of England has the right to 'close' a churchyard once there is insufficient space to dig a new grave. This applies to the churchyard as a whole i.e. no space may be reserved for ornamental or other purposes. And the whole churchyard must be included in the petition for an Order in Council.
This right has derived from the historical duty of the Church of England to bury any person dying within a parish.
An Order in Council is made by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) who will contact both the local parish council and the district council before making such an Order. The parish and district councils have the opportunity to oppose closure at this stage, if they find that there is room to dig a new grave or if they find that the state of the churchyard is such that the Order is being applied for merely to avoid the financial burden of bringing it into order.
- Initially, closure by Order in Council leaves a duty of care for, and liability for, the maintenance of the churchyard with the Parochial Church Council (PCC) i.e. the duty to maintain, and expense of maintaining, the grass, trees, shrubs, pathways and boundary walls or fences plus an occupier's responsibilities for Health and Safety.
- But the PCC may then serve three months written notice on the parish council to transfer its duty and liability to them.
- Once the parish council has received the written notice, it can serve notice in writing of transfer of liability on to the district council, provided it does so within the original three months notice period.
(Whilst the legal requirement is a three month notice period it is customary to give informal notice 12 months prior to the application for an order being made to enable local authorities to make adequate budgetary provision.)
Office Hours & Contact Details
The Office is open between 9.00am and 4.00pm from Monday to Friday, with the exception of 12.30pm until 1.30pm every Wednesday when it is closed for staff training.
Old records for the following cemeteries are kept at Haycombe:
- Locksbrook cemetery - includes Weston, Walcot and St Saviour sections
- St James cemetery
- St Michael’s cemetery – Upper Bristol Road.
- Twerton, Bellots Road cemetery
- Bathwick cemetery – Smallcombe section only.
Staff will search these records on request for which a charge will be made.