An Order in Council considered by 'Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council' on 29th December 1883 at the court at Osborne House, Isle of Wight and published on 31st December provided that burials should be discontinued in a number of burial grounds including 'Forthwith and entirely in the parish Church of East Harptree, in the county of Somerset; and also in the Churchyard'.
However it was not until 1988 that the Parochial Church Council served notice that it wished to devolve its maintenance responsibilities for the churchyard on to the Parish Council, who in turn passed on these responsibilities to the District Council as permitted by law in January 1989..
The church dates from the 12th Century and visitors can learn more of its history and what to look for from a useful booklet provided by the Parochial Church Council.
Bereavement Services has a close working relationship with the Parochial Church Council and provides grass cutting equipment, which it keeps regularly serviced, to enable church volunteers to carry out maintenance during the mowing season.
The benefits of this type of relationship for both the council and the church are many. The biggest advantage is obviously that volunteers are able to devote more time to the churchyard than is available to the council's Closed Cemeteries team (conscientious and proud of their work though they are) e.g. volunteers frequently cut the grass weekly and are able to take advantage of spells of dry weather whereas each closed burial ground can only be visited fortnightly by the cemeteries team - weather permitting. Another advantage is that church volunteers are able to provide early warning of anything needing attention beyond the scope of their abilities e.g. a tree dying.
The council's arboricultural office keeps the trees under a 3 yearly review and agrees minor works with the volunteers. All major tree works are carried out by the council's tree specialists
Bereavement Services carries out a 5 year rolling programme of memorial testing to ensure that memorials are preserved as well as possible. The council does not have the right to restore memorials, but it does have the responsibility to make the cemetery a reasonably safe place to visit which enables it to lay down any memorials in danger of falling. Safety in cemeteries has improved so much since such programmes were introduced, that now the main benefit from testing is to ensure that memorials are not left to rot until they fall smashing themselves, or neighbouring memorials, or both, in the process.
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