Responsibility for the safety of a memorial rests upon three parties:
· The purchaser/owner of the memorial.
· The mason/erector of the memorial.
· The land-owner/s.
The condition and inherent safety of a memorial during its entire lifespan are the responsibilities of the purchaser or his/her heirs. It is a good idea to look at the memorial to assess what risk it carries:
- How tall is it?
- How big is the base?
- How likely is it to fall? (some shapes are less likely than others)
- If it fell, what damage could it do (to a child for example)?
If you are worried about the likelihood of your memorial falling please contact us, as cemetery staff are always willing to advise and will arrange for our checkers to carry out a test for you which you may attend, or not, as you wish. Or you could consult your local stonemason, or contact the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM).
Insuring your memorial will guard against damage to third parties and also to the stone itself, and is strongly recommended. Your stonemason may have details of companies specialising in this type of insurance or again contact NAMM.
If the right of interment in the grave (and consequently the right to erect a memorial) you think you own was in fact purchased by your parents or grandparents, and a transfer of ownership was not carried out at the time of the purchaser's death, you will need to contact us to arrange a transfer before being able to employ a stonemason* to carry out any remedial work.
The stonemason is the agent and has a duty of care to manufacture, supply and erect a monument in accordance with the regulations set out by the land-owner, on behalf of the owner. Therefore any instability due to bad workmanship or failure to comply with the code of practice specified by the Council, or cemetery regulations, will be his responsibility.
The Council requires all contractors working on their property to carry £5,000,000 public liability insurance, to sign an undertaking that they will comply with NAMM recommended methods of installation and to provide details of their Health & Safety policy and procedures (or sign up to those required of council staff).
*Stonemasons complying with these requirements are classed as 'authorised stonemasons' and anyone not complying will not be allowed into the council's cemeteries.
Bath and North East Somerset Council, being both land-owner and responsible for the safety of staff working in (and visitors to) its cemeteries, is committed to taking a number of Health & Safety measures. 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. Tthe 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.
All memorials allowed into a Council cemetery are erected in compliance with the code of practice specified by NAMM. Any existing memorials removed for additional inscriptions or remedial work have to be re-erected in accordance with the code of practice.
Where any memorials are considered to be unstable, staff will:
- Notify the owner by letter on the same day as the test (if still living).
- Attach a warning sign to the memorial.
- Prop with a wooden stake if in an open cemetery (Haycombe or Harptree) or lay the memorial down with the inscription clearly visible if in a closed cemetery or churchyard.
All these measures have been agreed with the Chancellor and Diocese of Bath and Wells and Faculties have been granted to enable memorials to be made safe as detailed above.
Since memorial testing programmes began around the late 1990's/early 2000's, injuries due to accidents in cemeteries have dropped to the point where the major benefit of testing memorials is for the memorials themselves. A memorial that has been laid down, propped up or cordoned off is intact and available for future restoration, whilst one which has been left to drop (or be kicked over by vandals) is usually smashed beyond repair - not to mention residual damage to adjacent memorials.
Where 'Friends' groups exist, a project to restore and re-erect memorials is a very worthwhile undertaking. Bereavement Services staff are very keen to promote and support this - spending their working lives in cemeteries does not result in a wish to see every memorial laid down, but in the aspiration to conserve our local history/architecture whilst at the same time providing managed, ecologically beneficial spaces where visitors can go for peace and quiet, or to enjoy native flora and fauna.
To obtain further information and insight contact the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Managers (ICCM).
Commonwealth War Graves
The Commonwealth War Graves Commision (CWGC) is responsible for two areas of war graves: Locksbrook Cemetery (World War I) and Haycombe Cemetery (World War II). There are Crosses of Remembrance in addition to rows of individual headstones in both cemeteries. Haycombe is the proud possessor of a tempetio, believed to be one of only two in this country. Sadly, vandalism resulted in the log being removed to the Guildhall for safekeeping.
The records for these and other graves of war interest are kept at Haycombe Cemetery and all enquiries should be directed there.
The CWGC also supplies memorials where war veterans are buried in individual family graves.It regularly monitors maintenance and safety of these memorials and of the grounds maintenance in the war grave sections. Bath and North East Somerset has the contract to maintain these sections to standards set by the CWGC.
The planting around the headstones in the war graves section is similar to that in commonwealth war graves throughout the world. It is intended to give the look of an English country garden. The deer who visit Haycombe unfortunately find the roses especially tasty.
Requests for interment of cremated remains in this section should be addressed to the CWGC. Usually limited to next of kin only i.e. spouses (and occasionally an only child).