Guidance for St Andrew’s, Haughton-le-Skerne Churchyard

For help in arranging a funeral see

Can my family member be buried in the churchyard?

St Andrew’s churchyard is a ‘closed’ churchyard, so the only burials that can take place are those of cremated remains. However, we currently have very few spaces left for burial in new plots, so we can only bury ashes of those people whom a member of the clergy at St Andrew’s has conducted the service, either in church or at the crematorium. If a member of their family is already buried in the churchyard, and there is space, we may be able to also bury cremated remains in that plot.

Sometimes people believe that they have bought the plot of land in which their loved one is buried. This is not the case: they are simply paying for the work involved in the burial and making a contribution towards maintaining the churchyard. No part of a consecrated churchyard can be sold.

I want to put up a headstone. What do I need to know?

Most people like to have a headstone or monument to commemorate the person who has died. You’ll want to think carefully about this, because once in place, a stone will be there for a very long time. You may not realise that no one has the right to a churchyard memorial. All memorials have to be approved first.

If the person who died has been cremated you may want a ledger stone as a memorial.

A legal officer known as the Chancellor is responsible for making the Churchyard Regulations for the Diocese of Durham. The Regulations cover questions such as size, materials, designs and inscriptions.

Why these regulations?

Churchyard regulations are there to help make sure that the churchyard is a place of peace and beauty for everyone to enjoy. A memorial that might be suitable for an urban, civic cemetery may look out of place next to a historic church building. The Chancellor has a responsibility to make sure that the churchyard remains an appropriate setting for a parish church for the next several hundred years. And because it is a churchyard, any memorial must be compatible with the Christian faith.

We hope that you understand the need for regulations. They are designed to make sure that our churchyards remain harmonious places of peace. By providing these guidelines we hope you will be able to choose an appropriate memorial worthy of the memory of the person who has died, without the trouble and expense of seeking formal permission from the Chancellor.

What do I need to think about?

The minimum time between the burial and putting up a memorial is usually six months as the ground needs time to settle. Before you get too far with your plans, please talk to your Rector (Parish Priest) to avoid difficulties and disappointment later in the process.

You will need to decide whether you want to commission an individual memorial, perhaps created by an artist, or choose a more standard design from a catalogue. Once you have a clearer idea, you’ll need to fill in a form which your stonemason will give you. This will then be forwarded to the vicar.

The Rector is allowed to authorise simple headstones, provided that they comply with the Churchyard Regulations.

In less straightforward cases, you will need to apply to the Chancellor of the Diocese for permission (a ‘Faculty’), for which there is a fee. Your vicar will be able to advise you about how to apply.

The Churchyard Regulations are available in full on St Andrew’s website (link to Churchyard Rules – 2012)  

In summary, the key points are:

  • Materials: Natural stone, with a non-reflecting (usually honed, not polished) surface, or hardwood only. Stones traditionally used in local buildings are preferred.
  • A monument shall not include chippings (whether stone or otherwise) or glass shades, or any kerb, railing or chain, or any picture, portrait or photograph, or any statuary, bird bath.
  • Every monument shall be simple in shape. In particular (save by the leave of a Faculty) a monument shall not be in the shape of a cross, heart or book.
  • Size: For Cremated Remains areas only a ledger or vase block may be installed: should be no higher than 300mm (1ft); no wider than 300mm (1ft); no thicker than 200mm (8 inches); no smaller than 75mm (3 inches) in thickness, except for slate which may be 40mm (1½ inches). No monument or receptacle for flowers may be introduced into that area except in accordance with the terms of the Faculty setting the area apart.
  • For Headstones in other areas: should be no higher than 1220mm (4ft); no wider than 915mm (3ft); no thicker than 155mm (6 inches); no smaller than 75mm (3 inches) in thickness, except for slate which may be 40mm (1½ inches). Ledgers should be no larger than 460mm (18 inches) by 460mm. 
  • Designs: No portraits or photographs on the headstone; no kerbs, fencing, railings, chains or chippings; no heart shaped stones. No sculptures or statues. No lights.
  • Inscriptions: Inscriptions must be simple, reverent and theologically acceptable; they may include appropriate quotations from the scriptures or literary sources.
  • Any addition to, or amendment of, an inscription must be the subject of a separate permission and must conform to the above rules as well as being consistent with the original inscription.
  • Upkeep: Graves may not be fenced; no individual gardens. No shrubs planted. Only cut flowers or wreaths. No plastic, silk or artificial flowers. No toys or similar ornaments may be left.

Taken from Durham Diocesan Churchyard Regulations

Adopted by St Andrew’s PCC