Our churchyards at both Holy Trinity and St Chad’s are important community places where families can gather to remember departed loved ones. The churchyard at Holy Trinity we believe dates back to Roman-Saxon times and has been a community focal place for generations. The law regarding the use of churchyards is complex and the Parish of Eccleshall is bound to uphold the legal regulations decided upon by the Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield in 2013, which in common with all Church of England dioceses seek to legally regulate what can and cannot be permitted by the Parish Priest.
The regulations can be found here https://www.lichfield.anglican.org/documents/churchyard-regulations/.
These regulations, together with an upsurge in the number of requests the parish receives from families researching family history ,and our desire to take seriously the national Church’s encouragement to become more environmentally friendly, has necessitated a review of the use of our churchyards. Over the summer of 2018 we undertook a community consultation in Eccleshall, asking for comments from churchyard users, church members and those living within Eccleshall town. The responses received by our on-line and hard-copy questionnaires were then reviewed by the Parochial Church Council, together with a detailed and comprehensive review report carried out by the charity ‘Caring for God’s Own Acre’. There are very many people in Eccleshall who tend the graves of loved ones with great care and commitment and we are grateful that so many take time and energy to do this. There are areas of our churchyard which are beautifully tended. However, with over 2000 graves within our footprint, there are a number of ways that we would like to move forward with its care and maintenance.
The following article is to be published in the September magazine featuring 3 areas for attention:
1.) The churchyard at Holy Trinity will be digitally mapped and photographed during the end of September/beginning of October to provide a comprehensive record of the current marked graves. This will not only allow us a better knowledge of the space available, but will also allow families to access an on-line database which will detail the memorials in the churchyard.
2.) At time of burial families are made aware of the Diocese of Lichfield’s legal regulations regarding the use of the churchyard and authorisation of memorial stones. No matter how sympathetic the Parish Priest is to requests from families s/he is legally bound by the Chancellor’s regulations. In respect to artificial flowers and other ornaments left on graves, the regulations are very clear that these are prohibited. Our environmental ideal at Holy Trinity would be to see the use of plastics in our churchyard at an absolute minimum and we are purchasing bio-degradable flower containers for your use with fresh cut flowers. It should also be noted that bedding plants planted directly onto graves is not permitted, although many people use non-plastic flowerpots for bedding plants and these are beautiful and to be encouraged. We are not restricting the use of bedding plants altogether, but to help with grass maintenance ask that these are not planted into the ground. We are, of course, very aware that this is an emotive subject, and in listening to the community, and as allowed in the Chancellor’s regulations, we will allow wreaths at Christmas, Remembrance and to commemorate birthdays and anniversaries to be artificial. We would urge that where possible these are recyclable and disposed of in an eco-sustainable manner.
3.) Proposed improvements to the new ‘Bishop’s Path’ area for cremated remains following the closure of the old area as now at capacity.
The Parochial Church Council understand the importance that the community places on its churchyard, yet are also legally bound to adhere to the regulations decided by the Chancellor of the Diocese. Further details can be obtained from the Vicar (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Churchwarden (email@example.com)
Article in September’s magazine…
Holy Trinity Graveyard Developments
We are very fortunate in Eccleshall to have a wonderful Grade 1 listed church and beautiful graveyard. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify available plots and we need to work out what free space we have and how we are going to fulfil future demand. To work this out we have been recommended to undertake a digital mapping exercise, this involves a specialist team who will map the graveyard and identify where all our visible graves are, they then produce an online map which will have a photograph of each grave giving an accurate location. Each grave on the map can then be clicked on to access what records or additional information we have about that specific grave. This can then be used by the undertakers to identify spaces as well as by families and historians to research relatives. We have been told we have some very interesting Victorian graves but we have very little background information. If any interested historians or family members have additional information about specific graves we would be delighted to hear from you. Please email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org tell one of the sides people in church. We aim to add to the website resource over time, building up not only an accurate record but an informative historic tool.
The mapping work is going to be undertaken at the end of September / beginning of October, 2019. If relatives wanted to tidy up their loved one’s graves before the photographic record is taken they are very welcome.
PLASTIC FREE Graveyard
As a church we are keen to be as green and Eco friendly as possible and one of our first steps is to introduce a ‘plastic free graveyard’, as from September 2019. We are adding to the already quite strict rules from the Chancellor about what is allowed in the church yard from the type of stone that can be used, the size of graves, details and ornamentation etc. Flowers placed on graves need to be real and in an approved flower vase. This means they can be recycled in the brown bins when they are over. Bedding plants etc. are not allowed on individual graves but can be donated for the volunteers to use in the borders. Unfortunately plastic flowers or silk/material flowers with plastic stems and other items besides flowers will no longer be allowed. We want to create a peaceful, natural setting, which encourages wild life, which can be easily maintained, is a delight to walk through and where loved ones can rest in peace and be remembered respectfully.
The Bishops Path
The Cremated Ashes area along the East wall is now full and is officially closed and a new area has been designated: along the path that leads from the war Memorial to the Bishops Door, called the Bishops Path. To make any changes in any Church of England churches, let alone Grade 1 Listed ones like ours, is a long drawn out process. First identifying the needs, then working out actions and plans that are sympathetic to the environs of the church, finding the resources to pay for the work, consulting with interested parties and finally seeking permission from the Diocese. All this can take a frustratingly long time. I am pleased to report that the upgrading of the Bishops Path is in its final stages, once we have the green light from Lichfield we can go through the 28-day consultation period and then we can proceed with the actual work. The Bishops Path will have new (in keeping) slabs from one end to the other making access to the ‘names stone’ in the centre of the path easier all year round. This is where flowers can be placed. A similar process is underway with upgrading and making safe the War Memorial but with more interested parties to be consulted this has taken longer. We are planning to put in some railings and level out the slabs around the area, we are aiming for work to be completed for the VE Day 75th remembrance activities in May 2020.
Jonathan Jones – Churchwarden.