Ordering a memorial
The installation of new memorials, renovation of existing memorials and added inscriptions to memorials is carefully controlled by the council to ensure that:
- work is only carried out with the authority of the registered owner/s of the Rights of Burial
- all memorials comply with regulations applicable to the erection and maintenance of memorials, and work is carried out in a manner that will ensure the health and safety of persons visiting the cemeteries
There are a range of memorials available. Traditional memorials at the graveside are available directly from memorial masons. From there it will be possible to choose an appropriate memorial that is acceptable within the council's cemeteries.
Most people choose to erect a memorial stone, with the name and details of the departed, along with private words or a short poem. A memorial headstone can be erected on a grave about six months after interment, when the ground has settled. Before your mason begins work, the council must approve the design and wording.
A gravestone may only be erected on a purchased grave. The registered owner of a purchased plot has the right to erect and maintain one memorial on the grave. This can be a headstone, kerbset or a memorial vase or a combination of these. Inscriptions on memorial vases are restricted to the name, initials, age and date of death.
A gravestone is more than just a marker over a grave; it is a lasting symbol of remembrance and a tribute to the life of the deceased person. It is therefore important to take care over the design and the choice of mason. Hasty decisions made while in a distraught condition can cause regrets later, so it is often advisable to wait and perhaps spend some time looking around.
As well as ordering the memorial that best suits your needs, it is important to remember that the size, colour, shape and style may be limited by cemetery regulations. Generally speaking, a memorial should be made of a solid stone such as granite, marble, limestone or Portland stone. Your memorial mason will be fully aware of the council's requirements concerning the size, materials and methods of fixing the memorial, and will be pleased to advise you on the procedures to be followed before the memorial can be erected.
A plaque containing a photograph of the deceased (head and shoulders only) may be fixed to the memorial.
Choosing a memorial mason
Purchasing a memorial is a widely recognised way of commemorating someone's life, providing a focal point for family and friends to visit and an historical record. The council is concerned that the widest possible choice of designs should be available and that your memorial should be fixed to the highest of standards. For this reason, Chesterfield Borough Council has worked with local stonemasons to produce working guidelines that offer protection to purchasers of memorials and owners of graves, while still allowing freedom of choice.
Chesterfield Borough Council does not sell memorials for erection in its cemeteries, but these may be ordered from any reputable stonemason. Although we do not recommend specific masons, we can provide you with a list of masons who regularly carry out work here. This is not a guarantee of their materials or workmanship. You can also search for local memorial masons using the online Yellow Pages.
You may wish to choose a mason based on recommendation from friends or relatives, but we advise that, as with all important purchases, you should obtain written quotes from a least three different companies and ask to see examples of their work. By doing so you are likely to get a competitive quotation and a wider choice of memorials. Also you should ascertain what the mason offers in the way of written guarantees of good workmanship, in addition to those required by Chesterfield Borough Council. Remember only masons approved by the council may carry out masonry work in the borough cemeteries.
Visit the cemeteries and examine their work in situ. Masons sometimes identify their work by inscribing their names on the back of the memorials, so a number of examples may be in evident in the vicinity of your grave. You may also see particular memorial designs that appeal to you. The comments of a stonemason's existing customers are often a good indicator of the standard of workmanship and service you can expect, and discussing the matter with other visitors to the cemeteries may be helpful.
For further information about stonemasons, please visit the website of the National Association of Memorial Masons. The Association may also be contacted at 1 Castle Mews, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV21 2XL, Phone 01788 542264, Fax 01788 542276. A list of nationally accredited masons is available from the British Register of Accredited Memorial Masons.
Selecting an inscription
It is important to take your time in choosing the appropriate inscription, and you will need to bear in mind the length of text used. If the inscription is very long, there may not be sufficient room on the stone for future additions.
A vase plate is an additional item that you may choose to be placed in front of the memorial. You will need to consider how many flower vases it needs to accommodate.
Ask your mason to formally apply to the Bereavement Services Office before you confirm your order by payment of a deposit. You should present the Deed of Grant pertaining to the grave to the mason to show the name of the person entitled to place a memorial or additional inscription on it. You will be required to provide additional proof that you are now entitled to place a memorial or additional inscription on the grave if you are not the person named on the deed.
Until permission has been obtained for the design and inscription of the memorial and ownership of the grave confirmed, it is unwise to commit yourself financially. The fee will vary according to the type of memorial proposed. Part of the fee is intended to offset the costs of safety checks on memorials. The council will respond to written requests from owners to carry out safety checks and advise them of their choices.
Obtain a copy of your order, ideally including:
- a photograph or specification of the memorial you are purchasing
- details of the inscription you have requested
- the agreed price
- a date of completion
Applications are sometimes refused and returned to the mason if, for example:
- the correct grave owner has not signed the application or given their name in full, exactly as it appears in the cemetery records (if there is more than one registered owner, all the owners must give their full name(s) and sign the application). If you are unsure who the owner is, it will save time in processing your application if you enquire with the Bereavement Services Office at the address shown below.
- the memorial does not comply with our regulations
Once approval to the application is received in writing, a permit will be issued and the erection of the memorial may proceed. The council will not allow any masonry work to be carried out without the correct permit. The work will be inspected before and after it is put into place. The placing of an unauthorised memorial will generate action being taken to remove it.
Responsibility for the memorial
The memorial remains the property of the owner and does not in time revert to the council, as is commonly believed. It is, therefore, important that owners regularly check memorials for safety. Should it become unstable and damage to other persons or property arises, any claim would be against the owner. The council has no liability for damage by vandals. The council does have the power to remove memorials after expiry of the right of burial in the grave and can take action to remove any risk if it discovers an unsafe memorial.
Apart from these limited circumstances, the council cannot act without the permission of the owner. Although the council is not responsible for maintaining a memorial, or for any damage caused to it, owners are advised of any damage and will be given time to arrange for its repair or removal. In the case of a memorial that has become unsafe or dilapidated, the council has the right to make it safe by laying it down. We may seek authority to remove it, after which time the memorial will be stored for one year to allow the owner sufficient time to deal with the problem. A memorial erected without permission may be removed without notice, although the next of kin will normally be contacted beforehand to be given the opportunity to apply to purchase the Deed of Grant.
For full memorial graves (graves not in a lawn section) we can provide two maintenance services:
There is an annual fee for both of these services.
We strongly recommend that you insure against damage by accident or vandalism. The chance of damage occurring is not high, bearing in mind that a cemetery is a well used public space, but there are few other places where such valuable private property is left unprotected. If the worst does happen, insurance will at least spare you the expense of repair.
Approved list of memorial masons
The council maintains a list of memorial masons who are permitted to carry out works in the Borough of Chesterfield’s cemeteries. As a condition of being named on that list the companies listed below have agreed to:
- hold membership of the National Association of Memorial Masons and to be able to prove that a high standard of workmanship has been achieved and that all their staff are suitably qualified and competent to carry out the necessary work. Ideally this will be achieved by obtaining a qualification from a national accreditation scheme.
- provide a written guarantee for all memorial work to both their clients and the Borough of Chesterfield for a period equal to the remaining period for which the right to place and maintain a memorial exists, or, in the case of graves in which such a right has been granted in perpetuity, 40 years. The first five years shall be unconditional. For the remaining years, the guarantee shall only apply to the workmanship and material relating to the stability and integrity of the memorial. Structural damage resulting from other external forces is generally accepted as being beyond the mason's control.
- undertake all work in accordance with the current Code of Practice of the National Association of Memorial Masons, any statutory requirements and the Chesterfield Borough Council Cemetery Regulations and Specification For The Erection Of Memorials (available from the Bereavement Services Office at Chesterfield and District Crematorium, Chesterfield Road, Brimington, Chesterfield S43 1AU, Tel: 01246 345112, Fax: 01246 345889.