Assistance for Chapels / Documents / 20. Graveyards


1.   Baptist chapel graveyards are deemed ‘private graveyards’ by law. Though less regulation applies to them than to public cemeteries and Anglican graveyards, yet there are general regulations that apply to all. Examples—not comprehensive—are given below
2.  Before a burial takes place, authority for the burial should be produced. This will normally consist of a certificate from the Registrar of Births and Deaths, or the coroner’s burial order. Within 96 hours of a burial, the Registrar of Births and Deaths must be notified of the details of the date and place of the burial.
3.  Burials must be recorded in a register by the responsible person at the chapel in accordance with the provisions of the Registration of Burials Act 1864. It is good practice to ensure this includes details such as depth of the grave and next of kin.
4.   Gravestones are the property of the family of the deceased and responsibility for their maintenance is with the family. But liability for the safety of the public rests with the chapel and stability of gravestones should be checked regularly. This health and safety liability extends to all aspects of the graveyard—paths, walls, gates, grassed areas, and takes priority. Good maintenance is important for these reasons as well as for respect for the dead and concern for the sensitivities of surviving relatives. Insurance is a trustee responsibility.
5.   Proposed works such as levelling the graveyard, building works on or passing through the graveyard (for example, underground electricity cables), exhumations, closure of the graveyard are subject to laid down consultation and notice procedures.
6.  The Government document Guide for Burial Ground Managers comprehensively covers the legal requirements for burials and the maintenance of burial grounds.
      Grace Baptist Trust Corporation has a useful guide on the upkeep of burial grounds:
     Suggested Rules covering Funerals and Interments can be downloaded here.  These are suggestions made from experience of deacons who do manage graveyards.  Any church wishing to adopt these rules is free to make such changes as may be appropriate in their circumstances.