RURAL CHURCH BUILDINGS
How to look after, develop and utilise them
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A churchyard, whether open or closed, is primarily a consecrated place set aside for burials and grieving, remembering and commemorating the dead. It can also be a space of quiet reflection, an ancient landscape, a habitat for rare plant and animal species, a space full of archaeological and historical information as well as an appropriate setting for the church building. Increasingly churchyards have been recognised for their potential as an education resource where children can learn about nature and through study of the gravestones learn about the previous inhabitants.
The good management of a churchyard needs to take into account a range of issues, from the burial rights of parishoners to wildlife management.
WHERE TO GO FOR MORE HELP
ChurchCare has a section entitled Caring for your Churchyard with practical advice on managing the various aspects of a churchyard including law and practice on burials and memorial design as well as how to encourage wildlife. churchcare.co.uk/churches/guidance-advice/looking-after-your-church/churchyards
Historic England has produced guidance on caring for historic monuments for anyone interested in or responsible for the conservation of monuments, memorials and sculptural elements within a churchyard, burial ground, or cemetery. historicengland.org.uk/advice/caring-for-heritage/cemeteries-and-burial-grounds
The Baptist Union of Great Britain has information on how to care for its burial grounds in leaflet PC07 Burial Grounds which can be downloaded from baptist.org.uk/Groups/220869/Property_Churches.aspx
Caring for God’s Acre aims to inspire and support local communities to care for churchyards and burial grounds in a way which benefits both people and wildlife. They provide downloadable resources including education packs as well as a dedicated advice line for help on any aspect of churchyard and burial ground care. caringforgodsacre.org.uk
The Diocese of Coventry’s Divine Inspiration project (now ended) which was funded by Historic England produced some very easy-to-use leaflets to guide you through opening up your church building, which include:
Toolkit 9: Understanding and Sharing your Churchyard which can be downloaded from here s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/arcentre/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/08094544/Divine-Inspiration-Toolkit___full-1.pdf
WHERE TO FIND FUNDING
The Memorials Grant (MG) Scheme will refund VAT on repairs to memorials which can be classed as structures. This includes traditional memorials such as stone crosses, monoliths and statues, as well as plaques fixed to buildings. To ensure all claimants are treated equally, the scheme now operates quarterly fixed budgets with payments made once per quarter. The payable rate will depend on the value of the eligible claims received in that quarter, with each claim attracting a fair pro-rata payment. The maximum grant payable in response to any application will be 20% of project costs. memorialgrant.org.uk/
The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Sharing Heritage programme offers grants of between £3,000 and £10,000 inclusive for projects that relate to the local, regional or national heritage of the UK. You can apply for conservation projects in churchyards for present and future generations to experience and enjoy. Your application must show how you are using your project to help people to learn about their own and their community’s heritage and help a wider range of people to take an active part in and make decisions about heritage. hlf.org.uk/looking-funding/our-grant-programmes/sharing-heritage
The War Memorials Trust aims to help all war memorial custodians, whatever the nature and size of their war memorial by facilitating repair and conservation projects through grant funding and/or best conservation practice advice. warmemorials.org/grants
Safety of gravestones
The safety of gravestones in burial grounds has been a controversial issue in recent years, because of safety concerns following accidents in local authority cemeteries. A sub-group of the Ministry of Justice has produced guidance that will help churches in assessing and managing the safety risk. This can be accessed at government/publications/burial-grounds-guidance-on-managing-unstable-gravestones