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Survey of Cemetery Memorials

Survey of Cemetery Memorials


Why does the City Council need to carry out this work?

Birmingham City Council is committed to providing a safe environment for everyone visiting our cemeteries. The cemeteries we manage are as follows:

Key Hill, Warstone Lane, Sutton Coldfield (Rectory Road and New Hall), Lodge Hill, Witton, Brandwood End, Quinton, Yardley, Handsworth and Kings Norton.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Burial Authorities have duties under the terms of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees and non-employees which may arise from the Authority carrying out its business. This applies to Burial Authorities who are employers and includes a duty to assess the risk from all cemetery structures, including memorials.

Following a number of deaths and injuries in the United Kingdom caused by falling headstones in cemeteries, advice and guidance was issued by the Local Government Ombudsmen and more recently the Ministry of Justice.

What is the City Council doing?

From January 2004, the City Council has been carrying out surveys of headstone in its cemeteries. This is a progressive inspection process, that in time will cover all cemeteries operated by the Council.

How is the testing carried out?

In accordance with the Ministry of Justice guidelines each cemetery has been risk assessed and grave sections designated into high, medium and low risk. Each headstone is carefully assessed by a visual and simple hand test to check for movement of the memorial.

Sections deemed to present a high risk will be assessed first. Once all high risk sections have been checked the inspections will move to medium followed by low risk areas.

What happens if the headstone is found to be unsafe?

If movement of the memorial is detected details of the grave number and section are noted.

Our burial registers are then checked for information regarding the registered owner of the Exclusive Right of Burial and a current address.

Because the majority of our older burial registers only contain the name of the owner of the Exclusive Right and do not include a current address, it can be difficult to contact relatives regarding the memorial.

The memorial will be made safe by a secure support system, socketing, being carefully laid down or having a warning sign erected in close proximity dependant on the level of risk it presents.

How is the headstone laid down?

If a decision has been taken to lay the headstone down because it is unsafe, this is carried out using a specialist lifting system.

The use of this equipment ensures that the memorial is lifted carefully and placed within the grave space.

We try to minimise the number of headstones being laid down in our cemeteries, and we will endeavour to consult with the owners of Exclusive Rights of Burial whenever possible before taking any action.

What Happens Next?

If you are the registered owner of an Exclusive Right of Burial in a City Council Cemetery, or a direct relative of the previous owner of the Right, it is your responsibility to ensure that the stone is maintained in good order or refitted by a Monumental Mason who works to the standards and Code of Working Practice as set out by the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM). A guarantee for the workmanship should be obtained from the Monumental Mason carrying out the repairs.

For your own safety, please do not attempt to re-erect the memorial yourself.

If you do own an Exclusive Right of Burial in a City Council owned cemetery and we do not have a current contact address on file or you require further information please contact the staff at the relevant address shown on the link below and we will update our records.

Cemeteries and Crematoria Contact Details