The churchyard, God's acre, is one of the most endearing features of the landscape. Together with the church if forms the physical as well as the spiritual centre of the community. It is the most sacred and usually the most ancient enclosure in the parish.
John Talbot White

St Mary's churchyard is indeed a spiritual and sacred place. We ask all who visit our churchyard to honour it and those who are buried here. Our rural churchyard is a very special place and we do our very best to maintain its nature. There are regulations governing what is and isn't allowed and these do differ from those governing a municipal burial ground and these, together with the wishes of the priest-in-charge, churchwardens and Parochial Church Council are explained on this page.


You must obtain permission for the placement of any memorial on a grave. The priest-in-charge can give permission for a simple upright grave marker and it is important that you speak to him about what you would like before you place any order with a Funeral Director or Monumental Director.

Every application to erect a memorial or to place anything whatsoever, including plants and seats, or to do any works, in the churchyard should be made in writing to the priest-in-charge, with a full description of what you propose. At least six months must pass between the death of a person and the approval of a memorial by the priest. In the case of grave stones,the monumental masons usually do this for you but you must check that it has been done.

All memorials should be of natural stone with no reflecting finish, or of hardwood. Portland, Purbeck, Derbyshire, Hopton wood, Hornton, Nabresina and Caen/Normandy limestones are permitted, as is York sandstone. Blue/black (Cornish), grey/blue (Welsh) and Green (Westmoreland) slates are allowed and light to medium grey granite. Black, blue or red granites are not allowed, neither are granites darker than Rustenburg grey, white marble, synthetic stone or plastic.

Curved tops are preferable to straight ones but memorials in the shape of a heart, vase, urn, cross or book are not permitted, nor are photographs or porcelain portraits. Kerbs, railings, fencing, chains, chippings and glass shades are not allowed. There may still be some kerbs, railings, fencing, memorials in the shape of vases, hearts, open books or crosses which are ancient memorials which go back to before these regulations came in and these must remain.

The reasoning behind the prohibition of memorials in the shape of crosses is that as the cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith it is felt by the Chancellor that a proliferation of crosses would diminish that focus.

Headstones should be 750mm (2ft 6in) - 1200mm (4ft) high, measured from the ground, 500mm (1ft 8in) - 900mm (3ft) wide and 75mm (3in) - 150mm (6in) thick. A headstone may stand on a stone base, provided that it is an integral part of the design and does not project more than 102mm (4in) in any direction, except where a receptacle for flowers is provided, in which case this should be flush with the top of the base and may extend up to 200mm (8in) in front of the headstone.

In the existing area set aside for the burial of cremated remains, memorial plaques must be flat in the ground. This is a particularly difficult area to maintain and if you wish to place flowers on your loved ones memorial, then we urge you to consider a plaque with an integral flower receptacle. When this area is full, alternative arrangements will be made.


Epitaphs must be simple and reverent and may include quotations from literary sources. Inscriptions should honour the dead, comfort the living and inform posterity and should be incised or in relief and may be painted. Plastic or other inserted lettering is not allowed. The use of pet names is not permitted.

Hedges should not be planted around burial plots as these are inappropriate in a rural churchyard.

Flowers etc.

Except where the design of a headstone includes an integral receptacle for plants or cut flowers, they may be placed:

  • In a removable container but this must be completely sunk into the ground. Glass receptacles are not permitted as these are very vulnerable and broken glass is a serious hazard in the churchyard.
  • No artificial flowers or plants are allowed except for Remembrance Day poppies and traditional Christmas wreaths—and these should be removed after a period of not more than two months.

The Chancellor's regulations are very clear that:

  • Mementoes, windmills, toys , little animals, etc may not be placed in the churchyard. Solar lights are also not permitted.

All the local funeral directors know the regulations but most of the problems arise after their involvement ends. If you would like more information about the Chancellor's Regulations concerning memorials, please contact the priest-in-charge or one of the church wardens. Contact Us »

The area for the burial of ashes gives rise to some additional problems. It is very difficult to mow this area because of the vases, baskets, candles etc placed on or around the plaques which are already close together. If you wish to place flowers in memory of your loved one in this area, they should be placed immediately on the plaque only.

We hope that you have found this guide to the regulations regarding the churchyard helpful. If you have any questions, please speak to either the priest-in-charge or one of the churchwardens.

We will do our best to continue to care for God's Acre and to maintain it as a quiet resting place for your loved one.


The Parochial Church Council.