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Graves, headstones and memorials

Pre-purchasing the right to a grave plot 

When you buy a new grave you are not buying ownership of the land itself, but the right to have a burial in the grave.  This right also carries a number of responsibilities. More information on the rights and responsibilities are described in Information for grave owners.

If you are thinking of pre-purchasing a plot, please contact the Cemeteries Office.

Transfer the right to use a grave

This is when the right of burial is transferred to someone else, usually to a surviving spouse or other family member.

To transfer the right of burial to another person, please download and complete the form Information Required for Transfer of Exclusive Right of Burial and send it with the payment of the fee to the Cemeteries Office. 

Find out more information about the Transfer of burial right process Flowchart.

Memorials in cemeteries  

The right of burial allows you to erect a memorial. This must comply with St Albans Cemeteries regulations about installing of memorials and headstones.  As the memorial is your property, it is your responsibility to maintain this.

There is no requirement to erect a memorial, or headstone, on a grave if you do not wish to do so.

All memorial works must be carried out by stonemasons or monumental sculptors registered under NAMM and or BRAMM.  They both have a list of approved masons. 

Apply for a memorial

Before the memorial is erected, the memorial mason must obtain permission from the Council.

Apply for a Permit

Memorials Toggle accordion

Memorials must be constructed of natural stone or terrazzo and must not contain any wood, plastic or glass. 

We have a legal responsibility to approve all inscriptions.

Floral tributes Toggle accordion

We remove funeral flowers that are placed on a grave three weeks after interment. We may leave them for a further week if they are not unsightly.

We may remove memorial wreaths at our discretion.

We remove Christmas wreaths from graves and dispose of these at the end of January.

Plaques or trees Toggle accordion

There are no areas for memorial plaques or trees in any of our cemeteries. You may only place plaques on an existing grave.

Memorial benches Toggle accordion

Remembrance memorials Toggle accordion

Up until the mid-20th century many people could not afford the luxury of purchasing a private grave for their loved one. Instead, public graves were used and meant that a memorial was not permitted. Earlier this year, a Remembrance Memorial was installed in the Hatfield Road Cemetery to give present-day families who know of a relative buried in a public grave the option of commemorating them on a plaque. Find out more about Remembrance Memorial.

If you would like to inquire about having a plaque on the Remembrance Memorial or if you would like assistance finding out whether a relative or friend is buried in one of our Cemeteries, please contact us.

Safety inspections

Since Victorian times, memorials have been erected at the head of graves as a permanent reminder of those buried within. However, they do not last forever without repair and can become a danger. Unfortunately, this has cost the lives of six people in the past 12 years, most of whom have been children. There have also been countless accidents ranging from bruising to severe crush injuries and broken bone. 

We therefore test the stability of headstones and memorials in council-managed cemeteries to make sure they are safe. 

Our responsibilities Toggle accordion

  • We are responsible for the safety of visitors, staff and contractors in our cemeteries. 
  • Cemetery managers have a responsibility, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to ensure that risks within their cemeteries are properly managed. 
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is concerned about memorial stability and has brought in requirements for burial authorities to inspect memorials at least every five years. We have to make safe any memorials that fail the inspection process, by supporting them with wooden stakes or by carefully lying them flat on the grave with the inscription facing upward.

How we test memorials Toggle accordion

  • We perform a risk assessment on all the headstones and memorials in our three cemeteries. A trained officer or memorial consultant will carry out the inspection, and a record is made of the date of the inspection and any action taken or required. 
  • The safety testing is to assess whether memorials can withstand a reasonable pressure, such as that which may be applied to the memorials by users of the cemetery - for instance, should they slip and use the memorial to try to stabilise themselves.
  • The safety testing involves visually inspecting the memorials for signs of instability and testing them by hand.
  • Those headstones and memorials that are found to be unsafe may be made safe with a temporary stake or laid flat with the inscription facing upward. A notice will be placed explaining to the owner what to do next.  We will contact any known owners as soon as possible where it has been necessary to lower a memorial to the ground for safety reasons.
  • No memorials will be removed from the grave space. 

What you need to do Toggle accordion

  • Keep your contact details up to date. We need up to date contact details for all plot owners, so that we can let you know about testing your memorial. To update your details please contact the Cemetery Office.
  • Keep the memorial repaired and in a safe condition. But do not do any structural work yourself for your own safety.  Our responsibility is to make a memorial safe if it is found to be in an unsafe condition.
  • Be aware that cemeteries are potentially dangerous places. Visitors to cemeteries should keep to footpaths, avoid touching any memorials and ensure that children are always supervised.
  • If your memorial must be made safe you can choose to either:
    • Take no further action - if we have used a stake to support the memorial, it will be laid flat after six months.
    • Have the memorial repaired - you will need to arrange for a BRAMM or NAMM registered stonemason to do this work and there will be a charge.

We understand that this may be upsetting for you and are sorry for any distress that this may cause. However, it is a procedure that must be undertaken to ensure public safety in accordance with the Public Liability Act 1951, the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Health & Safety at Work Act 1984.

Please do not attempt to repair or remove memorials yourself, they are very heavy and for your own safety, and that of others, only registered stonemasons should carry out this kind of work.

If you have any concerns or questions about the testing, please contact the Cemeteries Office.