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Churchyard Rules and Car Park

There have been some concerns raised by people following the information published in the July edition of Tutbury Village News (TVN) and reproduced below.

We have added some notes below the article to try to clarify some issues and hope they will further explain what is, and is not, happening.  

If, having read all of this page, you are still worried, then please contact the Vicar, Rev Ian Whitehead, on 01283 810 151.

Churchyard Matters

Churchyard Rules Notes

Plots and Ownership

Upkeep of the Churchyard

“Proposed” Car park


Churchyard Matters

In parish communities where there is a church, there is often a churchyard surrounding it, a place of quite reflection and memories available to the whole community.  The whole churchyard is owned by the church and it has the responsibility for it even when burials take place; for the land remains the property of the church.

Over the years in the Tutbury churchyard we have continued to maintain the area and are grateful to the Parish Council for their ongoing maintenance of the Closed Area of the churchyard.  Over the past few years the maintenance of the open churchyard has become more difficult with a large number of items of a personal nature relating to individual graves spilling over the surrounding area. After a lot of thought and discussion the Church Council has come to the conclusion that the churchyard requires tidying up.  

In July, the wooden cross markers will be removed from the graves where there are headstones and plaques.  Should a family require an individual cross they can remove it themselves, or collect it from church following its removal from the grave.

Then from August the items of personal nature will be required to be removed from the graves but some may remain for a while at the headstone.  If not removed by the family, the items will be removed and kept in the church until the end of the year.

The church council is also required by law to remind all that those individual items such as plaques and headstones require written permission to be introduced into the churchyard and that grave-kerbs, pictures and glass or pottery items are not allowed around graves.  Full details can be found on the church notice board just inside the church gates.

Within the churchyard, burial space is a finite thing, it may not always be available in Tutbury but with planning and consideration the church is working to try to address this issue.  The church and churchyard remains, at present, for all within Tutbury and together we plan for that to continue.

Rev Ian Whitehead

Churchyard Rules Notes

St. Mary’s Priory Church Tutbury has, like all other churches, a set of rules about what is and is not allowed in the churchyard on and around graves and cremation internments.

These rules are those of the Diocese of Lichfield and apply to all 573 Church of England Churches in the Diocese.  It is thought that they are the same rules that apply countrywide in all the other Diocese.  They are also very similar to the rules that will be found at all Council run cemeteries – there is nothing unique or special about the rules that apply to St. Mary’s Priory Church, Tutbury – in general similar rules apply to all burial grounds.

A key point from the Lichfield Diocesan rules is the following:

The restrictions imposed by these Regulations are not a matter of the personal choice of Parish clergy and churchwardens and they cannot depart from them. The welcome given to those seeking to arrange a burial in a churchyard should make it clear that a churchyard is not a private place. It is a place where many people have a shared interest in its appearance. Accordingly, the decision as to what is placed in a churchyard cannot be simply a matter of private choice.

The rules posted in the churchyard, just inside the Castle gate, can be read here.  The full Diocesan rules be read here

Plots and ownership

There has been comment that people have ‘bought’ their plots and can therefore do as they wish with them.  This is not actually the case.

When you ‘buy a plot’, you are buying the right for someone to be buried or interred there – this applies to all Church and Council cemeteries – and this can sometimes be time limited to 25 or 50 years.  This is well expressed on the website of AW Lymn, Funeral Directors:

The traditional place of burial for those living within a parish is the churchyard. A parishioner is defined as one who normally resides in the ecclesiastical parish in question. Additionally, a person on the church electoral roll at the time of death and a person happening to die in the parish also have a right of burial in the churchyard.

The person paying fees for a churchyard burial does not obtain ownership of the grave, nor even, in strict law, the exclusive right of burial therein. All land in a churchyard remains the property of the church authorities unless granted to an individual by a faculty at the discretion of the chancellor of the Diocese concerned. There are therefore no grave-deeds.

Therefore, the rules for what is and is not permissible in the cemetery or churchyard are set by the Council or the Church – and they are all broadly similar wherever you are buried – there is nothing unique about the rules for St. Mary’s Churchyard.

Upkeep of the Churchyard

The Closed Churchyard comprises the two sections on the village (or south) side of the church (E, F, G1, G2 on the map); they are maintained by the Parish Council although the area is still under the control of the church - this is the only part of the churchyard that has Council Tax money spent on it.  

The rest of the churchyard is the responsibility of the church and is maintained entirely by volunteers.

Some people have commented on the state of the churchyard in previous years, but this year the Sudbury volunteers have kept a good level of access to all areas except a couple of graves on the Terrace (one a War Grave that will be attended to by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission volunteers) and a few in the north end 'drop'.

If you are aware of an area of the churchyard that you cannot access, then please contact the webmaster.

We always need more volunteers to help maintain the churchyard – if you think there is a problem, then please volunteer to help us fix it.

"Proposed" Car Park

TVN carried an item from the Parish Council (not the Church Council) which included the following:

It was suggested that there could be parking spaces created in the closed churchyard, requiring 150 gravestones to be moved to the side and meshing laid for parking.

This is the section between the old vicarage and the Church Street path - if in the future a car park was to be created, it would be in part of section G1 on the churchyard map.

This is an area of the churchyard that was legally closed to new burials in 1879.

At this stage the idea of a car park in this area is just that, an idea, not a proposal and no one knows if it would be worth the effort and expense or how it might be set out.  However, there are a few points to note:

Further thoughts:

If it was decided to investigate the possibility of having a car park, archeological, technical and legal advice would be required before any proposals could be created - we are a long way from that possibility yet.

Churchyard Tidyup

The articles in the July edition of TVN on the actions to tidy up the churchyard and the idea of considering the possibility of a small car park at St. Mary’s have generated local comment on social media and it is apparent that not everyone has the full facts.  Therefore we have added some more information about the tidy-up, the car park idea and the state of the churchyard - also covered is what it means to ‘buy a plot’ in a churchyard or cemetery.