Churchyard closure

St Mary’s Churchyard formally closed in February 2017. Many residents will have been aware that the churchyard has been running out of space and we have been in close contact with the parish council for some years on this matter. It means that no further burials can take place in new graves, nor burials of ashes in new plots in the churchyard. There is an exception to allow for existing double depth graves with space remaining to be used. We have been given a special concession to enable the children’s burial area to remain available, while space permits.

St Mary’s Church will continue to support families during bereavement. A person does not need to have been a regular churchgoer for relatives to ask for one of our clergy team to support them through bereavement and a funeral. We will continue to provide funerals in the church and at the crematorium. We will be available to officiate at burials in civic cemeteries. 

Further Information

1. What has happened ?

The churchyard has been formally closed by an Order in Council made by the Privy Council.  This means that there can be no new burials in new graves, but that the burial of bodies can continue in existing family graves, and cremated remains can be interred in existing family graves with the Rector's permission.

2.  Are there any exceptions ?

Burials in existing double depth family graves, where space remains, may still take place.  Ashes from cremations may also be buried in existing family graves, so long as there is space, and provided the consent of the Rector is given.

There is also a special exception for the children’s burial area to continue in use for children under 18, for so long as space permits.

3. What about other cremated ashes ?

We have obtained permission to create a special area for ashes strewing, around the Millennium yew.  This is similar to scattering, in that the ashes container is emptied out, and the ashes covered by soil, with the grass then replaced, so the appearance is very natural.   There are no memorial stones or markers, nor flowers or planting.  A Memorial Book with strewing details will be maintained.

4.  Why has it closed ?

There is no more space remaining in the churchyard to allow further burials to take place. Many residents will be already be aware of the situation.  We have had discussions with the Parish Council about this over the last few years, and the situation has previously been explained on and elsewhere. 

5. Have any other options to closure been considered ?

We have considered all other possible options to closure.   These included churchyard extension, reuse of existing areas, and filling in between existing graves.  None of these is possible or practical; for example no suitable land is available for an extension.  After careful consideration of all other options, the difficult decision to close was made. 

6. What will happen now about burials ?

The Parish and District Councils are now responsible for providing future burial grounds.  The need was noted in the Neighbourhood Plan, and it is hoped that a suitable new civic burial space will be available in the village in the future.  In the meantime, there are civic and private burial grounds in the locality, as well as crematoria.

7. What about visiting existing graves ?

The churchyard continues to be open for families to visit existing graves and ashes plots, and to tend them.   The existing Diocese Churchyard Regulations, which permit only cut flowers, and spring bulbs or summer bedding plants on graves, will continue to apply unchanged. The existing Regulations in respect of memorial stones will also continue to apply, and the upkeep of these remains the responsibility of the family concerned. The Diocese Faculty jurisdiction continues to apply to the consecrated churchyard after closure, so any changes would require that permission from the Diocese.

8. Who will be responsible for the maintenance of the churchyard ?

The responsibility for the maintenance of the churchyard has been formally passed to the Parish Council.  This will include grass cutting, trees and shrubs, walls, paths and gates. The churchyard will remain under the control of the Rector, with the church, and subject to her oversight, together with the Parochial Church Council.  It is only the maintenance liability that has been transferred.

9. Will there still be church funerals ?

The clergy team at St Mary’s will continue to be available to support families during bereavement.  We will take funeral services in the church and at the crematorium. We will also be able to assist with burials at civic cemeteries.

10.  How was the churchyard closed?

The churchyard was closed by order of Privy Council through the Ministry of Justice in London. This came after a detailed application process from St Mary's PCC and in consultation with the Diocese of Oxford. It also came after discussions with local councillors, funeral directors and others.

Any other questions ?

If you have any concerns not dealt with here, please email and we will respond as soon as we can.