Churchyard Policy

St Robert’s, Pannal – Churchyard Policy 2024

This document sets out the essential elements and procedures of our Churchyard Policy.  It replaces the policy agreed by the PCC in 2019


Our churchyard is an important and cherished part of our church life and constitutes part of the heritage of our community. It remains open to the public at all times, and is used and cherished by a large number of people.  It is our obligation to work within the rulings of the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Leeds, with the families of those interred in our churchyards and with the local community to ensure the churchyard remains a resource for future generations.

This policy defines the right to interment of ashes within, and the management of, the churchyard in the parish. The parish of St Robert of Knaresborough, Pannal, allows the interment of cremated remains only.

Churchyards are consecrated ground, and as such are governed by rules defined by the Diocese of Leeds contained within the Diocesan Regulations for churchyards. Only where those regulations permit may local variations relating to custom and practice be implemented.

Right to burial of ashes

In a consecrated churchyard, provided there is space available the following people have a right to the interment of ashes in the churchyard of the parish church:

  • every parishioner
  • any person dying in the parish, wherever that person resides.
  • any person whose name is on the electoral roll of the parish at the time of their death

No other ashes can be buried in the churchyard without the consent of the incumbent & St Robert’s Parochial Church Council (PCC). If the incumbent & the PCC decline to allow the burial of ashes of a person who has no right of burial as defined above, the decision shall be final.

There is no right of burial in any particular part of a churchyard. The selection of a burial space is for the incumbent, but will usually be undertaken in consultation with the family concerned.

Areas for cremated remains

Cremated remains may be buried either in an existing grave, or in those areas set aside for the burial of cremated remains.

Burial of ashes in an existing grave will be permitted on a case by case basis, depending on the room in the grave and the connection between the deceased and the person(s) already buried in the grave.

Cremated remains should either be reverently poured into a specially prepared hole in the ground between 18 and 24 inches deep, strewn onto bare earth (and the ashes then covered with earth), or buried in a wooden casket. The scattering of cremated remains onto the surface of the earth is not permitted nor is the burial of non-biodegradable items.

If cremated remains are interred in an existing grave a separate memorial or ledger stone is not permitted, though an inscription may be added to an existing memorial or ledger stone after due authorisation providing the memorial or ledger stone has room for an extra inscription.

Interred ashes may be marked by a bronze plaque in the same style and dimension as existing plaques.

Reservation of a space for the burial of ashes

The parish policy is not to allow the reserving of a space for the interment of ashes in areas for cremated remains.

Ownership of the churchyard

The ownership of the churchyard is vested in the incumbent.  Where there is a vacancy in the incumbency, the ownership is vested in the Area Dean.

The exercise of a previous or current right of burial, the interment of cremated remains, the reservation of a grave space by faculty or erection of a memorial do not confer any rights of ownership upon the relatives of the deceased person or upon any other persons in respect of the churchyard itself.

Ownership of memorial and ledger stones

The owner of a churchyard memorial or ledger stone is defined as the person who erected the monument in question and after his/her death the heir or heirs at law of the person or persons in whose memory it was erected. Therefore, the primary responsibility for upkeep falls on the owners of the stone who are the heirs of the person or persons commemorated.

Because the maintenance of the churchyard in a safe state is the responsibility of the PCC, it must bear the responsibility for any dangerous memorial or ledger stones within the churchyard when the heirs cannot be traced. The PCC must take appropriate steps to deal with any dangerous situations, and such action will be limited by the funds at its disposal. The PCC commits to a regular inspection of headstones to ensure they are safe and will rectify any unsafe headstones. This may include laying down unsafe headstones.

Erection of memorial and ledger stones

The introduction of a memorial or ledger stone, or any other object, into a churchyard requires the permission of the Chancellor of the Diocese, and must conform to the Diocesan regulations.  The Chancellor has delegated limited authority to the incumbent for the introduction, or alteration, in a churchyard, of a memorial or ledger stone that conforms to the regulations.

Permission to introduce a memorial or ledger stone or an addition to an existing one must always be obtained from the incumbent. The applicant will be required to sign a memorial or ledger agreement. Where the proposed stone falls outside the scope of the incumbent’s delegated authority, a faculty, a permissive right, obtained from the Chancellors’ Office of the Diocese, to undertake works on church property, is required.

The PCC will normally accept the installation of a memorial or ledger stone only by a recognised Funeral Director or stonemason and only if it conforms to the regulations.

Churchyard maintenance

Our churchyard is large and complex to maintain. We aim to strike a balance between ensuring the churchyards are well kept and looked after, whilst having consideration to the provision of areas for wildlife to flourish in suitable areas within the churchyard.

The PCC maintains a plan locating the graves as accurately as possible and including the names of those buried and interred there. This plan will be used when allocating spaces for interment of ashes.

The maintenance of St Robert’s churchyard, including the mowing of grass and control of pests and vermin, is controlled by the PCC. The churchyard is maintained by volunteers who mow and strim the area.

No tree or shrub may be planted in the churchyard without the explicit written permission of the incumbent and PCC.

Maintenance of trees and shrubs in the churchyard is similarly the responsibility of the PCC, which will seek to ensure that all trees within the churchyard are safe and that steps are taken to remedy unsafe or dangerous trees within the churchyard.

The Diocesan Chancellor’s regulations state that:

  • No individual garden may be erected, or tree or shrub planted on, or adjacent to, a grave or other place where ashes are buried.
  • Only cut flowers or wreaths may be left at the burial sites. These must be removed when withered or decaying or after a period of one month. No plastic or artificial flowers are permitted save in relation to Remembrance Day wreaths or poppies, or Christmas wreaths. These must be removed after a period of one month after the event.
  • Silk flowers, pots, toys, solar powered items or other similar ornaments may not be left at the graveside.

Any objects left at the grave but not allowed under the regulations or authorised by Faculty, will be removed and returned to the relatives, if they can be traced, as soon as possible

The PCC can be contacted via the church office tel: 01423 873577…….or by email:

The Vicar the  Reverend John Smith can be contacted by phone; Home – 01423 391514, Mobile – 07772 165722 or by email:


John Smith                                                     March, 2024.

Signed by the Incumbent                              Date

For and on behalf of the PCC of St Robert of Knaresborough, Pannal