Why are graves dug so deep?

Graves have to be dug to a sufficient depth to allow for future burials. The grave needs to be deep enough for the coffins or caskets that will be buried. It also needs to accommodate legal requirements for undisturbed earth between each coffin and above the last interment.

Why are there so many different types of graves at some cemeteries?

Some authorities have introduced a wide range of graves to give people as many options as possible. For many, the lawn grave is the best option but for others a more traditional, elaborate, larger memorial is required. Burial above ground in a catacomb is available at some cemeteries as are vaults, brick graves and mausoleums. It is really a matter of choice.

Do I own the grave?

No. You buy a right of burial for the grave space, which means that only you or a person of your choice can be buried in the grave. The actual grave belongs to the local authority, as do the cemetery grounds.

Are graves filled in straight after a funeral?

Graves are prepared for burial at least one full day before the funeral and are covered overnight. The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management's (ICCM) Guiding Principles for Burial Services state that, immediately after the mourners have left the graveside, the grave should be back-filled and made tidy. This work is completed on the day of the burial and coffins should not be left uncovered overnight.

I have a lawn grave. Why can't I put a full memorial over the surface?

The lawn grave was designed on the war grave principle, with a memorial of limited size at the head with the rest laid to lawn. This best utilises space for burials. In addition, maintenance is easier as large lawn mowers can be used to keep the area tidy. These graves are sold on the understanding that only lawn-style memorials are erected. Full memorials are only permitted on traditional graves. You must take care when selecting the type of grave. If you would prefer a larger, more traditional type memorial, don't opt for a lawn grave.

I have a lawn grave. When will I be able to put a memorial on it?

In cemeteries when continuous concrete foundations have been laid, memorials can be erected on lawn graves almost immediately. Where individual foundations are provided for lawn memorials, these will ideally be on un-dug ground at the head end of the grave. In these circumstances and with the use of ground anchors and fixings that comply with the National Association of Memorial Masons' (NAMM) Recommended Code of Practice, it is still possible to erect a memorial almost immediately. In cemeteries where the headstone is erected directly on the excavated area of the grave, there may be a period stipulated in the cemetery regulations which gives the ground time to settle. During this period, the cemetery staff should monitor any sinkage and top up periodically with soil until settlement stops. This period may differ around the country owing to soil conditions. Even after settlement has stopped, it is advisable to ensure your memorial mason adopts the NAMM Code of Practice.

Why do some people wait while the grave is filled in?

Some cultures require that the grave is filled in while the family watches, or family members may wish to undertake the back-filling themselves. When families want this, it is essential that the cemetery is made aware when the burial is arranged. This will ensure the family's wishes are met and their safety is protected during the back-filling process.

I have the rights to a grave - can anyone else be buried in it?

No. Graves cannot be opened without the written permission of the person with registered rights of burial. The only exception is where the burial is of the person with rights to burial, in which case no written authority is required.

Can anyone witness the grave being filled?

Yes, but the cemetery will need to be advised of this before the funeral takes place so that they are prepared.

I am told the grave is for two people. There is only one person in the grave. Can I now have two more burials in the grave?

When a grave is purchased to take two full body burials, the depth to which the grave is excavated for the first burial must take into account the second burial. There are legal requirements as to how much earth must be left on top of the last coffin, and it is therefore not possible to put an extra coffin into the grave without breaking the law. However, after the grave is full with coffins, cremated remains caskets or urns may still be buried there.

What happens when the lease expires?

When you buy a grave, you purchase the exclusive rights of burial in that grave for a set period. At the end of the period, you should be given the option of renewing the rights. It is important that you keep the cemetery office informed should you change address, otherwise you may not receive a notice of renewal at the appropriate time. Also, at the end of the period of rights to erect and maintain a memorial, cemetery staff will attempt to contact you to give you the option to renew the lease. Should you not wish to renew the lease or you cannot be contacted, the cemetery staff can lawfully remove any memorial after giving a set period of notice for you to remove it yourself. If you decide to renew the lease, this may be on condition that the memorial receives a full inspection and stability test and any defects are repaired.

Who is responsible for the memorial?

Whilst the burial authority is responsible for maintaining the cemetery in a safe condition, you have a responsibility to maintain your memorial in a safe condition throughout the period of the right to erect and maintain a memorial. If you fail to do this, the cemetery staff may take action to make the memorial safe. Cemetery staff carry out routine inspections of memorials and, when one is identified as being unstable and likely to fall and injure someone, it might be cordoned off, laid flat or have a temporary support installed. You will receive a letter in these circumstances and it will be your responsibility to arrange suitable repair. For further information please contact the Cemetery Registrar.

Why can't I have what I want on the grave?

When a new grave is purchased, this is not the land but the rights to have burials in that grave. These rights are 'granted', together with the rights to erect a memorial in accordance with rules and regulations of the cemetery. It is important that you select the cemetery that will provide you with the type of memorial you want as regulations differ from area to area. This can be checked by contacting the cemetery office and making enquiries about the options.

What happens when all the grave owners have died?

Ownership of the exclusive rights of burial in a grave can be transferred from a deceased person via his or her estate. The means of transfer can be complex and, while there is a set of procedures to follow, each case must be looked at individually. If you need to transfer ownership when all owners are deceased, you will need to contact the Cemetery Registrar.

Why is a permit needed?

Prior to a memorial being erected on a grave space, the written authority of the owner of the grave must be given on a permit or application form, authorising the proposed erection of the memorial. Memorials need to conform to cemetery regulations with regard to size and fixings, and the memorial needs to be checked for stability under health and safety regulations. The cemetery staff need to check that the memorial conforms to regulations and will be erected in a safe manner. To a certain extent, this helps protect your interests, although you will remain responsible for the maintenance of the memorial in the future. You may ask your memorial mason for a workmanship guarantee or details of insurance. Some authorities will issue a separate right to erect and maintain a memorial. Other authorities may combine the memorial rights with the burial rights.

I want to bury cremated remains in a grave. Do I have to decide whether there will be any more burials before this can be done?

It is against the law to disturb human remains - including cremated remains in a casket or urn - without a licence. Therefore, no further burials will be possible in the grave until a licence has been obtained. Cremated remains can be buried in the grave at full depth, in which case they will not be disturbed by further full body burials. But by having to excavate a grave to this depth there will be additional charges for opening the grave.

Children's Memorial Garden

There is a Children's Memorial Garden in Addlestone cemetery, which caters for burials and cremated remains in conjunction with St Peter's and Ashford Hospital NHS Trust. There is no fee for these burials.

Muslim burials

We provide for Muslim burials at Englefield Green Cemetery, in conjunction with Majid Hawa, Chairman of the Islamic Welfare Association of West Surrey. For further information about Muslim funerals, please contact Majid Hawa on 07920 015544 or by e-mail majidhawa@gmail.com