OUR CHURCHYARDS AND CEMETERIES
We are blessed to have four beautiful spaces in our Benefice – St Mary’s Churchyard and St Mary’s Burial Ground in Kelvedon, and All Saints’ Churchyard and St Martin’s Cemetery (a.k.a. Feering Cemetery) in Feering. All are generally very well-kept and are peaceful places for walking, rest and contemplation. They are open to all, and we really hope that you enjoy visiting them.
All four areas are looked after by small groups of volunteers, so if at times some areas seem overgrown or in need of tidying, especially at the main growing times of the year, we do ask you to be patient. They will get done eventually!
Kelvedon Burial Ground and Feering Cemetery, of course, are also very important as they are the burial places for many local people. We know how significant are the resting-places of relatives and loved ones of local people. It’s very clear that many families, relatives and friends visit graves very regularly.
Recently we have put up sets of the ‘Churchyard Rules’ in both areas, which outline the kinds of headstones and memorials that are allowed, and also how graves and ashes plots may be kept. We must stress that these are the rules and regulations of the whole Diocese of Chelmsford – in other words, they are general to all Church of England churchyards and cemeteries, and not just specific to Feering or Kelvedon.
Essentially the rules state that graves should be laid to grass, or have spring flowers, bedding plants or annuals, and nothing more. There should be no shrubs or large plants, no kerbs or hard borders of any kind, no gravel, chippings or artificial grass; no artificial flowers (except poppies at Remembrance and wreaths at Christmas); and no ornaments, which includes animal statues and figurines (e.g. angels), toys, photographs and pictures, windmills, chimes, and the like.
In previous years – before I arrived as Priest-in-Charge in 2014 – many graves were allowed that don’t meet the rules; this makes enforcing them very difficult. These rules may look quite restrictive, but they seek to safeguard two key things: one, that both burial areas retain the look of historic churchyards; and two, the sheerly practical need for easy maintenance, as our excellent cemetery volunteers are few, and most are mature in years!
These regulations have effectively been in force for many years, but only in the last few months have we managed to put up a copy of them in both burial grounds. We do accept that they could have been in place sooner, but are now there for all to see, and also here on this page. When the Churchyard Rules first appeared in both parish magazines in November 2018, I said that we were aware that several graves and ashes plots don’t meet the regulations, and that in time we would seek to take action to change this.
The time has now come to put this into effect. During this year (2019) the Churchwardens and I will be looking at the graves and ashes plots in both burial places, and if we believe that particular graves need changing, we’ll either contact the family (if we know them) or leave a laminated notice on the grave, drawing attention to the changes that are needed.
We do realise that this is a very sensitive subject and we are not seeking changes overnight. As the ‘Rules’ put it, we’re happy to work with families over time to make the Burial Ground more as it should be. We wish to cooperate sensitively with people to ensure that both areas are well kept and regain their true character as country churchyards.
Yet we are seeking permanent changes, simply because we have a duty of care for both the Burial Ground and the Cemetery, so we can ensure that they reflect their historic country character and retain this for future generations.
If you have any issues or concerns with this then please contact me in the first instance.
Revd. Simon Garwood
On behalf of the Churchwardens and PCCs of St Mary’s Kelvedon and All Saints’ Feering
ST. MARTIN'S CEMETERY - OCTOBER UPDATE
We are all grateful that St Martin's Cemetery is such a peaceful and restful place. All Saints' Churchyard itself is closed, so St Martin's is effectively the churchyard of the parish church. The PCC is responsible for its upkeep, and we especially want to thank our wonderful volunteers Beryl and Carole, for all their hard work and superb commitment in keeping it in such good order. If you also care about St Martin's and wish to see it stay as it is, then please contact one of the Church Wardens and the team will be delighted to have extra help.
The PCC has noticed that a number of headstones are now quite seriously loose, some dangerously so: one small push will make them topple over. If left untended they could cause serious injury. All the headstones concerned are on the immediate right-hand side of the cemetery as you enter from the Coggeshall Road. It must be stressed that the care and maintenance of headstones (including any costs) are the responsibility of the families concerned, not the church or our volunteers. Loose headstones should be fixed firmly so that they are not in danger of falling, thereby risking injury to people (visitors as well as our cemetery volunteers) or of being damaged themselves.
If you have a family member buried in St Martin's, please check that the headstone is secure; if you know of other people with relatives buried here then please make them aware of this notice. If dangerously loose headstones are not made secure, the PCC has the right to have them laid flat. This would be unfortunate as well as unsightly, but it will be our only course of action to ensure that there is no significant risk of injury in the cemetery.
For the information of all local residents, we would like to to point out that St Martin's Cemetery is an extension of All Saints' Churchyard and is therefore governed by churchyard regulations. I need to emphasise that these regulations are laid down, not by the PCC or the parish priest, but by the Chancellor of the Diocese, the Bishop of Chelmsford's legal officer, and contain clear, detailed information on what is and is not allowed in a churchyard.
While Feering residents have a clear right to be buried in St Martin's, having a grave or ashes plot there does not mean that families can treat it as if it were their own private plot or family garden: the land is still churchyard land, and not privately owned.
However there are a number of graves and ashes plots in St Martin's that clearly don't comply with diocesan churchyard regulations. According to the regulations all graves, other than historical ones, should be laid to grass with no additions or ornamentation. Artificial flowers (except for Remembrance Day poppies and wreaths at Christmas), plants (including shrubs and conifers), ornaments and similar items are among the things which cannot be authorised. All kerbstones, fencing, stones and chippings on graves need to be authorised in writing - and such authorisation is both very expensive and extremely difficult to obtain. While the PCC has no immediate plans to have such items removed, it is within its power to do so. It is the PCC's intention to try to bring St Martin's Cemetery within the churchyard regulations at some stage. However I want to make it clear that the PCC has no desire to cause distress or worry to anyone with family graves in St Martin's; we would be very willing to talk to families about the look and condition of their graves.
All Saints' is very willing to help and advise on any care, alteration, repair and upkeep of graves and headstones that is required. Copies of the churchyard regulations are also available for anyone on request. If you have any questions or concerns then please contact me or the Churchwardens.
Revd. Simon Garwood
Priest-in-Charge, All Saints' Church
On behalf of All Saints' Churchwardens and PCC
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