Hazlemere Closed Churchyard
The Closed Churchyard Order was passed on 22 October 1975 with both the obligation for the responsibility for maintenance and to terminate the church’s responsibility for providing future burial space being passed to Hazlemere Parish Council
A burial ground closed by Order in Council is subject to the Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884 which prohibits building on such grounds except for the purpose of enlarging the church. This restriction is a major factor to be taken into account if a church extension is planned which encroaches on to the surrounding churchyard. A pastoral or closure scheme under the Pastoral Measure 1983 may, however, provide for development to take place in a churchyard where there have been burials, provided that in cases where burials have taken place within the previous 50 years, no relative or personal representative of the deceased has sustained an objection to the scheme.
Responsibility for maintenance of churchyards
The Parish Council must take all reasonable steps to remedy any defect which is discovered such as an unsafe monument, undertaking that it is adequately covered by insurance against any damages which may be awarded in the event of an accident.
Individual tombstones remain primarily the responsibility of those who erected them and, after their death, of the heirs-at-law of those commemorated. Reasonable efforts must be made to find the owner who must be given the opportunity to remove the monument. The Parish should try to be aware of those relatives who regularly tend monuments and memorials as it is important that their concerns are taken into account before embarking on any rearrangements. Equal sensitivity is needed to ensure that churchyards are not cluttered with artificial flowers and inappropriate containers.
The Closure by Order does not remove the legal effects of consecration and the churchyard is still under faculty jurisdiction. It may still be used for the interment of ashes provided that no human remains are disturbed and if the Order permits.
Cremation is an increasingly popular means for disposing of human remains. It is becoming common for part of a churchyard to be set aside as a Garden of Remembrance, perhaps with a central feature as a focus for meditation, to provide an appropriate place for the commemoration of those cremated and the interment of their ashes. A faculty will certainly be needed.
Protection of churchyards
The Parish Council is subject to faculty jurisdiction and is responsible for all the trees in a churchyard. This includes the felling, lopping and topping of existing trees and the disposal of their timber (any sale proceeds being applied for the maintenance of the churchyard) as well as the planting of new trees. If a tree is subject to a Tree Preservation Order or located within a Conservation Area, the consent of the District Council is also required before felling, lopping or topping.
Any object or structure in a churchyard considered to be an ancient or interesting feature is not only subject to faculty jurisdiction but may also be listed as an Historic Building on its own account. A churchyard, or various features in it, will also be protected if in a Conservation Area or if the churchyard is either scheduled as an Ancient Monument or designated as an area of archaeological importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Any significant alterations to the churchyard or to structures within it will require a faculty and may also require planning permission from the District Council or consent from the Secretary of State (via English Heritage) for any scheduled monument.
Historians have always valued the information they can collect from the monuments to be found in churchyards but conservation and environmental issues are becoming increasingly important. The whole or part of a churchyard may be notified by English Nature as a Site of Special Scientific Interest “by reason of any of its flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features”; this prohibits any operation within the churchyard which is likely to cause damage. The churchyard is often one of the few areas that has not been affected by chemical fertilisers and pesticides and it is therefore rapidly becoming one of the few places where the environmental development of a locality can be traced.
Extensions to churchyards and new churchyards
As the Holy Trinity churchyard is full it is the responsibility of the Parish Council as the burial authority to provide an extension or a new churchyard, if possible next to the churchyard.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berks, SL6 7DX) is responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of the members of the forces of the Commonwealth who died in the two world wars. Many of those commemorated lie in special war cemeteries maintained by the Commission, but war graves are also to be found in many parish churchyards. Not all are commemorated by the Commission’s distinctive headstones for some are buried in family graves, but the Commission is, nonetheless, concerned to see that they are maintained.