Monday, 17 June 2013

Running a cemetery (1)

Vicars and Local Authorities presumably face similar problems when it comes to managing churchyards and cemeteries.

I suspect that finance would be #1 on most lists. The standard practice is to make a single payment when the body is buried. However those taking on the responsibility then have a long-term financial commitment over many decades. It seems as if in some cases the money coming in from new burials plus any investment income from decades of earlier burials is not enough to meet current costs. This leaves those in charge with just three options. Greatly increase the charges for new burials, neglect maintenance (or in the case of churches rely entirely on volunteer labour) or look for a public subsidy. I imagine the situation when the graveyard or cemetery is full is even more serious since no income whatsoever will be coming in. People with their family or friends buried there will campaign, sometimes quite strongly, against serious neglect but most taxpayers will be supremely indifferent. There are not many votes to be found in cemeteries.

#2 on the list will be geographical. What do you do when a site is full? There is unlikely to be vacant land next door to a Victorian cemetery and so many new cemeteries are established on the edges of towns and cities. Of course most people want to be buried in the same cemetery as other relatives - not some new site with which there is no family connection.

A third issue is who should be held responsible the maintenance of monuments and headstones? As the years go by and people move away neglect gradually increases. Add to this natural decay and vandalism and it isn’t surprising that some sites seem so tatty.

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