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Developing Local Assessment Toolkits - a scoping study to look at developing a standard model for recording cemeteries and burial grounds

Front cover for Developing Local Assessment Toolkits- a scoping study to look at developing a standard model for recording cemeteries and burial grounds

Project number 6358

By Harold Mytum, James Cameron, Kate Chapman

This report scopes issues surrounding greater standardising in the recording of cemeteries and burial grounds. It summarises the results of wide consultation with many different interested parties, representing both professional and volunteer groups working within the heritage sector.

Cemeteries and burial grounds are well known elements of the historic environment. They are of interest to a wide range of stakeholders. However they are complex in terms of their ownership, legal position, their unusual combination of below- and above-ground archaeology and the built environment and so also complex with regards to their statutory protection and the planning system.

The main findings were that:

  • Cemeteries and burial grounds carry high cultural, symbolic and emotional value, and have both historic and current uses in burial and commemoration, and that this is appreciated by local communities responding to the survey.
  • The material remains in cemeteries and burial grounds are poorly recorded, yet they are important examples of popular material culture.
  • There is a widespread interest in the evidence residing in cemeteries and burial grounds from professional heritage managers, cemetery and burial ground managers, and the public (ranging from Parochial Church Councils (PCCs), cemetery friends and local history groups to schools, family historians and ecologists).
  • Digital data holdings and recording surveys are often fragmentary beyond genealogical content.
  • Digital recording of data from cemeteries and burial grounds is seen as highly desirable by community groups of all kinds, though not all wished to participate in a wider framework. There is no standardisation in digital structure, format or content, and archiving plans are either absent or short-term.
  • Surveys reveal that neither county archives nor HERs are generally prepared to archive paper or digital resources, though the latter strongly desire summary reports.
  • Further study is necessary to establish detailed protocols for the digital recording of data from cemeteries and burial grounds, and to design management structures for the volunteer groups and for the digital data they generate, and with archiving protocols for ADS deposition.

The project was carried out by researchers from the University of Liverpool. It was commissioned as part of wider work on understanding the significance of cemeteries and burial grounds within the National Heritage Protection Plan 2011-2015. Where the report refers to the work of English Heritage, these are functions currently carried out by Historic England.


Executive Summary
1. The Context for the Project
1.1 The report in relation to the project brief
1.2 Historiography and context of the project
2. The role of cemeteries and burial grounds in HER
3. The Use of volunteers in projects
4. Management and curation of digital data
5. Recommendations
Annexe 1: Existing state of digital and web-based data on cemeteries and burial grounds
Annexe 2: HER Officers Questionnaire
Annexe 3: Cemetery friends consultation
Annexe 4: Archives services consultation

Additional Information

  • Publication Status: Completed


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