Churchyards, Cemeteries, and Burial Grounds National Heritage Protection Plan Activity 4D2
The National Heritage Protection Plan Activity for Churchyards, cemeteries and burial grounds sets out the way in which English Heritage plans to help protect them over the coming years. This will include community involvement, legal protection and guidance. The Activity forms part of the wider Measure 4 of the plan, concerned with understanding the significance and character of key elements of England’s heritage.
Introduction to the activity and its scope
As places of memory for individuals and communities, burial grounds and cemeteries are extremely important to many people. Yet, because they often have little direct economic value; they often become neglected or overlooked.
They are usually important locally or to specific communities, and sometimes have national significance. They contain a variety of personal and cultural values and can have widely different characters. They are often green open spaces, attractive places, with important architecture, monuments or layout. Large-scale urban redevelopment can affect “lost” and hidden burial grounds. Where archaeologists have investigated them, they have increased our knowledge of the past. However, the public response to such development can show the strength of feeling many of us have about the need to protect this fragile and often highly personal aspect of our past.
Expected protection results
- Given the community interest in local burial grounds, we focused on understanding the needs of these communities. We aimed to find out out what would provide the best help for them to record, understand and monitor their historic cemetery and burial grounds sites.
- There is no single way to protect cemeteries, burial grounds and churchyards: however this Activity worked towards producing a package of measures intended to provide direct legal protection through designation.
Projects in this activity
During the plan period 2011-2015 we began research in the following areas:
- The development of toolkits to enable local groups to record, assess and monitor the condition of their historic cemeteries. See the report of the scoping project.
- Developing and testing a possible methodology for assessing significance of cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds. See the report by researchers from the Univerity of York and Oxford Archaeology.
- Assessment of non-Christian (principally Jewish) historic cemeteries. See the resulting report on understanding values associated with Jewish burial grounds.
- Peparing for enhanced protection through designation to nationally significant monuments in registered cemeteries.
- In 2015 the Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Burials in England, supported by Historic England, published Large Burial Grounds: Guidance on Sampling in Archaeological Fieldwork Projects. It is a guideline aimed at professionals involved in fieldwork projects that impact upon archaeological burials numbering in the thousands.
Links to other NHPP activities
- Places of worship are often related to burial grounds: either physically, through burial practices or through the common aims of commemoration that both often hold for people. Wtihin the plan, we also worked to protect historic places of worship. (Activity 4D1).
- Historic cemeteries are threatened by development pressure, which was the theme of Activity 2A1.
- They are also sometimes at risk through neglect- this was the subject of Activity 2B1.
- They can fall prey to heritage crime, which Activity 2B2 sought to combat.
Also of interest...
Research carried out 2011-2015 about understanding and protecting historic places of worship or faith buildings in England.
Here you can find information on the Conservation Principles that Historic England uses.