This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

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.

Modern colour image of a view of gravestones in an American military cemetery
The American Military Cemetery, Madingley, Cambridge. © Jenifer White

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. 

A modern colour photograph showing a Jewish cemetery chapel with a Star of David above the entrance
A view of the Jewish cemetery chapel at Ecclesfield, Sheffield. © English Heritage

Projects in this activity

 During the plan period 2011-2015 we began research in the following areas:

A modern colour photograph of a historic burial ground showing a tomb in the foreground
Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, City Road, Islington, London. John Bunyan's tomb is in the foreground. © English Heritage, Derek Kendall

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.

Was this page helpful?

Also of interest...