Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Corfe Castle Parish Council (CEM 66)

Memorandum regarding the role and management of small rural community cemeteries

  1.  Corfe Castle, in Dorset, is a village of some 1,500 population. As is the case with many rural communities, the churchyard having reached capacity many years ago, a cemetery was established, which is now also closed. The land for the current cemetery, "God's Acre", was donated by Henry Bankes in 1924 and vested in trustees, "under the authority of the Places of Worship Sites Act 1873. . . .freely and voluntarily and without any valuable consideration". The board of trustees was set up following consultation with a parish meeting at that time and consists of the Rector of the parish church, two appointed by the Parochial Church Council, two appointed from the Non-Conformists in the parish and two appointed by the Parish Council. The trustees continue to manage the cemetery to this day. All those involved in the running of the cemetery, that is the Trustees and the Clerk to the Trustees, live within the village.

  2.  The current cemetery, which covers an acre and a third, is nearing capacity and will be seen to have lasted some 80 years. As a burial authority under the Local Government Act 1972, the Parish Council has purchased the adjoining field to the current cemetery, from the National Trust (who were bequeathed the Bankes Estate in 1981) for a nominal sum. The Parish Council has agreed with the God's Acre Trustees that they continue to manage the extended cemetery on a day-to-day basis, and this arrangement has been set out in a "Memorandum of Understanding". The financing of the work (eg roads, walls) required for the extension has been raised through a combination of the Parish Council precept, surplus on the operating costs of the cemetery and local bequests.

  3.  An average year will see approximately seven burials and six interment of ashes.

  4.  In terms of economic viability, the cemetery is entirely self financing. Expenditure is minimal and is entirely covered by fees and other income.

  5.  While the management arrangements for our cemetery are therefore a little unusual (in most similar situations the Parish Council runs the cemetery itself), the essential feature remains that the community itself plans and runs its own cemetery. The Clerk to the Trustees is a voluntary position and is paid a small annual honorarium only: it is not viewed as "just a job". The current Clerk lives adjacent to the cemetery and is very dedicated to the role. She will obviously know, or know of, all who come for burial. She takes great pride in the appearance of the cemetery, a pride which is shared by villagers. We are not without the usual vandalism or neglect of properties within the village, but it certainly could not be said that the cemetery suffers from these problems. (Neither is the closed cemetery unduly neglected; it is maintained to an adequate standard by the District Council, who took over the responsibility for same under Section 215 of the Local Government Act 1972.)

  6.  The village hall, the church, the pub, the school, and so on, act as foci for the rural community; each in their own way help define and bind the community. The cemetery also acts in this manner. Whilst all cemeteries will clearly hold a special significance for those with loved ones buried in them, our cemetery also has a cultural significance for the local community as a whole. It records generations of local families and provides the direct link between those living in the village today and those of past times. Additionally, local people who have been forced to move away because of lack of affordable housing still have a tangible link, through past generations buried in the cemetery, with the local community.

  7.  Rural communities have long experience of managing their own burial needs and the current arrangements work extremely well. Perhaps we have been fortunate in not having experienced any significant problems or constraints, but there is little one can envisage that needs to change. This might not be found by the Committee to be the case elsewhere, for example in larger urban areas where the scale and nature of cemetery provision is somewhat different. We are concerned that any recommendations aimed at addressing problems in these latter areas should not adversely impact on the already successful operation of small rural "community run" cemeteries.

December 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 29 March 2001