Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Reading Borough Council (CEM 83)

  Reading Borough Council manage and control three cemeteries, namely:

    —  Henley Road Cemetery, All Hallows Road, Caversham, Reading.

    —  Reading Cemetery, London Road, Reading.

    —  Caversham Cemetery, Victoria Road, Caversham, Reading.

  In addition we are responsible for the maintenance of five closed churchyards which includes the maintenance of memorials, footpaths and perimeter walls.

Henley Road Cemetery

  Opened in 1927.

  Currently 25,000 graves, (for full/coffin burials).

  Currently 3,000 cremation plots, (for burial of cremated remains).

  The cemetery is the current burial site for the Borough of Reading but also accepts burials from the wider area, subject to payment of increased fees.

  Includes area for Muslim burials.

  Currently there are 50 acres in use.

  An additional 20 acres of dedicated cemetery land is presently used for allotments and recreation ground. Within the next three years the allotment land will need to be reclaimed and laid out as an extension to the existing cemetery. At the current rate of usage this will provide burial space for a further 40 years.

  An average of 225 full/coffin burials per year and 180 interments of cremated remains in both new and existing plots.

  Most of the site is free of herbicides and pesticides and contains mature trees and many species of wildlife.

  Large areas of the site consist of traditional style graves with headstones and kerbsets.

  The current burial area consists of hard surface walkways and headstone support beam.

  The site also contains the Crematorium building with two service chapels. These chapels are also used for burial services.

  The Crematorium and Cemeteries Office is also located on the site. This is where the administrative staff and records, including those of the other cemeteries are located.

  The area of traditional style graves mostly receives very little attention from grave owners. The area is maintained on a low maintenance principle receiving eight cuts (by means of petrol strimmer) per annum with the cuttings left. Throughout the rest of the site the grass is primarily cut by use of ride-on mowers. A few small, prime areas, are cut using pedestrian mowers.

  In this cemetery the traditional style of memorials are generally not too large in comparison to those in other cemeteries. A small amount of memorial checks have been carried out but resources do not permit total annual inspections.

Reading Cemetery

  Opened in 1843 by a private company. The town centre churchyards were closed at this time for reasons of environmental health.

  There are 18,327 grave spaces covering 11.5 acres.

  The cemetery which lies on the Eastern side of the town was taken over in 1959, by Reading Borough Council when the private cemetery company no longer had grave spaces to sell.

  Reading Borough Council maintains the cemetery on a conservation basis. The grass is cut, by strimmer, on four occasions per year and is raked off only if excess growth makes it necessary. We also carry out interments in existing graves, there being no new graves available on this site. These burials, including those of cremated remains, are currently in single figures per year.

  The cemetery contains the graves of most of the historically noteworthy occupants of the town. The site is of great local historical interest with many large memorials, two of which are Grade 2 listed. The arched lodge gateway is also Grade 2 listed.

  The cemetery is a haven for wildlife locally and also contains some wonderful specimen trees.

  No memorial inspections have been carried out on this site.

  At the time of writing we are carrying out a survey of local people and trying to set up a "Friends of the Cemetery" group.

Caversham Cemetery

  This cemetery was originally a Parish Burial Ground dating from 1885. It came under the control of Reading Borough Council in 1911.

  There are some 4,000 graves covering 3.5 acres.

  The cemetery, which lies very close to the centre of Caversham, has no new graves and currently there are very few interments per year, those there are, are mainly in the form of cremated remains.

  The cemetery contains many mature trees and is a haven for wildlife of many species. The cemetery is particularly known for the spring flowers that grow in abundance. The cemetery contains the only natural colony of Primroses remaining in the Borough of Reading.

  The cemetery is maintained on a conservation basis. It receives two cuts, by means of strimmers, per year and the cuttings are then raked off.

Closed Churchyards

  Apart from the three cemeteries previously detailed the Authority has responsibilities for five closed churchyards. No burials at all take place within these churchyards.

  These churchyards receive various styles of maintenance depending on where the churchyard is located, the town centre churchyards receiving higher maintenance.

  The fact that there is very little in the way of income from Reading and Caversham Cemeteries and none at all from the closed churchyards make the cemeteries overall economically unviable. Funding for the cemeteries is subsidised from income from the Crematorium.

  The Cemetery and Crematorium Service is operated without any contribution from Council Tax funds.

  For the authority to carry out its full responsibility with regards to annual memorial inspections in all the cemeteries and closed churchyards there would need to be a considerable injection of funds and staff resources. Considering that there are possibly over 50,000 memorials to check, with the inevitable work that would be required to any unsafe memorials, it can be seen that this is a very worrying issue.

December 2000

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