Memorandum by Windlesham Parish Council
The administrative area of Windlesham Parish
Council (WPC) covers the three villages of Bagshot, Lightwater
and Windlesham in the Borough of Surrey Heath in NW Surrey. The
civil parish is one of the largest in the country and currently
has an electorate of 12,853 and a total population of almost 17,000.
This Parish represents around 20 per cent of Surrey Heath in terms
of population and physical land area.
Windlesham Parish Council has three cemeteries,
one in each village; a somewhat unusual situation since most minor
authorities rarely possess more than one.
BagshotThe burial ground at Bagshot
was established by 1807, this being the date of death on an inscription
on the oldest legible gravestone. There is a high wall enclosing
three sides of the cemetery that may have been constructed at
the same time as a large chapel of ease that was centrally placed
and built in 1821. Prior to this date the deceased had to be taken
for burial to the neighbouring village of Windlesham in which
the graveyard and parish church of St John the Baptist were situated.
Presumably villagers did not enjoy the right of burial under common
law in their own village until Bagshot became separated from the
ecclesiastical parish of Windlesham in 1874. An independent parish
church, dedicated to St Anne in 1884, was constructed in another
part of Bagshot without sufficient curtilage for an additional
or an alternative burial site. It must therefore be presumed that
the unused part Bagshot Cemetery was at that time deemed adequate
to satisfy future requirements for burial of the dead.
When parish councils were established under
the Local Government Act 1894 to administer civil affairs, Windlesham
Parish Council was created and immediately acquired the burial
ground which at that point technically became a cemetery. In the
early 1900's the chapel of ease was replaced by a small chapel
of rest that was used solely for Committal services.
WindleshamWhen WPC was established,
it also became the burial authority for Windlesham and acquired
most of the graveyard at St John the Baptist Church. The ecclesiastical
authority retained a small part of the graveyard surrounding the
Church that had no vacant space for further graves and which was
duly closed to further burials by Order of (Privy) Council.
The Cemetery was doubled in size to approximately
1.0 hectare (2.5 acres) during the 1960's to provide further land
for graves. A Memorial Wall for cremated remains was constructed
in the new section. Six years ago, the need for additional burial
ground prompted WPC to negotiate with the Diocese of Guildford
to buy part of an adjoining field held as glebe. A quarter of
this field was purchased in 1996 thus increasing the total area
of Windlesham Cemetery to 1.4 hectares ( 3.5 acres). The latest
land acquisition was duly incorporated into the Cemetery by extending
an existing asphalt driveway used by hearses, marking out grave
positions, installing water standpipes and extensive landscaping.
The first burials took place in this section in October 1998.
LightwaterThe Parish Church of
All Saints was built in 1903 at a time when the village of Lightwater
was starting to grow. However, no provision for the burial of
the dead was made until 1924 when WPC opened Lightwater Cemetery
and equipped it with a small mortuary and a waiting room. One
section of the Cemetery was reserved for Roman Catholic use, another
part was consecrated for Church of England burials but by far
the largest area remained unconsecrated. Lightwater Cemetery also
has a purpose-built Memorial Wall, similar to the one at Windlesham,
in front of which ashes urns and ashes caskets are buried in three
Bagshot Cemetery extends to about 0.5 hectare
(1.5 acres) and there is no scope for enlargement. In 1966 it
was closed for coffin interments except in but a few cases where
provision had already been made for a second coffin in existing
graves. Cremated remains can still be placed in existing graves
or at one place designated for the purpose in front of the perimeter
wall. This part of the wall is known as the Memorial Wall to which
three rows of metal plaques are affixed to commemorate the departed
and indicate their final resting place. The fabric of the chapel
is kept in a good state of repair even though the building no
longer has any functional role.
Part of perimeter wall collapsed four years
ago as a result of expansion by the roots of a mature beech tree
growing in a neighbouring property. The damaged part of the wall
was rebuilt, further buttresses were added to prevent further
leaning elsewhere, and most of the wall was repointed. No further
work to strengthen the wall should become necessary for many decades.
Bagshot Cemetery is generally regarded as being one of only a
few places left in the village having a secluded setting. Its
picturesque chapel surrounded by well-spaced mature trees enhance
its atmosphere of tranquillity and calm.
The former mortuary at Lightwater Cemetery has
now been converted into an office. The waiting room has been extended
and refurbished and serves as a convenient Council Chamber. Lightwater
Cemetery covers about 1.6 hectares (3.9 acres) of which about
half has developed into closed-canopy birch and pine woodland,
some of which will have to be cleared later this century when
needed for grave space. Coffin interments regularly take place
at both Lightwater and Windlesham Cemeteries, the latter being
used approximately four times as often as the former. These days
there are no longer areas reserved for use by specific denominations.
Most cremated remains that are laid to rest
in Windlesham, Lightwater or Bagshot Cemeteries come from Easthampstead,
Aldershot or Woking Crematoria. Ascertaining the overall proportion
of cremations to burials is not a calculation that WPC could reasonably
undertake as this authority has no involvement in the arrangements
for cremations. However, local opinion inclines to the view that
the proportion of coffin interments may be somewhat greater in
this parish than, say, the average for more urban areas within
Overall number of burials at Lightwater and
Windlesham has been fairly consistent during the last ten years.
However, the demand for purchase of grave spaces reserved for
future use has noticeably increased during the same period. Local
residents have mentioned that they are attracted to our cemeteries
because of their accessibility and neat appearance. People residing
further afield frequently arrange burials here because of some
former connection or simply because other cemeteries in the locality
are not so well maintained. WPC certainly prides itself on its
high standard of maintenance, though Lightwater Cemetery is difficult
to manage as it was originally heathland and still has only a
thin layer of impoverished soil above a substrate of sand.
WPC employs its own ground maintenance staff
to manage and maintain its cemeteries, recreational areas and
other facilities. A Work Supervisor schedules the daily work of
each operator. An extensive range of well-maintained groundcare
equipment is provided for the upkeep of these area. Staff are
trained in the use of equipment and carry certificates for specialised
work, such as use of selective herbicides. Staff are required
to be alert to their duty of care to the public at large, and
to report any health and safety problems immediately whenever
they arise. A methodical inspection of memorials, including testing
for stability, is undertaken every six months by the Work Supervisor.
Any found to have movement by applying no more than a reasonably
amount of effort are laid flat on the grave with any inscription
uppermost. No memorial is removed from the grave on which it was
placed except with the prior authority of the person owning the
An accident occurred a few years ago involving
two children who were playing in Windlesham Cemetery, contrary
to WPC Cemetery Regulations, while in the presence of both parents
of one of them. A memorial headstone had become unstable as a
result of frost damage to a cemented joint and was pushed over
by one child, falling upon the foot the other one who sustained
bone fractures. The injured child eventually made a full recovery
and was duly compensated under the WPC insurance policy for the
injury sustained. A subsequent internal inquiry revealed a combination
of several factors contributing to the accident, not the least
of which was method of fixing memorials commonly used a few decades
General administration and maintenance of cemeteries
are funded from a budget derived partly from income and partly
from the precept. The sale of grave plots and fees for burials
provides around 20 per cent of the total expenditure. A substantial
surcharge is levied upon those who had not resided within one
of the three villages of the civil parish at the time of death
or immediately prior to entering a rest home or nursing home.
All graves are purchased either in advance or
when making arrangements for burial. Many graves inevitably become
neglected for a variety of reasons. In practice, the ownership
of individual graves becomes increasingly hard to trace with the
passage of time because next of kin move to other areas or die.
Therefore it is impossible to maintain an accurate record of who
is responsible for purchased graves.
Nowadays, and in common with most other cemeteries
and graveyards, full kerb sets are not permitted. WPC does, however,
allow a considerable latitude in the design, type of material,
size and inscription of memorials.
Settlement, in the form of natural consolidation
of soil put back into graves, normally takes place within a few
months but may not occur until many years afterwards. If the grave
has been left unplanted, more soil can be added, as required,
by the ground staff to raise the level to that of the surrounding
ground surface. If subsidence occurs after flowers or shrubs have
been planted, permission must firstly be obtained from relatives
before extra soil is added. If no flowers or shrubs have been
planted and there is grass growing on a grave plot, the ground
staff will cut the grass during routine mowing of adjacent areas
of lawn. Care is taken while using grass cutting equipment in
the vicinity of grave plots, so as not to damage plants or memorials,
including green grass staining of light-coloured stonework by
careless use of filament strimmers. Commemorative bench seats
and trees planted around the cemeteries are treated with the same
respect as all other personal memorials.
WPC takes great pride in maintaining its three
war memorials which it also insures against impact damage.
The war memorial at Windlesham is situated inside
Windlesham Cemetery. It is thoroughly cleaned every other year
to remove discolouration resulting from deposits from overhanging
trees. The inscriptions are renovated roughly every ten to twenty
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission provides
a small annual sum towards the upkeep of six memorials to individuals
killed in the two World Wars and buried in the parish.
Exclusive Right of Burial for 100 years, the
maximum permitted under the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order
1977, may be purchased by anyone upon payment of the current fee.
WPC cemeteries are now all non-denominational
and to date there have been no problems regarding the juxtaposition
of graves with particular religious associations.
Because of unstable ground conditions, a maximum
of two coffin interments are permitted in a single grave. Effectively
this limits excavations to 2.15 metres (7 feet).
WPC has sufficient burial space within its three
cemeteries to meet estimated local requirements for several decades
ahead. In the case of Lightwater Cemetery, there is probably sufficient
space for over 100 years, based upon current usage and vacant
land within the village that could be developed for residential
housing. When the latest extension to Windlesham Cemetery becomes
full in around 2030, it is hoped that another quarter, or all
three remaining quarters, of the remaining glebe field can be
added to the cemetery thus providing burial land for an estimated
30 to 100 years.
It has always been the policy of WPC to permit
burials of those who have had no connection with Bagshot, Lightwater
or Windlesham but to restrict the number of "non-residential"
interments by periodic adjustment of the surcharge when fees are
reviewed, normally every four years.
WPC has a firm policy not to re-use any existing
graves, nor to infill spaces between adjacent graves.