Memorandum by West Hoe CemeteryBishop's
Waltham Hampshire (CEM 24)
The following memorandum is submitted by the
West Hoe Cemetery Management committee a sub-committee of Bishop's
Waltham and Swanmore Parish Councils in order to assist with the
inquiry into cemeteries.
There is a requirement for environmental control
of cemeteries, especially with the increasing pressure on land
use for housing, farming and open space. There is also requirement
to control the spread of new age burial areas (Green burials).
Historically, burials were always associated
with the church and subsequent burial within the church grounds
especially in both town and village areas well into the late Victorian
era when both cremation and public burial areas came into being.
As the 20th century evolved churchyards became
full and more use was made of public cemeteries with no forward
planning being apparent.
There is a requirement for the ongoing provision
of new burial areas, which are now mostly being planned as community
cemeteries serving the local population of a given area. There
is also a requirement for investigation into the sensitive re-use
of old burial grounds.
Cemeteries/churchyards have an important role
within the community, as places of rest for loved ones thereby
giving a focal point for the grieving process. This process requires
a centre point for families therefore requiring a local cemetery
or crematorium, which can be visited. There is a problem in that
families attend graves for a short period, but should the cemetery
be a distance from the home then the grave becomes non-attended.
Local cemeteries and crematoriums should be
planned with the family members being encouraged to attend the
grave or ashes dispersal area.
Such areas have a given lifespan and therefore
a requirement will arise for the control and management of such
areas, coupled with consideration for the provision of new burial
grounds that take into account future demand.
Consideration should also be given to central
funeral areas that provide for both cremation and burial, include
green space burial with tree planting schemes such as Harwood
Park in Hertfordshire.
1a. Bishop's Waltham and Swanmore West Hoe
The West Hoe cemetery is situated on the boundary
of Bishop's Waltham and Swanmore, serving both communities. The
management committee, a sub-committee of both parish councils,
also accepts requests for burial from outside the area, mainly
from people who have a family affiliation with both areas.
Commenced in 1980 as a necessity, West Hoe cemetery
is a non-denominational cemetery that came into being at a time
when both St Peter's (Bishop's Waltham) and St Barnabas (Swanmore)
churchyards approached full. There is an area which enables the
interment of ashes as a garden of remembrance, with a pre-arranged
The West Hoe cemetery land covers some 15 acres,
of which around half forms the present cemetery, with the remaining
area let for cultivation divided from the present area by a natural
2. THE CONDITION
The condition of existing cemeteries causes
present day problems with most cemeteries being overgrown, especially
in the areas that contain graves dating back from the mid 20th
century which have become uncared for.
The conditions of these areas become un-kept
and derelict due to financial pressures, also next of kin have
no interest in the upkeep of the grave, or they themselves have
passed away. Such areas should be kept tidy to a point but with
an ecological application for the area.
2a. West Hoe Cemetery
West Hoe is maintained to a high standard in
accordance with a laid down maintenance schedule drawn up by the
committee with a contractor. A caretaker is also employed. The
cemetery is also managed with ecology in mind and there are long
grass areas, with microclimates around tree bases. This management
system has been in place for the past three years with a marked
increase in wildlife.
The cemetery has also gained full points each
year for the past four years in the Southern England in Bloom
competition on an annual basis.
3. ROLE OF
DETR AND GOVERNMENT
There is a pressing requirement for all responsible
government agencies to oversee the care and condition of all cemeteries,
whilst putting into place a forward plan for the provision of
new burial areas. These may be community, or urban burial areas
in keeping with projected future requirement placed against the
increased lifespan of the Population.
Such plans would require funding through County,
Town and Parish Councils. There should be a controlled policy
regarding the introduction of private burial grounds. Consideration
should also be given to the re-use of old burial grounds even
for the scattering of ashes, with memorials.
New age burials in green sites should also be
considered and where suitable introduced with tree planting programmes.
Consideration of allowing pet owners to be interred within pet
cemeteries should be considered in order to meet the changes taking
place in the world.
There is also a requirement to further educate
people towards cremation, with associated memorial gardens and
woodlands to be seen as a way of the future. Such a move would
elevate the pressure placed for the provision of precious open
space to be given up as burial grounds.
The general public should be educated towards
the protection and maintenance of existing cemeteries and the
introduction of new burial areas. Cremation should be encouraged
as an accepted way of life, although some 75 per cent of funerals
today are cremations. There should be greater use of a charter
for the bereaved.
4. LONG TERM
Both District and Local Councils should undertake
long term planning, with projected burial requirements being placed
into the local plan iaw the local population figures.
4a. West Hoe
West Hoe has been in use for 20 years. There
is in place a long-term plan for the development of the cemetery
taking into account the requirement for burial and interment of
Having taken 20 years to complete the first
phase of interments totalling 324 burial plots that are single,
double or triple depth as requested at the first interment into
an identified grave.
The second burial area has commenced. It is
not possible to predict how long this area will take to complete.
As an estimate the area at present available could take 100 years
5. THE MANAGEMENT
The management of cemeteries should fall to
the area or District Council. Not all Parish Councils have burial
responsibility unless the local churchyard becomes full. There
is then a requirement for further burial space to be provided.
Where possible both Local Councils and Parish
Councils should take joint responsibility in both providing and
caring for burial areas. This should also include plans for future
5a. West Hoe
The West Hoe cemetery management committee works
as a combined Parish Council burial authority with the committee
consisting of three Parish Councillors from the two Parish Councils
who elect to serve on the committee. The local firm of undertakers
is also represented.
The Chair of the committee rotates between the
two Parish Councils on a yearly basis. The management committee
has worked this way since inception; this system works very well
and should be further encouraged elsewhere within Parish Councils.
The management committee is working to a long-term
plan regarding the design and layout of the cemetery.
Maintenance is carried out by contract with
a grounds maintenance group whilst at the same time employing
a caretaker who works part-time in caring for the general appearance
of West Hoe, removing faded tributes, at the same time working
on small projects ie placement of memorial seats etc.
The management committee is aware that as the
cemetery expands in size the financial responsibility of caring
for the grounds and graves will increase. Whilst a flat charge
is made for interments no further charges are made with regards
to cover the grounds maintenance.
At the present time costs for maintenance are
taken from the income made from interment charges. It may not
be possible for this to continue in the future as prices charged
are at the top of the local range. To increase charges to cover
increasing costs would have a negative effect.
It is generally felt that charges must stay
level and possibly some form of maintenance charge considered,
or the fact will be that the respective Parish Councils will be
required to meet the cost of maintenance in the near future.
6. FUNDING AND
As with most major undertakings in the present
day, costs are prohibitive and there is a general requirement
to undertake budgeting whilst still presenting a service to the
The future of cemeteries will only be viable
when funding and maintenance planning is available in order to
care for cemeteries both large and small.
6a. West Hoe
As discussed previously the West Hoe management
committee is working closely to a laid down plan that is reviewed
on an annual basis. The present members feel that their work can
be handed on to future members of the committee when dealing with
the expansion of the cemetery in the coming years.
West Hoe cemetery runs itself within the annual
level of income received from interments, coupled with the administration
charges arising from memorial applications, in general this works
Major projects are specified and costed, with
the project cost met from both Parish Councils on a two thirds
to Bishop's Waltham, one third basis to Swanmore. This year the
car park was resurfaced, the project for 2001 is to replace the
main gate with wooden gates.
A millennium project was planned for the cemetery
to provide a contemplation area or quiet area for the use of people
to sit whilst waiting for funerals to commence. This would be
a garden area with seating close to the lych gate and the entrance
to the cemetery.
The committee was refused funding by the festival
awards for all schemes which disappointed the committee.
With project cost and design completed the committee
have sought and obtained 50 per cent funding from the District
Council with the remaining funds being obtained from the Parish
Councils ensuring that the project will be undertaken.
The farmer of the adjoining land to the cemetery
has recently signed up to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme under
MAFF. This will see the adjoining land returned to green fields
with wild grass and flower planting which the management committee
The first 20 years have seen the shaping of
West Hoe and with a given plan the future of West Hoe is assured
and the cemetery should be capable of serving the surrounding
community for at least the next 100 years.
Eric C Birbeck
Bishop's Waltham Parish Council, Chair West Hoe Cemetery