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Headstone safety testing at St Cyr’s churchyard

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The families of people who are buried in St Cyr’s churchyard in Stonehouse have been asked to check whether their relatives’ memorials have been identified as unsafe.

Stroud District Council is responsible for approximately 2,000 memorial stones in one active cemetery and seven closed cemeteries in the Stroud district.

Recent safety testing on cemetery structures in St Cyr’s churchyard resulted in 71 memorials being identified in urgent need of repair.

Responsibility for the maintenance of memorials lies with their owner – usually the closest family member of the deceased.

Councils have a duty to ensure that cemeteries and graveyards for which they are responsible are safe. Memorials can become unstable and cause accidents. To try to prevent this, most councils now test the safety of memorials at regular intervals.

Between 1979 and 2009 eight people in the UK were killed when a memorial fell on them, according to Ministry of Justice figures: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5a7d7910e5274a676d532467/safety-burial-grounds.pdf 

The memorials in most urgent need of repair have been made temporarily safe by the and a notice has been attached to all with information about the action needed. Where records exist, the owners have been contacted.

“This is a sensitive, but necessary measure,” said Cllr Chloe Turner, Chair of SDC Environment Committee.

“We know that visiting the grave of a loved one is important for many of us, and we want to ensure the churchyards we are responsible for are safe for everyone to visit while showing respect to those who have passed.”

“Many of the memorial stones in St Cyr’s Churchyard are very old – the oldest of which dates from 1882 – and often very heavy, posing a risk to visitors if they lean, or develop structural faults.

“In many cases records of memorial owners do not exist or are out of date so we would like people who know they have relatives buried in St Cyr’s Churchyard to contact us if they believe a memorial belongs to a member of their family.”

Cllr Robin Layfield, vice chair added: “Graveyards are important part of our heritage, providing places of peace and tranquillity and are often thriving wildlife reserves.

“St Cyr’s Churchyard is a popular walking route for access to the restored section of the Stroudwater Canal near Ocean Jubilee Bridge, and we are working closely with the church warden/church to ensure it is safe for everyone.”

The cemeteries Stroud District Council is responsible for are Brimscombe Cemetery; St Cyr’s, Stonehouse; St Mary’s, Rodborough; Christchurch, Chalford; St Mary’s, Berkeley; Holy Trinity, Brimscombe; St Michael and All Angels, Bussage and Woodchester Cemetery.

Safety testing at St Mary’s Church, Rodborough and Brimscombe Cemetery will be carried out later this year, with the remaining cemeteries tested as part of a five-year rolling plan.

If a memorial belonging to your family has been identified as unsafe, please contact 01453 766321 or email community.services@stroud.gov.uk

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