• Check the ownership and legal status of the graveyard and the structures within it, and seek the owner's permission to do work there.
  • Contact the relevant local and national authorities before you commence your scheme.
  • Plan out the programme of work carefully, beginning with the least difficult tasks.
  • Clear the site using only hand strimmers or other hand tools.
  • Designate dump sites away from the monuments.
  • Survey the site, marking in the church, any other buildings and all gravestones and memorials.
  • Retain healthy trees, and if planting new trees, choose native species.
  • Leave all hummocks in the ground, they may mark structural and archaeological features.
  • Maintain existing pathways using gravel, small stones and grit.
  • Keep boundary walls, banks and hedges.
  • Retain original gates and railings.
  • Wait until the site is cleared to decide on conservation of structural remains.
  • Keep all architectural and sculptural fragments, record their position and report their finding to the relevant authority.


  • Start without professional advice and a clear work plan.
  • Try and demolish or remove anything from the site without the landowner's permission ­and the approval of the relevant authority.
  • Dig graves near walls; they can cause structural damage.
  • Attempt unlicensed excavations, it is illegal.
  • Use machinery to clear or level the site.
  • Burn off vegetation, or use total spectrum weedkillers.
  • Plant wild plants without expert consultation.
  • Uproot ivy, trees, plants or gravestones.
  • Pull ivy off buildings or trees.
  • Pull ivy off fragile gravestones or composite tombs/memorials.
  • Use wire brushes or sandblasters
  • Apply paint to gravestone inscriptions unless they were painted originally.
  • Repoint any masonry without professional advice.
  • Use ribbon pointing on old boundary walls or buildings.

All over the country there are professionals and craftsmen who have devoted their working lives to getting things right. Seek them out, pay them for their advice and skills, it will repay you many times over.

John Ruskin made an interesting point when he said: 'The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten'.


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