Closed churchyards

Cornwall Council maintains more than 90 closed churchyards.

Changes to local government funding mean we have had to review maintenance standards across all public areas.  This has included how frequently the grass is cut in closed churchyards. 

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Our contractors cut the grass in closed churchyards three times per year.  We ensure that all sites under our care remain safe and that all main footpaths and entrances are kept clear throughout the year.  This is a sympathetic wildlife focused approach and offers many ecological benefits while maintaining churchyards in a respectful way. 

Churches and other stakeholder groups can choose to fund extra maintenance for their closed churchyards, and we currently work with a number of parochial church councils to provide individual maintenance arrangements to meet local priorities.

When a churchyard is closed, the parochial church council can transfer the responsibility for managing the land to the Council.  Once this has taken place, the Diocese is not required to make any financial contribution towards managing the land and the Council does not receive any additional funding from the Government for managing closed churchyards.

When a Church of England churchyard is closed, the local authority is required to take on the maintenance of the site, if formally requested to do so by the Diocese. We’re responsible for features such as boundary walls, memorials, fences and footpaths while any buildings (including ruins) remain the responsibility of the church.

Even when management responsibility is transferred to the Council the parochial church council still owns the churchyard, but Cornwall Council is responsible for grass cutting, tree works and site safety.  The church is not required to make any contribution towards this and we receive no additional funding from the Government.

However, churches and other stakeholder groups can fund extra work if they want more than our standard maintenance package.

Our CORMAC contractors cut the grass in closed churchyards three times per year on average. This level of maintenance balances biodiversity with public access.  The first cut is targeted for July, the second in mid-September and the final one before winter starts.  CORMAC only clear grass cuttings from closed churchyards after the first cut of the year.

All major pathways and entrances are kept clear of growth throughout the year.  We also try to cut and maintain pathways to regularly tended graves. If you would like to arrange for a route to be cut a particular headstone, please contact your local church warden or email CORMAC using the details on this page.

After every cut, loose grass clippings are cleared off headstones and grave areas using portable blowers or soft hand brushes. While every effort is made to remove grass cuttings from memorials, it is inevitable that some grass will remain.

We maintain hedgerows in closed churchyards on a cyclical basis unless priority work is required in the interests of public safety.

Our tree officer is responsible for identifying, programming and supervising all work relating to trees. 

We use qualified inspectors to carry out a safety inspection programme, which monitors, tests and records the stability of all memorials in closed churchyards. The frequency of these inspections is based on risk and the significance of site, and for closed churchyards these range from every six months to every six years.

If a memorial is found to be unsafe, we may need to lay it down.  If this is necessary, we will make every effort to contact the owner of the monument before any action is taken.  However, in some cases immediate action is necessary in the interests of public safety. 

Any work will be completed in a respectful manner. A sign, asking the grave owner to contact Cornwall Council, will also be attached to the memorial.

If you have any questions about closed churchyards and memorial safety, contact us using the details on this page.

Changes to local government funding mean we have had to review maintenance standards for all public areas we look after, including how frequently the grass is cut in closed churchyards.   We cut the grass in closed churchyards three times a year on average.

There are many great examples of partnerships between volunteers, Cornwall Council, parish councils and parochial church councils working together to improve closed churchyards. Discuss your ideas with your church warden in the first instance.  They can then arrange a meeting with a Council representative.  Or you can contact our CORMAC contractors by using the details on this page.

A closed churchyard is one that has been closed by order of the Privy Council. The Diocese owns the land, but the local authority is responsible for ongoing maintenance.  In Cornwall this can be either Cornwall Council or a local town or parish council.

A cemetery is not attached to a church.  It can be any place where the deceased are buried.  In Cornwall, both Cornwall Council and the town and parish councils can maintain cemeteries. 

The transfer of maintenance responsibilities takes place under Section 215 of the Local Government Act 1972. If a Church of England churchyard is closed to further burials in accordance with an Order in Council under the Burial Act 1853, the church can ask for responsibility for maintenance to be transferred to the local authority.

The transfer is compulsory and does not depend on the condition of the churchyard or the local authority’s ability pay for the maintenance costs.

Please contact CORMAC using the details on this page.

Please contact your local church warden or email CORMAC using the details on this page.

Wherever possible we will work with the church to accommodate changes to our cutting schedules.  However, any additional grass cutting will need to be paid for.   You must discuss your requirements direct with the church at least six weeks in advance of your event so the maintenance team can programme the work.

Our contractors use a combination of rotary mowers and strimmers to cut around memorials, borders and kerb edge sections and will sweep or blow the off headstones following each cut.  However, with over 60,000 memorials to maintain we aren’t able to clean individual memorials by hand. 

It is inevitable that some grass clippings will settle on headstones.  This is very weather dependant, though commemorative objects placed on or around monuments will also make it harder to cut and clear grass. 

Grass clippings will not cause any damage and visitors are welcome to wipe off their memorials if they wish to.