Halton Requires Statutory Declarations For Grave Transfers

Since 30th October 2023, Halton Council have made a major change to how they arrange the transfer of ownership of graves. They will now be requiring a Statutory Declaration for grave transfers if the owner is deceased.

statutory declaration grave

Entrance to Widnes Cemetery

This change protects the interests of the local authority and grave owners and also ensures that the graves are transferred to the rightful person. It will, however, cause some inevitable hold-ups in arranging burials a transfer of ownership is required.

Any burial or work on a memorial in Halton cemeteries must now be signed for by the grave owner. In circumstances where the owner is deceased, the grave will need to be transferred to the rightful next owner. If the grave owner did not specify in their will who should inherit the grave, this is where the Statutory Declaration comes in.

Whoever is claiming the grave should, preferably using a solicitor, draw up a document containing the the deceased’s full name, date of death, grave location, their own full name, address and date of birth, as well as their relationship to the deceased. The document should also contain an Undertaking indemnifying Halton Council against all actions, proceedings, demands, costs or expenses of any nature (including the exhumation of any burial) should it be subsequently proven that the claim to ownership of the grave was unfounded. Putting it simply, if you make a false statement to claim grave ownership, the council will be suing you for expenses later on.

If there is a situation where several generations have passed since the grave owner passed away, then there could be several claimants to the plot. In there circumstances, written statements from those who could claim ownership consenting to you taking it over will be required.

Previously Halton Council have used forms of indemnity for transfer of grave ownership. However they do not carry the same legal weight as a Statutory Declaration, which is a legally binding document. As such it will need to be signed in the presence of an authorised court official, a commissioner for oaths, a magistrate or solicitor. The council will be able to arrange this, but they are asking for patience with the new process.

Burying  a loved one is a distressing time and this is an additional pressure, but it is something that has to be done for the protection of all interests moving forward. It also provides an extra layer of assurance for Sarsfield Memorials, as we also will not undertake any work on a memorial unless we see proof of grave ownership.


Sarsfield Offers Trustworthy Grave Restoration Service

At Sarsfield Memorials we take pride in restoring existing memorials as well as supplying new ones. We do accept that our prices are higher than those charged by companies offering general grave cleaning and restoration services. However, there are reasons for this, which we will explain here.

In the last couple of years, we have received a lot of enquiries from customers who have paid to have their memorial cleaned and initially been happy with the job, only for problems to occur later.

A common mistake made by some cleaning companies is to use acidic chemicals on marble, which in time will yellow the stone. The same will happen when using a cleaner with a high alkaline content. The most appropriate way to clean marble is with warm soapy water and diamond abrasives. This method may take a little longer to yield the results, but the marble will not be damaged.

Lettering is another area of concern when it comes to cutting corners with grave restoration. Overpainting lead letters only provides a short term solution. Proper restoration of lettering involves re-cutting and leading them by hand and ideally should be done in the workshop. This does take time, it increases the cost, but it also guarantees lasting quality workmanship.

Restoring any memorial that is more than twenty years old often requires reinforcing it with a BS8415 anchor system. This was a national regulatory standard set down by the government in 2005 to regulate the industry when it comes to memorial safety. Local authorities periodically test all headstones and any that do not withstand a certain force are laid flat or have a stake put in place and it is the owner of the graves responsibility to have the memorial fixed to BS8415 standard. Only BRAMM or NAMM accredited fixers can work in cemeteries to install the anchoring.

Most local authorities do charge masons an annual registration fee to work in cemeteries, and we pay for our fixers to learn and get their BRAMM or NAMM accreditation. This is not about local authorities and masons looking after each other, it is about safety and ensuring only properly qualified people are working with memorials.

We must stress that cleaning and restoration of memorials is not an area which  Sarsfield is reliant on to make ends meet. Our core business is assisting customers in providing a new and lasting memorial for their loved one. What we cannot ignore though, is the fact a number of companies have set themselves up as restoration service without investing in BRAMM or NAMM accreditation. We are more than happy to undertake such restoration work as we can guarantee all work will be done to full BRAMM standards, within the regulations and there will not be any cutting corners. That is why many customers who we have supplied memorials to over the last 76 years are approaching us to have their memorial refurbished and fixed inline with the British Standard which gives them peace of mind for future generations.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss a memorial restoration and in most circumstances we are able to provide a no obligation quote.

Memorials For Unmarked Graves

In the last couple of years, we have received a lot of enquiries regarding memorials for unmarked graves. This, we understand, is down to the increased amount of family research undertaken during the Covid lockdown. There are rules and regulations however regarding when memorials can be placed at previously unmarked graves.

An unmarked private grave in Allerton Cemetery

Firstly, it is important to clear up some of the confusion that can occur when it comes to unmarked and public graves. Public graves are not necessarily unmarked, just as private ones are not always marked. They can both be one or the other.

In local authority cemeteries you will often see large grassed areas in between sections. These often contain hundreds of public burials, with as many as twelve in a plot. Public graves are not routinely marked by local authorities, but small memorials are allowed there, hence you will usually see small flat grave markers within these areas.

Just because a grave is privately owned does not mean it is a marked one. Throughout cemeteries you will see row of headstones with gaps in them. These are where there is a private plot that has not been marked. There are numerous reasons why this is the case. It could be that the memorial has become unsafe and removed, or that the family members could not afford to place one there or simply chose not to do so.

Public graves are often referred to as paupers’ graves and it is right that anybody who may have died in destitution was buried there. However, there were often situations whereby the deceased may have had the means to buy a private grave, but desired against this preferring their relatives to spend the money elsewhere. It is not uncommon for family researchers to be shocked when they find an ancestor has not been buried in a private plot.

It is possible to get public graves marked, but there are some restrictions. They must be flat and no more than eighteen by eighteen inches, with a base no more than three inches in height. You do not need to be worried about seeking permission from the relatives of others buried in the same plot to place a marker there. With the public graves in Liverpool’s cemeteries containing as many as fifteen burials, this would be a near impossible task if it were necessary. However, the council does place a limit of four memorials on each public grave and it is on a first come first served basis. It is fair to say though that it is extremely rare to see even two memorials on one grave plot.

When it comes to marking private graves where there is no memorial, there is a lot more flexibility in terms of size and type. After that, it is not so simple. Headstones can only be erected with the permission of the grave owner. If the grave owner cannot be traced or is deceased, you would need to demonstrate you have right of burial there. Your local cemetery office should be able to advise on whether you have any realistic prospect of claiming grave ownership.

Hopefully this blog has answered some of the questions regarding placing of memorials on graves of family members that are unmarked. Sarsfield Memorials are of course happy to discuss any work you may be considering having done whether it be a memorial plaque on a public plot or putting a headstone on a private grave. Please be reminded we will only carry out work on plots with permission of the legally registered grave owner.