Be Cautious Over Grave Care Services

The Covid 19 pandemic has seen a rise in the number of small businesses offering grave care services. As a licensed monumental mason that has been operating for over seventy years, we would urge caution however if you are planning to use one of these grave care services.

A headstone before and after it was cleaned by Sarsfield Memorials craftsmen

In most local authorities, no license is needed to tend to or clean a grave. One exception is Knowsley, where a cemetery a permit is required. Cemetery fees also apply to the Archdiocese run Ford and Yew Tree cemeteries. Cemeteries were no permit or fee is required, including those maintained by Liverpool city council, mean that there is nothing to stop businesses offering to clean and tidy up graves, as well as change ornamentation or chippings for example.

The pandemic has limited most people’s ability to travel and forced many to shield and/or isolate. This has provided a perfect opportunity for grave care services to step in and fill a void, offering to clean and tidy the area around memorials. Some of these companies have been joining local history and cemetery groups on social media to try and gain customers. They have seized on any posts showing photos of headstones in need of TLC to plug themselves.

Genealogy has become increasingly popular during Covid. People furloughed from work, or unable to enjoy their usual hobbies, have been using the opportunity to research their family history. Graves of long-lost relatives have been uncovered, many times in a state of disrepair. This has become another opportunity for grave care services businesses to step in and target potential customers, offering to locate their plots in the cemetery, as well as giving the opportunity of a clean-up.

Some grave care services have gone beyond simple cleaning and tidying of graves, taking advantage of customers not knowing the rules. An example is regilding of lettering using poor quality paint or using filler on leaded letters which is not allowed and would not be done by experienced masons. However, the reality is most customers would not generally know this, until it is too late.

Our staff have also observed another grave care company remove a headstone to clean it, then not replace it properly with an anchoring system. Aside from the operative having no authority to do this, at some point in the future the grave owner will face a bill to have the memorial made safe. Even worse they could have a legal case again them regarding the safety and stability of the memorial if an accident should occur, or the council are within their rights to lay it flat.

One cemetery friends’ group has made us aware that one company went as far as digging into the ground and disturbing a grave to find the brick that marks the plot number, then placed a pole there so it could be located by the relative, disturbing any burial grave like they did is not allowed.

We recommend that you research masons local to the area, read reviews on the companies, check they are registered with local councils, speak to them and ask questions. If you are handing over money for a job that you cannot do yourself, pay for a quality job by experienced masons.

If you do decide against a mason and use grave care services providers, which we acknowledge offer competitive rates, to clean your memorial, please check their reviews and ask to see proof of liability insurance. Also ask to see examples of their work a few years down the line, to see what if any damage has occurred. There is a risk that memorials can be ruined if they are not cleaned with the right materials, ask how they are cleaned and what products are used.

If you are going to use a grave services company, please shop around and do not accept the first offer that comes along, especially if they contact you via social media or are touting for business in the Cemetery. Be wary of any approaches in cemeteries at weekends. Monumental Masons are only allowed to work in cemeteries over the weekends by consent, work is generally not carried out over the weekends unless the weather has been exceptionally bad or the mason is very busy. This is because the Cemeteries have a lot more visitors over the weekends and families like to pay their respects to their loved ones without machinery going in the background. Also the cemetery staff (who only work Monday to Friday) like to monitor the Masons and what work is carried out in the cemeteries.

Sarsfield Memorials is Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental mason business and we offer grave tendering and cleaning services. In some cases, our prices may be higher than grave care services, but we are confident that this is reflected in the quality of our work. If you would like to discuss the cleaning of a memorial, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote.


Slate Memorials

slate memorialsSlate is a wonderful alternative to some of the more common forms of materials used for memorials. Slate memorials are of supreme quality and extremely durable against the elements, providing a lasting tribute to your loved one.

Slate memorials can be cut to a range of shapes, including rectangle, square, or oval. The tops can be rounded, gently curved, or angled. Alternatively, the slate can be left in its natural shape, which means chipped edges. Care does have to be taken when shaping the slate, so non rectangle designs do tend to cost more.

Traditionally letters on slate headstones are hand carved to a deep v cut letter. Some families will request an artistic style of lettering, so the memorial has an artisan look to it, other families prefer a simple bold letter.

Although it can be unforgiving when mistakes are made, for the skilled mason it is a fabulous material to work on, it is a very tactile material. Letters can also be sandblasted which gives a more rounded effect. This is not our preferred method to letter a slate memorial, but we can offer it, if the family prefer. Lettering on slate is either
‘left from the tool’ once carved, which means it has no colour, or it is painted white or silver. We can gild it if required, but that would not be a traditional finish to the lettering.

Grey slate from North Wales is often used for memorials. However, at Sarsfield Memorials the type we receive the most requests for are Cumbrian or Lakeland Green slate, from the Lake District. This is very versatile when it comes to carving and it combines well with the cemetery landscape. Green slate is never polished, but instead rubbed down to keep smooth. It can be cleaned easily and does not lose its colour due to weathering.

One third of the height of slate memorials go under the ground to keep it secure. The memorial can be easily removed if additional inscriptions are needed, without fear of damage. You can add a base if you wish, so that it looks like a lawn memorial and would be fixed in the normal way on a concrete foundation and an anchoring system.

Sarsfield Memorials have a wide range of slate options, whilst we can also bespoke them to your requirements. Please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to discuss with you and provide a free no obligation quote.



Cremated Remains Plots

As more people choose to have their loved ones cremated rather than buried, it follows that there is increasing demand for cremated remains plots in cemeteries. At Sarsfield Memorials we have found though that some customers are confused as to what they are actually purchasing, as there are a number of different options.

Focussing solely on cemeteries and crematoriums maintained by Liverpool City Council, then how your loved ones ashes are interred or scattered vary considerably. What you choose very much is to do with how much you are willing to spend and in what ways you intend paying your respects.

cremated remains plots If quiet contemplation and reflection is your wish, then options offered at the gardens of remembrance in Anfield and Springwood crematoriums may well be for you. Here, ashes can be scattered and a memorial rose planted with a plaque displayed for up to five years at a cost of £152. Alternatively, a wall plaque is £229 or spaces in colonnade niches available for £456 for up to ten years, with further charges for inscriptions and photographs. At Springwood there is a dedicated baby garden of rest with plaque options available. In all these cases the plaques are removed at the end of the time period unless you pay for renewal.

If you prefer to remember your loved one in a more personal setting for a longer period, or you want to keep ashes of family members are a better option. Allerton, Anfield, and Everton cemeteries have plots solely for the interment of cremated remains, each holding up to four caskets. These cost £643 for Liverpool residents and have a lease of 75 years, which is renewable. These plots allow for permanent memorials to be placed there. Subjects to size restrictions, these memorials can be bespoke with whatever inscriptions and images you wish to have added.

cremated remains plotsThe third and final option involves no payment at all to the council or memorial masons. There is no legal requirement for ashes to be disposed of in designated cremated remains plots. So if you wish to bury them in your garden, or scatter them in your loved one’s favourite place, there is nothing to stop you. If you have a family grave in a council cemetery, their name could be added to the existing memorial as a permanent record of their life.

Sarsfield Memorials is Liverpool’s Oldest daily run monumental mason business. We are licensed to work in all of Liverpool’s cemeteries and have a range of memorial options available. If you would like to discuss your requirements please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to provide a quote with no obligation.

Sacred Heart & Our Lady of Lourdes Memorials

In a more secular age, religious themes are not as common in cemeteries as in times gone by. That doesn’t mean they have gone altogether though and there remains a high demand for two figures in particular, those being the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Lourdes memorials.

white marble Sacred Heart against black granite

The Sacred Heart represents Christ’s love for humanity and has developed to indicate love between two people. The significance of Our Lady of Lourdes is the Roman Catholic shrine at Lourdes, France and its healing qualities. This had made it a popular pilgrimage site that is relatively easy to access from Britain.

In both respects, memorials depicting the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Lourdes may do so by way of a carved statue incorporated into the headstone, as an engraving, or instead separate ornamentation standing freely. This allows for a range of options in terms of both subtlety and price. The symbols can be an integral part of the memorial, or a discreet one. Either way, there are plenty of choices available for you depending on to what extent you want the Sacred Heart or Our Lady of Lourdes as part of the memorial, alongside your budget.

Our Lady of Lourdes Memorials etching

Statues for Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Lourdes memorials are usually white. As part of a white marble memorial they blend in nicely, but alternatively they can provide a sharp contrast if the headstone is black or grey granite. Any such memorial is sure to stand out in any cemetery. Improvements in technology have allowed for the symbols to be etched onto headstones more easily. The etching can then be left at the material’s natural colour or for added effect, hand painted in colours of your choosing.

Sarsfield Memorials have been a family run monumental mason business operating in Liverpool for over seventy years. We have plenty of options for memorials with Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Lourdes designs. Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote.


Cemeteries During Lockdown

England is facing a winter of restrictions of varying degrees depending on where you live. While the lockdown measures do not prohibit visits to cemeteries, the COVID 19 pandemic has had a significant impact on how local authorities and monumental  masons operate.

During the tightest of restrictions that were in place in March and April 2020, some local authorities, Bolton being one example, closed cemeteries completely even though they were not compelled to do so. Others, such as St Helens, asked people to help maintain social distancing by not exercising or walking their dogs in them.

Cemeteries lockdown

As with so many of the restrictions, the rules were very ambiguous – technically tending a loved one’s grave was not an essential journey if you went by car. However if you walked, jogged or cycled there, stopped to rest and carry out some grave maintenance, then it was arguably justifiable.

As people were allowed to go to work if they could not do so at home, then grave tending firms and masons could operate. This was not as simple as it seems though when it came to jobs that had to be done by more than one person. For masons, maintaining a safe social distance whilst moving heavy memorials was not practical and it took some time for proper procedures to be developed that kept staff safe. There were also issues around shielding and self isolation that reduced the ability to provide a service.


The services offered by local authority cemeteries also continues to differ in many areas. There has been a lot of publicity regarding how many can attend funerals, but not so much about staff shortages in cemetery departments due to sickness and the requirements to self isolate. This meant that in many areas interment of ashes has been suspended with regular burials being prioritised.

Even though masons have now worked out the practicalities of installing memorials or removing them for repair/renovation, they have been faced with other problems. There have been supply shortages with many materials due to import/export problems posed by the pandemic. Black granite is one example of a material in short supply, whilst earlier in the year the total shutdown in Italy posed problems when it comes to sourcing some types of marble.

We are now in a situation in respect of the burials from the peak of the pandemic, where the ground has now settled and memorials can be placed there. This has led to a surge in demand for new memorials, but coupled with the supply shortage and the fact autumn and winter is not an ideal time for working in cemeteries, it has slowed us down. At Sarsfield all we ask of our customers is to please bear with us at this time, we will process your orders as quickly as practically possible.

Sarsfield Memorials remains open for business but due to COVID 19 restrictions we are unable to visit you at home. We are happy though to meet you in cemeteries or discuss your order requirements by email and telephone. If you know the design of memorial required ask us to quote, so you are hopefully not facing long delays in the New Year. Orders can be confirmed by letter and deposits paid so you know your order is in hand. As material becomes available and when the ground is ready memorials can then be installed. If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us.


Kirkby Cemeteries

The town of Kirkby is situated in the north of the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley and was developed as an overspill town for Liverpool in the 1950s. There are no Kirkby cemeteries, with residents encouraged to use the local authority cemetery at Whiston for the burial of their loved ones or interment of ashes. 

Kirkby Cemeteries

Opened in 1996 and officially named Knowsley cemetery, the one cemetery in the borough is often referred to as Whiston or Fox’s Bank. It is conveniently located in the centre of the borough in Fox’s Bank Lane, Whiston. This makes it equally accessible from Halewood, Huyton and Prescot, which also make up the borough. Plots are available for both burials and cremated remains.


Liverpool City Council run Kirkdale Cemetery is often used by Kirkby residents. This is despite the higher fees imposed for non Liverpool residents. There are two reasons for this why it remains popular however.  One is its proximity to Kirkby, being quicker to get to, especially for those reliant on public transport. The other is historical, as many Kirkby residents have family buried in the cemetery which is a legacy of the slum clearance of the 1950 when people were moved from inner city Liverpool to the new town. Kirkdale Cemetery does have new plots available for cremated remains, but regular burials can only take place in existing graves. 

Kirkby Cemeteries

The only place where burials can take place within Kirkby is in the graveyard at St Chad’s Church. Although it is a ‘new town’, there has actually been a settlement in Kirkby dating back to Norse to times and it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. This explains the presence of St Chad’s Church, built one hundred years before the town’s expansion. Prior to St Chads’ there was a chapel there that was built in 1766. St Chad’s contains a number of Norman architectural features, a reference to an even earlier church that was on the site. 

Close to the lychgate entrance to St Chad’s, there are a number of graves that are a few hundred years old. At the back of the church is a modern well kept graveyard with newer graves. No new plots are available however and burials can only take place in existing graves where there is space available. 

Sarsfield Memorials is licensed to work in both Knowsley and Liverpool. If you are a Kirkby resident and interested in purchasing a memorial for a grave, or renovating an existing one, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote. Due to the current situation with COVID 19, we are unable to see you at your homes  presently, but can meet you at a cemetery or churchyard. 



Southport Cemeteries

Sefton Council operates two cemeteries in Southport. One is at Duke Street near the town centre, the other off Liverpool Road in Ainsdale, which is actually known as Birkdale Cemetery. Both of the Southport cemeteries, despite having been in existence for well over one hundred years, are still open to new burials.

Southort Cemeteries

Duke Street Cemetery was developed in the 1860s. The older part, where there are many elaborate memorials, restricts vehicle access to protect its heritage. The modern sections are open to vehicles and only lawn type memorials are allowed to be erected at newly purchased burial plots there. In the 1990s a baby memorial garden was developed. 

Birkdale Cemetery opened in 1903 and does not have the same restrictions as Duke Street. Sections there each contain a mixture of older and newer memorials with plots still available to purchase for both regular burials and cremated remains.. Although there is a chapel at Birkdale, it has been out of use since the 1970s.

The offices for Southport cemeteries are at Southport Crematorium, situated off the A570 road in Scarisbrick. Situated in 32 acres of woodland, memorial plaques can be purchased and placed in the glades. There is also a Book of Remembrance at the crematorium, situated in a room open 9am-4pm weekdays, 10am-4pm weekends and bank holidays. 

As with most other local authorities, burial and memorial fees at Southport cemeteries vary depending on whether or not you are a resident of the Sefton metropolitan council area.  Council officers do respond to queries regarding finding graves in either of the Southport cemeteries if you email them with the name of the deceased and year they passed away. 

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic that has caused logistical difficulties and staff resource issues, it is currently not possible to scatter or inter ashes at Southport Cemeteries.  For updates on this situation, please follow this link. 

Sarsfield Memorials is licensed to carry out work in Sefton cemeteries. If you are interested in purchasing a memorial for a grave, or renovating an existing one, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote. 


Sarsfield & the ‘New Normal’

At Sarsfield Memorials we are slowly adapting to the ‘new normal’ or ‘different kind of normal’ following the lockdown caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. There are however some changes to the way we are operating.

black and white photo of grand daughter of founder of business

When restrictions were at their tightest in April and May, we regrettably were unable to offer any kind of service apart from giving advice by phone or email. Sarsfield Memorials has always prided itself on delivering a personal face to face service and this was impossible. In terms of working in cemeteries, most of what we do requires two people due to the size and weight of memorials and it wasn’t feasible to do this within the social distancing guidelines. Keeping our staff safe, and not playing any part in the spread of the virus, was our primary concern.

As restrictions are relaxed, we are now able to offer a personal service again, albeit in a very different way to what we have been used to. Visiting inside your home remains out of the question, but we can see clients in their gardens, maintaining the two metre rule (or one metre plus by wearing face coverings).

We have also been able to meet clients in cemeteries to discuss their loved one’s new or refurbished memorial. As coffee shops and restaurants are opening we like to support other small businesses and are happy to arrange to meet you in premises open to the public. In accordance with social distancing and any rules that the individual premises may have, we’ll be happy to buy you a tea or coffee. We understand that some families may not wish to discuss a memorial in this way and we are here to help you in anyway we can to find a solution that both you as a customer and us as a small business are comfortable with.

When it comes to the processing of orders, the global supply chain did slow down during the pandemic, with many material suppliers not operating. This means that whereas we usually aim to have your memorial fixed within 6 to 12 weeks of ordering, 12 to 18 weeks on individually designed memorials is now a more realistic timeframe.

Please be aware too that some services cannot be offered at present due to circumstances beyond our control. These vary across local authorities who have had to make their own adjustments to cope with staff shortages caused by sickness or staff shielding during the lockdown. One example is in Liverpool city council cemeteries and in Sefton council cemeteries, where there have been no interment of cremated remains.

We will continue to review our working practices as government guidelines change. In all cases yours and our safety remains paramount. Please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and arrange a socially distanced meeting.

10% Discount For Restoration of Pre 1960 Graves

During the Covid 19 lockdown there has been a huge increase in the number of people researching their family trees and considering graves restoration. Many have had more time on their hands due to being furloughed from work, while cemeteries are one of the few public places that have remained open for people to go and check on graves of family members they have located.

graves restoration

The digitising of burial records up to the year 2000 for all Liverpool city council run cemeteries has opened the door for family researches looking into relatives who lived in that area. Committee members from the Friends of Allerton Cemetery have advised us they are receiving requests almost daily or assistance in locating graves there. Previously it would be just once a week or fortnight.

Inevitably, there may be disappointment at locating the grave plot of an ancestor only to find that there is no headstone, or one exists but is in a poor state of repair. However, within local authority-run cemeteries, permission is not usually required to clean up a memorial or re-gild the lettering.

It is tempting to try cleaning the memorial yourself, but you must be very cautious about this, as chemicals can cause the memorial material to deteriorate further, also damage can be caused to lettering. In the past year, a number of new local companies have been offering grave cleaning services, of varying standards.

At Sarsfield Memorials, we have been in the memorial business for 73 years and are Liverpool’s longest running family independent firm of monumental masons. We never compromise on quality and can assure you that we will only use the most suitable products in graves restoration and cleaning. Likewise, we will properly re-gild lettering and we can repair and replace leaded letters not simply paint over.

For anyone who has located an old family grave during lockdown and are looking at renovating the memorial, up until 31st August 2020 we are offering a 10% discount for cleaning, renovation and refixing of all memorials that were fitted before 1960. This we hope will go some way to helping out anyone who may be tempted by those offering lesser quality services, as well as bringing older sections of cemeteries into better shape. Please note however we cannot offer this discount where cemetery fees may apply for carrying out cleaning, in Liverpool Catholic Archdiocese run cemeteries for example Ford and Yew Tree cemeteries.

If you would like to discuss the restoration/cleaning of a memorial, please contact us here for a free no obligation quotation.

Chester West and Cheshire Council Cemeteries

Cheshire West and Chester Council operates five cemeteries and one crematorium across the borough, which was established in 2009 by the amalgamation of Chester, Ellesmere Port & Neston, and Vale Royal local authorities.

Chester West and Cheshire Cemeteries

Entrance to Chester Crematorium

All of the administrative staff are based at Blacon Cemetery. This is adjacent to Chester Crematorium,the only place in the borough for cremations. Blacon is one of two cemeteries in Chester. The other is in Overleigh, situated in the southern suburb of Handbridge.

The former borough of Ellesmere Port & Neston has cemeteries situated in Overpool and Neston. There is just one cemetery in what was Vale Royal; Wharton in Winsford. 

Memorials are restricted in size to four feet in height by three feet width. Kerb sets measuring up to seven feet six inches by three feet are allowed in traditional sections, but not the newer ones which are restricted to lawn type memorials. 

At Overleigh cemetery there are dedicated plots for the interment of both cremated remains and babies, where the size restrictions are two feet six inches by two feet and two feet three inches by two feet respectively. All of Cheshire West and Chester Council cemeteries have memorial gardens for the scattering of ashes, with various options for memorial plaques and vases.

There are a range of fees and charges for cemetery services provided by Cheshire West & Chester Council. New burial plots range from £1794.50 to £1971.50 for residents depending how many are to be buried in the grave. These fees double for non residents. Plots for cremated remains only cost £791.50. It costs £123.50 for the right to erect a memorial and £31 for additional inscriptions. A full list of the fees and charges can be viewed online here

Cheshire West and Chester Council cemeteries

Overpool Cemetery

Only masons registered with Cheshire West & Chester Council can carry out work in their cemeteries. After receiving lots of enquiries from our Liverpool customers asking us to supply memorials for deceased relatives in the borough, Sarsfield Memorials have now registered with the authority’s scheme. In doing this we are committing to carrying out work to a high standard and being respectful and considerate in cemeteries. 

As Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental mason, having been established in 1947, we look forward to working in the Cheshire West and Chester area. If you would like to install a memorial in any of the borough’s cemeteries, or renovate an existing one, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free quote with no obligation.