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.

Get Your Christmas Orders In Now

It may seem like we haven’t even had any summer so far this year, given the wet weather in recent weeks. However, Christmas will be here before we know it. If you want a memorial installed at your loved one’s grave, now is the time to get your order in to avoid disappointment if delays occur.

Christmas memorials

Generally speaking, any materials that we need to import take twelve weeks to arrive, allowing for shipping and customs formalities. In the last couple of years, there have been delays due to supply chain issues, with containers stuck on the wrong side of the world during Covid lockdowns. Thankfully we don’t anticipate that being a problem this time around.

If you require a bespoke design, we urge you to place your orders sooner rather than later to allow sufficient time for the order to be completed. We also have to factor in other delays that may occur in winter due to inclement weather, especially if there is snow or a heavy frost.

We do keep a number of standard designs in varying sizes in stock. As such we are able to process many of our orders in a shorter time frame, typically six weeks providing the weather does not get in the way.  We don’t like to let families down in the run up to Christmas and will do all we can to have your memorial or other work completed in time.

You can be rest assured that at Sarsfield Memorials we will be attentive to your needs and ensure all work is carried out by our BRAMM accredited masons. We never compromise our professional standards as we strive to complete your orders. As Liverpool’s longest running family run monumental mason, we are proud of the work we have done for our clients over the last 76 years.

If you would like to place any orders for new memorials or renovation/cleaning of existing ones in the Merseyside or Cheshire area, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.

Runcorn Cemeteries

There are two Runcorn cemeteries in the town, both managed by Halton Borough Council. Only one of them however has new burial plots available.

Runcorn cemeteriesHalton Cemetery is situated close to Runcorn Shopping City. This has no more new plots available and only burials in existing graves are allowed there. The cemetery has consecrated and unconsecrated sections.

New plots are available in the much larger Runcorn Cemetery, the main entrance for which is on Greenway Road.  This opened in the 1870s and has been gradually extended over the years. The cemetery has sections which only allow lawn-type memorials and others where kerb sets are also allowed. There is no chapel in Runcorn Cemetery although services can take place at the graveside.

There are also sections in Runcorn Cemetery solely for the interment cremated remains.  There are also above ground vaults where caskets of ashes can be placed for a fixed time period. However there is no crematorium in Runcorn, with all Halton council cremations taking place at Widnes.

The Runcorn cemeteries are open every day of the year from 9am. Closing times vary according to the time of year. In mid winter the gates are locked at 4.30pm while from April to August they remain open until 8pm. No dogs are allowed, except for assistance dogs.

Fees for 2023/24 are £572 for a cremated remains plot, £952 for a regular grave plot accommodating two coffins, and £1050 for a larger on that can take three coffins. As with many other local authorities, fees double for non Halton residents. Only BRAMM and NAMM registered masons can work in the cemeteries.

Sarsfield Memorials are licensed to work in the Runcorn cemeteries. If you are considering erecting a memorial there or want work doing on an existing one, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.

Special Offers at Sarsfield Memorials

Over the coming weeks and months, Sarsfield Memorials will be updating our ‘Special Offers‘ page on a regular basis. This is so we can make room at our storage facility for new stock in 2024.

weeping angel memorialWe will be offering various memorials at discounted prices and the first two products are already available to order at a reduced rate.

Available for just £2,340 including VAT and fixing, a Bahama Blue granite weeping angel memorial with carved wings can be installed at your loved one’s grave within six weeks. This price includes one hundred gold letters and flower containers on the base if required. Bahama Blue is a striking natural material that has durability and resistance against inclement weather conditions. The total dimensions of this memorial are 36 by 34 by 4 inches.

A simpler polished black granite oval top memorial with base is on offer at just £900, including fixing and VAT.  This price also included one hundred letters for your inscription. The headstone is 30 inches in height and 24 in width. It sits atop a base that is four inches high, giving a total height of 34 inches. Black granite is extremely durable against the elements and also relatively easy to clean and maintain, although we would advise you seek our advice on how to do this.

Please note that while the prices quoted for the memorials on offer include VAT and fixing, cemetery fees are extra. These fees do vary across local authorities.

Sarsfield Memorials are registered to work in cemeteries in all of the Liverpool City Region local authorities. We are Liverpool’s longest established family run monumental mason business, having been in operation for over 75 years. We are continuously evolving to meet market demands and are looking forward to bringing in new products next year.  If you would like to purchase any of our discounted products please do not hesitate to contact us.

Widnes Cemeteries

Widnes cemeteries

The entrance to Widnes Cemetery

There are two cemeteries in the town of Widnes, situated in the borough of Halton, which straddles the River Mersey in Cheshire.

The newest of the Widnes cemeteries is Peel House cemetery on the former Fairfield High School site. This has only opened within the last few years and expects to provide capacity for burials until the end of this century. It is set out in a circular design with a central space for contemplation gardens.

Halton Council decided to open Peel House as Widnes Cemetery, dating from late Victorian times, is now nearing full capacity. In the cemetery is a pair of sandstone gabled chapels which are connected by a central tower and are Grade II listed. Part of this structure has now been converted into a crematorium, which caters for cremations for the whole borough. There are one hundred Commonwealth & War Graves Commission headstones at locations throughout the cemetery.

Both Widnes cemeteries have new burial plots available for regular graves. They can only be obtained when a burial is required, there is no advance purchase arrangement. Fees for 2023/24 are £572 for a smaller cremated remains plot, £957 for a grave for one or two burials, and £1080 for a grave that can accommodate three coffins. These are available on a fifty year renewable lease. These fees double for non Halton residents.

It costs £210 for a permit to erect a memorial in Widnes cemeteries and £60 to add additional inscriptions. As with nearly all local authorities, only BRAMM and NAMM registered masons can work in the cemeteries. In addition to traditional graves, Widnes Cemetery has memorial vaults available on renewable leases of ten, twenty of forty years, which can hold up to two caskets of cremated remains. These are made of polished granite, fronted with a black granite plaque on which inscriptions and photo plaques can be added.

Sarsfield Memorials are licensed to work in the two Widnes cemeteries. If you are thinking of installing a new memorial, making changes to or renovating an existing one, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.


Duke Street Cemetery Southport

Duke Street Cemetery in Southport is the oldest of the four cemeteries that are maintained by Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council, having opened in 1866.

Duke Street Cemetery Southport

Duke Street Cemetery, photo by Galatas

The cemetery is in two distinct parts. The older part, designed by landscape architect Edward Kemp, contains many elaborate Victorian memorials and there is restricted access for vehicles. The entrance is dominated by a magnificent pair of chapels with linked cloisters and a clock tower. The structure was Grade II listed in 1999 and part of it is now used as stores.

One of the most historic monuments in the cemetery is the Grade II listed Eliza Fernley memorial. Dating from the late 1880s, it commemorates fourteen crew members of the

Southport lifeboat Eliza Fernley. Along with thirteen members of the St Anne’s lifeboat, they were drowned on 9th December 1886 whilst attempting to rescue the crew of the German barque Mexico, which had ran aground off the Southport coast. The monument has carved relief depicting the lifeboat and its crew with a mountainous wave over them.

The newer part of Duke Street Cemetery is easily identifiable because there are no trees and all the memorials are of a lawn type. This is common practice throughout the country now for maintenance and safety reasons. In the mid 1990s a baby memorial garden was opened here.

Duke Street cemetery southport

There are a total of 171 Commonwealth and War Grave Commission memorials in Duke Street cemetery. There are also memorials commemorating all lives lost in both world wars. The CWGC headstones are throughout the cemetery and a screen wall commemorates those who have been buried in public graves.

Opposite the entrance to the cemetery is a builder’s yard, situated in premises that were once the home of T Robinsons Cemetery Monumental Works. This business, which has been closed for over twenty years now, was first established around 1870 and the old signage remains. An advert in the Southport Visiter in 1891 said that only the best materials were used, workmanship was guaranteed and inspections were invited.

Sarsfield Memorials are licensed to carry out work in Southport’s Duke Street Cemetery. If you would like to discuss erecting a memorial at a new or existing plot there, or renovating a headstone, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.

Liverpool War Graves

The six cemeteries that are run by Liverpool City Council contain over 2,500 headstones that are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). These are graves marked by the recognisable white headstone, which is more often than not made from Portland stone.

Liverpool war graves

The CWGC was formed as the Imperial War Graves Commission in 1917 to ensure all those service personnel lost in the Great War would have their graves marked and maintained in perpetuity. This was later extended to the Second World War and the CWGC now maintains 1.7 million grave sites in 150 countries across six continents.

The CWGC employ strict qualifying criteria. Their policy states that they will commemorate people who served in the Commonwealth armed forces during the First or Second World War, whose death occurred during the official war period and
was the result of wounds inflicted or accident occurring during active service, disease contracted or commencing while on active service or disease aggravated by active service.

When thinking of war deaths, cemeteries in Northern France consisting of row after row of pristine white headstones may spring to mind. However if you take a walk around any Liverpool cemetery, or indeed most churchyards , it will not take long to spot a CWGC headstone.

It is an extremely sad fact that so many of those killed in active service did not die on the battlefield. Royal Air Force deaths during military training exercises were not uncommon in the Second World War and this is reflected in many of the Liverpool war graves. An example in Anfield Cemetery is William Geoffrey Walker, who in 1944 was the co pilot of a Horsa glider involved in exercises in Wiltshire preparing for the Allied invasion of Europe. The glider crashed on hitting a tree in low cloud as part of Exercise Dreme in Wiltshire. All 27 on board the glider were killed, wiping out a whole platoon of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. Also in Anfield is 17 year old Mabel McDonald of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, who was knocked down and killed by a car during the blackout.

During the First World War many died of illnesses picked up in cramped conditions in the trenches or on board ships. Many of these will have been sent away from the Front for treatment nearer home, but failed to recover. With Liverpool being a port city, there are casualties from Commonwealth countries who have been admitted to hospital on arrival in the city rather than continue their journey to France of Belgium. An example in Kirkdale Cemetery is Rangitauwira Wiremu (pictured), of the New Zealand Maori pioneer battalion.  He was a 24 year old married farmer from Wanganui who enlisted in February 1918 and sailed for Liverpool on the Ulimaora. However he got sick on the voyage and died just two days after its arrival.

A network of volunteers inspect CWGC’s headstones on a cyclical basis. At Sarsfield Memorials any enquiries we receive regarding maintenance or repair of a CWGC headstone would always be referred to them. It goes without saying that they use in house specialists or approved contractors for any work carried out on their headstones. Sustainability is another key concept for the CWGC, using environmentally friendly materials and always looking to repair, only replacing if absolutely necessary. Further details about the methods used for headstone maintenance can be found here.

Obituary – Terry Sarsfield

The following obituary for Terry Sarsfield was first published in the newsletter of the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM).

terry sarsfieldTerry Sarsfield, 89 years, passed peacefully on 27th December 2022. Terry was a traditional craftsman who served his apprenticeship in Carrara Italy in the 1950s, learning all aspects of the craft of Stone Carving and Stone Masonry. On his return to the UK he worked alongside his father and two elder brothers in the family Monumental Masons – Sarsfield Memorials, the oldest family-run Monumental Masons in Liverpool.

Working right through into his mid 70’s alongside his youngest daughter Ursula, who now runs the business. Terry’s skills can be seen daily all over Liverpool from listed buildings in the City, Churches, Stately Homes and Cemeteries. Terry continued on, after his retirement at 75 years, to be an invaluable resource for stonemasons and architects across the UK.

Although being trained in traditional craftsmanship, Terry was an innovative Mason, who whilst President of NAMM (50 years ago) worked hard to foster relationships between professionals, nurturing mutual support networks across both the UK and abroad. Linking small family run masonry and memorial businesses with engineers, architects and larger industrial stone manufacturers.

He was a promoter of technical development in the trade, one of the early adopters of the (at the time), revolutionary INCIMAR lettering machines which elevated the speed of response for memorial work. He later worked alongside engineers at INCIMAR as a consultant helping to advise on the design of letterforms to retain and expand the qualities of lettering craftsmanship which he had such a passion for.

Terry went on to become the UK representative for INCIMAR, supporting Masons across the UK in their transition from hand lettering to more modern methods, Ursula is now the UK representative for INCIMAR. In the 1970’s he worked with engineers to develop one of the first large scale, walk-in sandblasting units for working on complex Memorials, later advising Masons across the country on how the techniques he explored might serve their needs.

Whilst President of NAMM, in recognition of both his efforts to foster links between the UK Masons and international Stone Industries and for his bringing together of international Stonemasonry expertise, in support of renovation work on the City’s Castle and Capuchin Monastery, he was made Honorary Freeman of the Medieval City of Rapperswil, Switzerland.

Terry valued the idea that professionals should provide a mutual support network, particularly in changing and challenging times. He knew the value of family and the family approach to embracing differences and looking out for each other. Bringing this mindset to his Professional work, he retained his hugely approachable attitude; dispensing guidance, advice and support, freely to Masons whenever approached.

Terry SarsfieldThroughout his later years, no longer able to cope with the physical aspects of the trade, Terry acted as a professional consultant to Masons and Architects, providing insights and solutions to a myriad of Memorial and Masonry technical problems.

Throughout his involvement with NAMM, from the early days when it was a voluntarily run supportive organisation, through to his later Presidentship and onwards into the influential and professionally driven organisation it is today, Terry promoted the need to bring together innovation and craftsmanship, hand in hand with an empathetic understanding of the needs of customers, fellow craftsmen and the industry as a whole.

Given the vast range and depth of his knowledge and the huge number of connections he had fostered over the years, both nationally and internationally, he will be greatly missed. Terry Sarsfield leaves behind May, his wife of 63 years, and three children.