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.
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.