Spring Cleaning in Cemeteries

Spring is a time when many tasks that have been left undone during the dark drab months of winter are completed. One of those can be tending to your loved one’s memorial; this may mean getting a new one altogether, cleaning the headstone and urn, leaving fresh flowers and clipping the grass around the edges.

Cemeteries are nice, colourful and fresh in the spring, with flowers blooming to brighten up weather beaten gravestones. The grass is freshly cut and days are longer and brighter, everything just looks so much tidier and neater. This is exactly what the Victorian landscapers had in mind when they designed the cemeteries where our loved ones are remembered today. In today’s less God fearing, it has also created an ambiance where cemeteries can be places where the lives of the deceased who rest there can be celebrated rather than mourned.

If you’re loved one’s grave remains without a headsA headstone before and after it was cleaned by Sarsfield Memorials craftsmentone, spring is the perfect time to have a new one installed as the ground is much more settled and firmer than in the winter. If the memorial is being fixed to a concrete base, then it is always advisable to install this during seasons when frost and heavy rain are less likely. The conditions in spring are also much more suitable for refurbishment of existing headstones, whether it be removing them to inscribe new lettering, or fixing a new ground anchor.

Sarsfield Memorials provide a range of options for new headstones and refurbishment of existing ones. If you require a new standard headstone then we can usually have these installed within six weeks of you placing an order, so late February/early March is an ideal time to consider having one that will be ready in April. If all you need is for an existing gravestone to be cleaned up, this can usually be done sooner. We also provide grave tending services if you are unable to get to the cemetery yourself due to time, distance or health constraints.  Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote.

Choosing a Material For Your Headstone

Headstones today come in a variety of materials and when choosing what to use for your loved one’s memorial a number of factors need to be taken into account.

Granite is a popular choice of material due to it being such a hard material, it is available in a wide range of colours and can be polished, honed or pitched. It is also far easier to source nowadays, bringing costs down for masons meaning those savings can be passed on to you. Cemeteries are usually flexible in the types of material allowed when it comes to headstoGrey Granite everton shield shaped grave stonenes, some Churchyards may not allow it. Granite is very durable it is easy for a family to maintain and it will look good for years to come. The lettering over time will require some maintenance if it has been gilded or coloured, but this can easily be done in the cemetery by an experienced mason.

Marble headstones are white with grey veins and are unpolished. Cemeteries and most Churchyards allow marble memorials. Marble is a crystalised limestone so it is a porous material, overtime the marble will discolour if not maintained, a family can maintain a marble gravestone with a masons advice. Alternatively the family may ask a mason to periodically clean and refurbish the memorial to keep it looking in excellent condition. Traditionally a marble headstone will have a cut and leaded letter, a technique we still use at Sarsfield Memorials. Some masons will cut and paint the lettering, but this will wear away very quickly so it is an ongoing cost to have the lettering painted.

White Marble Heart

Other materials allowed in Cemeteries and Churchyards are Nabresina, Portland Stone, Yorkstone and Slate. These materials are not as popular in the Merseyside area as they are in other areas of the country. If you would like a traditional style gravestone then these materials are the most suitable.

Although marble and stone are more prone to the elements than granite, that should not mean you eliminate them completely when making your headstone choice. With the correct care and attention, they are made to last. If the wrong materials are used for cleaning memorials then you can contaminate the stone and can damage your headstone beyond repair. It is always advisable to ask your experienced mason how to maintain your gravestone.

At Sarsfield’s we have samples of all of the stones mentioned, allowing you to look and handle the material to see which you prefer. You can also see photographs of our work which we have completed, with these options available and our knowledge we hope we can help you make the right decision when choosing a gravestone. Please contact us for a free no obligation quotation.

Choosing an Inscription For Your Memorial

Choosing an inscription for your loved one’s headstone is a difficult and emotional task that you will want to get right. Summing up their life and your feelings in just  a few short sentences is not easy, but there are some simple steps to follow that can assist with you in making your choice.

In terms of the number of words, it is important to remember that the more inscribed, the less space there is for future inscriptions. As such , it is advisable to use a few short sentences to sum up who your loved one was and how their life is remembered by their surviving family members.

new lettering on a black granite memoria

A lot of families like to start an inscription with an introduction or a prayer, it is not essential to start an inscription in this manner, the most important details are the deceased’s name and yes, you can use an abbreviated name or nickname and date of death, then perhaps the date of birth but often families will use the age. Nearly all gravestone inscriptions will make reference to the deceased’s role in life, such as a mother, father, brother and so on. Examples that can be used here are ‘In loving memory of a dear father’ and ‘In affectionate memory of a loving and much loved mother and grandmother.’ Epitaphs showing the feelings of friends and relatives can also be expressed here, with phrases such as ‘Remembered with a smile’ and ‘Sadly missed by all the family.’

Epitaphs need not be just a few words, but could be a couple of lineSarsfield075s devoted to the bereaved’s memory of their loved one. Phrases that could be used include ‘Tenderly I treasure the past, with memories that will always last’ and ‘As time goes on, the days pass by, but memories of you will never die.’ The epitaphs could also refer to how a person died instead of or as well as, how their loved one’s feel. A person who died after a long illness for instance, could have ‘Peacefully sleeping’ on their gravestone. Alternatively, for somebody who died suddenly as a result of an accident, ‘Taken suddenly’ would be appropriate.

Children’s epitaphs tend to indicate the young age at which they died.Phrases often used are ‘Remembering our tiny angel’ and ‘Sweetly sleeping.’ Longer phrases could reflect the care which the child is being given in Heaven, an example being ‘Sleep our beautiful angel on your pillow in the sky, angels are forever so we’ll never say goodbye.’

Biblical verses are often used for epitaphs and if you read the through the bible you may find a phrase that sums up yours and how your loved one would feel about death. Common verses used include ‘The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want’ and  ‘Thy remembrance shall endure into all generations.’

On many Victorian headstones there are inscriptions referring to the deceased having ‘departed this life’, indicating the faith in the afterlife. Today, a person’s faith can be demonstrated with numerous phrases such as ‘Only goodnight beloved, not farewell’, ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’ and ‘Safe in the arms of Jesus.’ For headstones on graves where more than one family member is buried, a simple ‘Reunited’ or ‘Together in heaven’ can often suffice.

As we live in more secular times today, it could be that a less formal quote is needed if the deceased did not believe in an afterlife. The quote could be inscribed as if it has come from the deceased themselves and say for example, ‘I had a busy life, now I am having a rest.’ The inscription could even be humorous, such as ‘I told you I was sick.’

When considering the quotes, you do need to appreciate that what is inscribed will be a permanent memorial and reflection of your loved one, so it is important to make the right choice. If the deceased had not indicated themselves what they may want inscribed on their headstone, try and imagine how they would think, and work something out from there.

Sarsfield’s masons have been providing headstones and inscriptions for three generations and can offer advice on what may be best for your loved one’s memorial. Please contact us for a chat on the phone or by email, for a free no obligation quote or to make an appointment for us to visit you.

Yew Tree Cemetery in Liverpool

Yew Tree Cemetery was the second of the two Roman Catholic cemeteries that were opened in Liverpool in Victorian times. It took its first burials in 1893, more than thirty years after the one at Ford, near Litherland. The cemetery is named after nearby Yew Tree Lane, which itself derives from Yew Tree Hose, so named as a large yew tree was in the garden.

Yew Tree Cemetery is administered by the Archdiocese of Liverpool and  every July an outdoor mass by the Archbishop of Liverpool is held in the cemetyewtree priest graveery, when hundreds attend to pray for those who are buried there. The cemetery contains the graves of numerous priests and nuns, buried either near the chapel or alongside the main roadway.

There are 35 First World War graves at Yew Tree Cemetery, thirteen of them marked by two small memorials. There are also the graves of 65 servicemen from the Second World War in various parts of the cemetery.

Mary McCartney, mother of Beatle Paul, is buried in Yew Tree cemetery. She died in 1956 from complications that arose as a result of breast cancer surgery when Paul was just fourteen years old. Another grave with an entertainer connection is the unmarked burial place of Archie O’Neill, a music hall entertainer known as the ‘one legged dancer’ who died in 1959.

A heartbreaking grave is that of Nigel Pickup, who at eight years old was the youngest victim of the Ibrox Stadium tragedy on 2nd January 1971, when 66 football fans were crushed to death on a stairway at the end of a Rangers v Celtic match in Glasgow. He had been taken to the match by his grandfather who was visiting relatives there and in 2010 his grave was rededicated in a special ceremony attended by many Rangers fans who had come to Liverpool specially for the service.

Yew Tree Cemetery contains the grave of a heroic survivor of the Lusitania disaster, James Dyer. He had only been a trimmer on the liner for three weeks when it was torpedoed by a German u-boat on 7th May 2015. After being flung into the sea by the explosion he managed to get hold of a piece of wreckage and also help two American children cling  onto it for three hours before being rescued and taken to Queenstown. He was given a financial reward by the boy’s father and then got a heroes welcome in Liverpool. He later married and had five children, dying in 1959 aged 69. His gravestone, which also marks the burial place of other family members, makes no mention of the tragedy. In relation to James it simply says ‘In loving memory of James Dyer and family.’

Yew Tree cemetery chapel

Next to the chapel at Yew Tree Cemetery is a headstone marking all those buried in the cemetery whose graves are unmarked. The chapel, dating from 1893, closed two years ago and has sadly become a magnet for anti social behaviour including alcohol and drug misuse, leading to complaints from local residents. This is despite security being in place and with the Archdiocese saying they cannot keep it safe and secure Liverpool City Council has granted planning permission to demolish it.

The wider community has expressed concern at this decision, fearing graves may be disturbed. Claiming that it is an essential part of the West Derby Catholic community, and an important part of local heritage, an online petition has been set up which has so far attracted over 1,200 signatures.

Where to Buy Your Memorial

When looking for a headstone, the temptation is there to search the internet for the best price and order online. However going about it this way can lead to a number of complications arising.

Although you may find gravestones on sites such as ebay that seemsmall rounded grave to offer unbeatable value, you cannot be sure that the memorial you buy will be suitable for the grave for which it is intended. Rules and regulations for cemeteries differ between local authorities so a headstone that could be used in a cemetery local to the seller may be useless in the locality of the buyer.

Choosing a memorial for your loved one is a choice that you will be left with for many years to come. It is for that reason that you should use a monumental mason local to where it will be situated. You will then be given personal service by an experienced professional who knows the local cemetery regulations and guide you through the options available. If you live far away from the grave for which you are purchasing the headstone, the mason can email images or send you photographs of the unmarked grave and area around, helping you to choose the most suitable size and material.

As well as not receiving such a personal and dedicated service when purchasing memorials from online sales sites, you are very unlikely to receive any help post sale. Even if the price of the gravestone you buy online included supply and fixing, it is unlikely they will come and rectify any problems that may arise later on. Likewise, any remedial work that needs to be undertaken beforehand will not be included, whereas it would be with a local mason. Additio marble shiny black intricate detailsnally if you purchase from a mason, extras such as kerbs, books and tablets can easily be added at a later date that match the existing gravestone.

At Sarsfield Memorials the only person you will deal with is Ursula who offers advice, sales, after care and has a genuine interest in quality workmanship at a reasonable price. If you see a price on the internet that you feel is too good to be true then it probably is. We recommend that you contact Ursula who can explain how Sarsfield’s prices compare to those you find on some sales sites and what they don’t include, give her the link of the gravestone you have seen or describe it to her and she will be more than happy to give you Sarsfield’s price including guarantee of quality workmanship from a reliable and renowned family masons.

Photographs On Headstones

In the last couple of decades the adding of photographs to gravestones has become commonplace in the United Kingdom, having been a tradition in some European countries for far longer.

The most strai3-239x239ghtforward photographs are those that are on ceramic plates which are then fixed to the headstone. The image of your loved one that you choose can be one of them enjoying a drink, engaging in their hobbies, or a professionally posed photograph. Digital image enhancing software allows for the quality of faded photographs to be improved or backgrounds to be altered (for example if there is another person in the shot). After the enhanced image is printed on to the ceramic, it is kiln finished to ensure it can withstand the elements.

Pet Memorials - Tyson - Dog

Laser etched images are etched into the stone and bring out a great deal of detail, so for this reason the photograph that you choose must be of a high quality. In this instance, the process involves etching away the polished surface of the headstone so that the lighter coloured rock underneath is uncovered. A high resolution grayscale image is then left on the gravestone. As such the most suitable material for laser etched images is black granite. It is possible also to etch images onto existing gravestones. To do this they will be removed to the workshop for the process to be carried out.


Sarsfield Memorials are able to add photographs to new headstones that you purchase, or ones that are already in existence. However, please be aware that many churchyards do not allow photographs to be placed on family gravestones. As well as the two most common methods Sarsfield Memorials can offer traditional Italian resin (plastic) photo plaques which can be drilled, dowelled and fixed onto the headstone. By using this method it means they are more difficult to remove, less likely to fall off and this material is also very difficult to vandalise compared to ceramic, which can be easily smashed by stone throwing.

Whether you go for a ceramic plate, laser etched image or resin plaque for your loved one’s gravestone, any printed photographs that you provide to us are not destroyed in the process and we always return them. If you would like to discuss adding an image to a headstone, please contact us for further information and a free no obligation quote.

Kerb Sets

A Kerb set can add distinction to your loved one’s grave, giving it a beautiful marked border in addition to the headstone, as well as keeping the area around it tidy.

In Merseyside, only Liverpool City Council allow  kerb sets to be added to gravestones and a condition is that they must match the material of the existing memorial. Once the kerb set has been installed, it can then be covered kerb setswith a cover slab or alternatively be filled in with chippings that come in a range of colours. In recent years, it has become common to fill the centre with soil for planting seasonal flowers, or for the infill area to be covered in astroturf.

A grave bordered by a kerb set is much better protected against the elements and the infill area can be used to place further memorials such as flowers, vases, toys or other personal items. The kerb set prevents people from walking over where your loved one is buried and can also make a grave easier to maintain as there is less likelihood of weeds. Kerb sets provide a distinctive final resting place for your loved one and can also be used on the graves of cremated remains.

Sarsfield Memorials have a range of kerb sets available and a sample can be viewed here. We can provide combined headstone and kerb sets, or as an addition to an existing grave, a kerb set can be added providing the material is the same and the size required is within the regulations.

You will sometimes skerb setsee older graves in cemeteries that have kerb sets which appear in poor condition. This is often because they have shifted due to ground movement over the years, but you do not need worry about this nowadays. All our kerb sets are fitted on a one piece reinforced concrete foundation which is in line with NAMM (National Association of Memorial Masons) recommendations and are fixed by our skilled craftsmen.

Before installing your kerb set permission must be granted by Liverpool City Council which we can arrange for you. There is a fee for this which is currently £90 and Sarsfield Memorials can process the payment of this for you. Please get in touch with us if you would like any further information and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.


A History of Allerton Cemetery

Allerton Cemetery EntranceAllerton Cemetery is the newest of the six cemeteries administered by Liverpool City Council and one of two in the city which have been listed by English Heritage.

At the beginning of the 20th Century it was clear that more cemetery space in the south of the city was needed. There had already been over 100,000 internments at Toxteth Cemetery since it opened in 1856 and the city’s suburbs were expanding southwards. With this in mind the city council purchased a large part of the Allerton Hall estate from the Clarke family in 1906 for £50,000, equivalent to over £5 million today.

The following year members of the Burials Committee visited the International Congress of Hygiene and Demography in Berlin. They noted that cemeteries there had a wide central avenue and graves were set back from the walks. They also observed that to please the eye and give the impression of a park, there were planted borders and a large proportion of the trees were evergreen.

City Engineer John A. Brodie was then instructed to submit plans for a new cemetery taking the committee’s report from Berlin into account. Four options were submitted in 1908 and after approval was given for one of them work began with the cemetery being consecrated in September 1909 by the Bishop of Liverpool. The first burial, that of Thomas Walsh, took place on 29th December that year.

Notable internmVc Ratcliffe grave Allerton cemeteryents in the cemetery include two recipients of the Victoria Cross, George Edward Nurse and William Ratcliffe, for bravery in the Boer War and 1st World War respectively. They both survived the campaigns in which they were involved, but the cemetery contains the remains of 399 servicemen from the two world wars who were killed performing their duty.

The cemetery has been extended three times over the years and covers a total sixty hectares. Either side of the main entrance on Woolton Road are two lodges, one of which is now a private residence while the other contains the city council’s cemetery offices. There are three chapels, one Church of England, one Roman Catholic and one Non-Conformist.

A humbling memorial in section CH2G is a stark reminder of the horrors and tragedies of war. This marks the grave of 21 year old Joseph Quinn, who died in April 1917 from an illness contracted whilst on duty with the Royal Naval Reserve. Underneath his name is that of his brother, 20 year old John, who was killed in action in France less than three months later and was interred there.

Grave of George Strong Lord Mayor of Liverpool 1933-34

A number of civic dignitaries are buried at Allerton, including George Alfred Strong, who was Lord Mayor of Liverpool 1933-34 and whose headstone is pictured. Whilst in office he welcomed King George V to Liverpool for the opening of the Queensway Tunnel connecting the city with Birkenhead.

John Lennon’s mothjulia Lennon graveer Julia was buried in Section CH38 after she was tragically knocked down by a car in Menlove Avenue in 1957. For decades the exact location of her grave was unknown and after it was discovered it was then marked by a wooden cross. In 2010 the unusually shaped gravestone pictured was added, simply containing the names of her four children and the word ‘Mummy’.

In 2002 Allerton and Toxteth Cemeteries were given Grade II listed status by English Heritage. It was recorded that Allerton was a good example of an Edwardian cemetery due to its original features remaining largely intact. Unlike in Liverpool’s other cemeteries, there are hardly any gravestones that have been damaged and had to be laid flat for public safety.

There are now over 80,000 people buried in Allerton Cemetery and on 20th August 2015 singer and television personality Cilla Black will be laid to rest there alongside her parents. Cilla’s real name is Priscilla Maria Veronica Willis (nee White) but her headstone will simply say ‘Here Lies Cilla the Singer’ in accordance with her wishes.