A History of Sarsfield Memorials

The oldest family run monumental masons in Liverpool. Sarsfield Memorials has spanned three generations and next year we look forward to celebrating seventy years in business.

The company was founded in 1947 by James Sarsfield and the following decade he was joined by his three sons, Tony, Bernard and Terry. The youngest son Terry served an apprenticeship in 1950’s as a stonemason in Carrara in Italy and Sarsfield still has business relationships with the quarries there.

James Sarsfield passed away in 1968 and the three brothers continued the business until Tony left in 1980 and Bernard retired in 1990. Terry then ran the company until his daughter Ursula joined the business in 1997, but he remained involved and retired completely in 2007 at the age of 75. Ursula can remember as a young girl spending many a Sunday afternoon visiting cemeteries with her father as he costed jobs. Today she prides herself in dealing with all customers personally and offering a bespoke service that allows people to have a perfect lasting symbol of remembrance for their loved one.

Former St Swithins Church Croxteth

In addition to the traditional family headstones, Sarsfield has also carried out many commissions for the Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool, including the supply and fixing of altars. The first altar Sarsfield supplied was at the new church of St Swithin’s in Gillmoss in 1959, where Terry got married in October that year, the first nuptial mass to take place there. Unfortunately the church closed in 2004 but Terry and May are still going strong and this year they celebrate 57 years married.

One of the most high profile commissions was in 1996 when we supplied and fixed the black slate tomb at the final resting place of Derek Worlock, who was Archbishop of Liverpool from 1976 until his death in 1996. The tomb is situated in the Chapel of St John at Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. We have also supplied the lectern for this cathedral, which has been made out of one solid piece of curved marble. for which we have also supplied the marble lectern. We have also worked on the Martins Bank building in Water Street and the Princes crestRoad Synagogue along with many other listed buildings in the Liverpool area.

In 1998 we were asked to supply the plinth for the statue of Captain F J Walker at Liverpool’s Pier Head. Commonly known as Johnnie, Walker was the highly successful captain of a fleet that cruised the Atlantic seeking to destroy German submarines. His exploits led to him being nominated for a knighthood but he died in July 1944 of exhaustion and war weariness at the age of just 48. The statue, which depicts Walker looking out to sea, was sculpted by Tom Murphy and unveiled by the Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh

FJ Walker statue LiverpoolAlthough Ursula now manages the business Terry continues to be involved in stonemasonry despite being in his eighties. He is an honorary member and past president of the National Association of Monumental Masons (NAMM) and provides consultancy on all aspects of the industry to masons both at home and abroad. He is also the UK agent for Incimar who supply lettering equipment to the trade.

The development of the internet has seen Sarsfield now receive enquiries from far and wide. Many of these are from people who live outside of Liverpool and the United Kingdom looking to restore graves of loved ones who are buried in the city’s cemeteries. 2015 was our busiest for many years and was capped when we were approached by Quest TV over appearing in an episode of Salvage Hunters. Filming took place at our yard in Broad Green in November of that year, the episode airing on QUEST TV (Freeview 37, Sky 144, Virgin Media 172) at 9pm on 9th March 2016


Why Anchoring Your Headstone Is So Important

When purchasing a headstone for your loved one’s grave, one of the most important things to consider is will it be anchored. If the answer is yes, then you can be sure that the gravestone is secure for many years to come.

Sarsfield Memorbramm logo accreditationials is a member of the British Register of Accredited Memorial Masons (BRAMM). This was set up in 2004 to establish a national register of accredited masons to replace the local registration schemes which were then in existence.  This is the masons equivalent of the CORGI standard which is applied to gas fitters  Many local authorities are now only allowing masons to fit memorials that have signed up to BRAMM.

Among the aims of BRAMM is to ensure all gravestones are fixed to the BS8415 standard. This specifies minimum lengths of anchor that are needed, dependent on ground conditions.

The anchoring system used by Sarsfield is the Ground Support System C.C.A ® Central Collapsible Support. These anchors are adjustable depending on the thickness of the base of the memorial, they require no adhesive cement and are simple for Masons to remove and re-affix to headstones, should the gravestone have to be removed for future internments.














All of Sarsfield’s masons have the BRAMM fixer licence, so you can be rest assured at the quality of our workmanship. These are issued to fixers once they passed a practical and written test, meaning that installing the headstone to the BS8415 standard is guaranteed. Fixers must re-apply for their licence every five years and be able to show that they continue to meet the standards required. Any headstone supplied by someone with a BRAMM Fixer Licence is certain to be stable and fitted to a uniform standard by somebody with the skills and knowledge of the procedures required to do so.

Sarsfield Memorials will always guarantee that all new headstones anchored by our masons are done so to the BRAMM standards. The same applies to older gravestones that we may restore, as if a memorial is removed from a cemetery it must be anchored to minimum standards on refixing, even if it wasn’t initially fitted to them.

Liverpool City Council is one local authority that does not require masons to be BRAMM accredited. However we are because we choose to fix our memorials to a standard that is recognised throughout the trade and give our customers added security and peace of mind. Please contact us for advice and a free no obligation quote if you are thinking of buying a memorial or wish to bring an older one up to the modern safety standards.

Inscribing a Gravestone

The art of engraving is as old as humanity itself, with the earliest known stone carvings believed to have been made in Indonesia as long as half a million years ago. Stonemasonry is also said to be the joint oldest profession in the world, along with prostitution. However the marking of burial places with inscribed headstones is therefore a relatively modern phenomena, going back ‘only’ three or four hundred years.

Here at Sarsfield Memorials we haven’t quite been around that long, although for three generations we have been able to offer a full gravestone inscription service. The lettering can be reproduced in any style you like, with a finish of lead, enamel or gold-leaf, we offer raised lead lettering, cut and leaded, v-cut, incised and sand blasted, these are available for new headstones, adding to an existing one or replicating the original lettering. We always do our best to match up the style, size and finish of a new letter to a pre-existing letter if additional work is required, this also helps our Masons to keep traditional standards going.

If you are getting a new inscription then we have a wide range of examples which can be viewed here. Verses are available in a variety of fonts but bear in mind that certain fonts need to be cut deeper into the headstone than others and their final appearance differs according to material and colour of the gravestone. Bible verses and quotes are usually done in italics, while names and dates tend to be bold. If you contact us we are happy to talk you through the options that are most suitable for the material you choose.

Depending on what is required our craftsmen will use the traditional methods of hand cut with a hammer and chisel or modern machine cut and sand blasting. Usually when we are adding an inscription to an existing headstone it is done by hand to maintain consistency with the original lettering. When a letter is hand cut, the mason measures everything out on the gravestone with a pencil and ruler then draws each letter onto the stone, before chiselling away the stone to form the letter.

Advances in technology mean we now have machinery available that can blast over one hundred fonts, as well as designs and ornamental images, onto your loved one’s gravestone. Incisographs cut letters that have a ‘V’ shaped finish, while sandblasting involves plotting an inscription onto a special tape which is then sandblasted into the headstone.

Bernard Sarsfield using an air tool to carve a memorial

Sandblasting is the most popular method in the trade today but a more advanced method involves using a CNC machine. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control is a process whereby inscription coordinates are programmed into a computer which then controls the cutting of the headstone material.   Not all monumental masons can offer this facility due to the cost of the equipment but at Sarsfield we are able to do so.

Where necessary, Sarsfield will put a new ground anchor to fix your headstone, meeting all the modern health and safety standards, as well as those of NAMM (National Association of Monumental Masons).

If it isn’t possible to remove your headstone to the workshop, we are able to offer solutions for lettering in the cemetery, once we have inspected the memorial we can inform you of your options.Depending on the material you choose for your memorial your Mason should offer you advice as to the style, the process of the lettering and the finish. Different processes work better with different materials, be guided by your Mason.  At Sarsfield Memorials Liverpool we share our years of experience and knowledge enabling families to make the right choice.

We are the UK agent for an Italian company who produce lettering equipment to the trade Incimar SRL, if you are in the stone industry and require further information on products or consumables from Incimar, then please contact Ursula or Terry at Sarsfield Memorials.

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.