Churchyard Rules for Families

St Wulfran’s Churchyard Rules – A Guide for Families

Why we have Churchyard Rules:

The purpose of burial in a consecrated churchyard is to say “farewell” and to commend our loved one to the mercy and love of God in Christ.

We want to keep our consecrated churchyard at St Wulfran’s a peaceful and beautiful space that families and visitors can use as a place of prayer and reflection. The appearance of our churchyard is important to all who worship here and to our many visitors. To that end, and in order to comply with the requirements of our diocese and the Consistory Court (which regulates the types of headstones which may be erected in Church of England consecrated burial grounds), a set of Churchyard Rules has been drawn up

We ask for your cooperation and adherence to these rules.

Mowing and trimming expenses are greatly increased by unauthorised grave decorations. Strict enforcement of our rules will allow our churchyard at St Wulfran’s to remain well maintained, and to be a place of beauty and serenity for our community and future generations, without placing unfair financial burdens on families.

Please do not assume that because there are certain memorials in the older parts of the churchyard, these are permitted today. A memorial requires prior written permission before it can be erected. Those within the categories specified in the Churchyard Regulations may be introduced with the delegated authority of the parish priest. Everything else requires a faculty from the diocesan Chancellor.  Similarly, we are aware that some graves have ornaments on them that are in contravention of the Churchyard Rules, and we are seeking to discuss this with the relevant families where possible. To avoid future upset or distress, please note that all new ornaments, plastic flowers, glass vases or containers and other items listed below as not permitted on graves will be removed.


We know that this is likely to be a very difficult time for families. Coming to terms with the loss of someone dear to us can take a long time, and we appreciate that families may still be grieving when considering a permanent memorial for their loved one.

Generally, applications for gravestones or memorials should not be made until six months have passed since the interment. All close family members should be consulted before a final decision is taken. Do remember that the grave space remains the property of the church, but the headstone will belong to the heirs of the deceased who are liable in law for its maintenance and safety.

After the interment, a small plaque may be placed on the grave denoting the name and dates of birth and death of the deceased. Your undertaker should be able to arrange this for you. This plaque should be removed when a permanent headstone is installed (see below regarding the option of installing a cross during this period). We encourage families to mark graves in our churchyard with a permanent memorial stone. If it is intended that there will be no headstone, the grave must be marked with a small plaque clearly showing the full name of the deceased with dates of birth and death. Approval of the plaque’s design (to be made of steel) and wording is required by the incumbent or churchwarden before installation.


The priest may authorise the temporary introduction of a simple wooden cross to mark a recent burial. A brass plaque bearing the name and dates of the deceased may be affixed to the cross. Such crosses must be removed upon the erection of a stone memorial, or after a period of 18 months, whichever is the sooner.

The following paragraphs set out what is not permitted in our churchyard:

a. No artificial flowers or foliage may be placed on or about graves or spaces for ashes, except for Remembrance Sunday poppies and traditional Christmas wreaths. These will be removed after a period of not less than one month.

b. Wreaths and cut flowers placed on graves or spaces for ashes, and plants and flowers in containers, may be removed, when withered, by those authorised to do so by the priest.

c.  Objects, including railings, chippings, statues,  keep- sakes and children’s toys are not permitted in front of a headstone, on a grave, or in any part of the churchyard.

d. The surface area of a grave or space for ashes may not be marked out by placing of flints or any other stone or material whatsoever.

e. No monuments in black, dark grey granite, polished granite, marble, synthetic stones or plastic are allowed.

f.  No railings, chips of any colour and material, bird baths or sculpture whether figures or objects such as open books are permitted.

In spaces set aside for burial of ashes:

(i) Bulbs and small annual plants may be planted in the turf to the front of any headstone, but not beyond the width, or further than 30 cm in front of the headstone.

(ii) Bulbs and small annual plants may be planted in containers (these should not be made of plastic) on or in the ledge of any base forming an integral part of the design of the headstone.

(iii) Where no such ledge or container exists, removable containers (no wider than the headstone and projecting no more than 30 cm in front of the headstone) may be used.

For grave burials:

  • For a period of 5 years after interment:

(i) Bulbs and small annual plants may be planted in the soil of any grave in front of, but not beyond the width of the headstone, or more than 2 metres from the headstone.

(ii) Plants and cut flowers may be placed in a removable container (these should not be made of plastic) which must if possible be sunk into the soil of any grave to provide stability.

  • After 5 years from the date of interment:

Planting or placing of flowers and plants as in (i) and (ii) above is restricted to 30cm in front of the headstone in order to permit mowing of graves once the ground surface is level.

Procedure for the introduction of memorials (gravestones):

1. Permission of the priest must be obtained for the introduction of any memorial.

2. Every application to erect a memorial, or do any works, or place anything whatsoever in the churchyard should be made in writing to the priest in the first instance (see contact details below), with a description of the proposed work.

3. All memorials/ headstones must be of an upright design.

Please note that there are maximum sizes for gravestones.

Your stonemason should be aware of the detailed regulations for the size of headstones and materials which can be used, as laid down by the Diocese of Chichester.

More detailed information about headstones, inscriptions,etc is in the Guide for Funeral Directors – see

Remember that permission for your memorial MUST be issued by the Priest BEFORE you accept an estimate from or enter into a contract with your funeral director or stonemason. The Diocesan Advisory Committee or Chancellor may have to be consulted before giving or withholding consent, so please be aware that a decision may not be made immediately.

The Priest of St Wulfran’s Church Ovingdean:

Fr Richard Tuset          telephone 01273 962831 Email:


Patricia Couchman              telephone 01273 307134. Email:

Ewart Wooldridge              telephone 01273 390206Email:

Stonemasons: Most of the headstones in our churchyard in recent years have been provided by:

Tilleys Stonemasons Ltd telephone 01273 555882  email:” \

 Adopted by St Wulfran’s Ovingdean Parochial Church Council: 29/07/2022