Fiona Stirling 2009

University of Sheffield, UK

Grave re-use: a feasibility study

Grave re-use was common in the UK for hundreds of years, but legislation introduced in the mid-nineteenth century made the practice illegal.  As a result, cemeteries must continually expand in order to accommodate further interments.  Many cemeteries incorporate vast areas of old burial that generate no income, are no longer visited and are poorly maintained.  The recent proposal by Government to reintroduce grave re-use seems straightforward in theory, but UK cemeteries were not designed to be re-used.  Above ground there are monuments, planting, buildings and recreational and burial use to be considered.  Below ground there are multiple burial plots, each containing burials at different depths and from different periods. This research investigates the implications and feasibility of introducing grave re-use at a site-specific level, using two case studies in Sheffield.  To capture the full complexity of the cemetery landscape, the research combines four different methods including in-depth analysis of the records relating to the cemeteries’ establishment and management, field observation of cemetery practices and the use of the landscape, qualitative interviews with cemetery professionals and other stakeholders to ascertain their perceptions of the cemetery and of grave re-use and detailed grave-by-grave mapping using a Geographical Information System (GIS).  This integrated and innovative approach offers a unique understanding of the two case study cemeteries and detailed analysis of the potential to introduce grave re-use. The research demonstrates the need for a comprehensive approach to implementation of grave re-use, but indicates the likelihood that this will have to be tailored towards the individual cemetery, depending on its age, past management practices and regulation, its current status for burial and its development of other roles and identities.


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