What would happen to the old monuments if cemeteries were to be re-used?

The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management is currently considering how historic conservation principles can be integrated into re-use plans, through use of conservation management plans.  

It is probable that re-use would be targeted at areas with little historic interest. There are many sections of cemeteries where the ground is ‘full’ but where there are no memorials. This is because the clearance of all grave furniture was a popular and common maintenance option for cemetery managers in the period after the First World War. The process was gradual and reflected a modernist rejection of Victorian aesthetics and an embracing of new lawn cemetery design. 

As a first measure, local authorities would usually flatten body mounds, which were raised earth platforms – around 60 cm high – marking the grave. Steps would then be taken to bury kerbsets. None of these procedures entailed disturbance of remains. Clearance procedures accelerated in the post-World War II period and included the removal of entire monuments.  

The Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977 offered a clear procedure for monument clearance. An Audit Commission Report of 1988 encouraged local authorities to undertake clearance programmes as a way of easing the burden of grounds maintenance. 

In 1994, Dunk & Rugg’s detailed study of local authority cemetery landscapes found that eight per cent of the 559 zones in its 16 case study sites was cleared open space, and a  further 25 per cent was semi-open space where almost all the memorials had been removed.

Further reading: 

Audit Commission (1988) Competitive Management of Parks and Green Spaces, London: HMSO.

Dunk, J. and Rugg, J. (1994) The Management of Old Cemetery Land: Now and the Future, Crayford: Shaw and Sons.

Rugg, J. (2006) ‘Lawn cemeteries: the emergence of a new landscape of death’, Urban History, 33, 213-233.