Memorial (Headstone) Safety Inspections

Council staff are currently carrying out headstone safety checks at council owned Cemeteries as part of their rolling five-year programme of inspections. This important work forms part of Hartlepool Borough Council’s legal duty of care to ensure its cemeteries are safe places for visitors, staff and anyone working in them.

The safety checks are required as the Council has an obligation to provide and maintain safe cemeteries following a number of accidents, including some that have been fatal, that have occurred across the country in recent years. We need to ensure therefore that the memorials in our cemeteries and closed churchyards are not unsafe due to lack of maintenance or general deterioration.

Frequently asked questions:

What do the safety tests involve and who will carry them out?

Each headstone is given a visual check to assess the condition of the memorial.  It is then given a gentle 'push-test' to check that the stone is not in immediate danger of falling. Memorials will not be removed from the grave space as part of the testing. If the stone does not move or show signs of instability during the test it is passed as safe.  The checks are carried out by a trained officer who will make sure that the work is carried out carefully and with due respect.  Each memorial tested will be recorded to indicate that the safety check has been carried out.  The record will include the type and condition of the memorial and any action that was taken.

What will you do with headstones that fail the test?

Once a headstone is found to be unsafe the Council has a duty of care to make sure that it is made safe as soon as possible because the cemetery is a public place. 

Any memorial found to be in need of attention will have a notice placed on to inform the owners and any members of the public. The notice will warn cemetery visitors not to interfere with the memorial and request that anyone with an interest in the grave to contact the council’s Cemeteries and Crematorium office. In some cases if a headstone is in immediate danger of collapse it may be laid down or supported. The grave owner has a responsibility to have works undertaken promptly to rectify the issue.

Where we have contact details a letter will be sent to the registered owner. Unfortunately some of our records are very old and we are expecting that some address details will be out of date so we will also place a notice near the memorial asking the owner to call the Council.

Who is responsible for keeping my memorial repaired and in a safe condition?

We have overall responsibility for the safety of cemeteries and churchyards we own, including monitoring and assessing unstable headstones; but we do not own headstone memorials. It is therefore the responsibility of the grave owner, applicant, or their next of kin, to make sure that the memorial headstone is kept in a safe condition, so for those that fail the owner will be asked to get it repaired.

My headstone has had a notice placed on it and I haven't been contacted first. Why?

Our immediate priority is to make sure that all our cemeteries are safe places for the public to enter. 

Every headstone failing the test will have a notice attached to it advising the owner what to do next - this also acts as a warning to members of the public so please leave the notice in place. We will contact as many grave owners as possible whose memorials have failed the test.  If we have not written to you it may be because we do not have an up-to-date record of your contact details. 

Where can I get further information?

The Council understands how upsetting it can be for families to see work being carried out on a memorial to a loved one and we want to help people deal with their unsafe memorials as quickly as possible. Anyone who wants to talk about what is happening or needs information can contact us at 

Cemeteries and Crematorium

Office Opening Times: Monday - Thursday 8.30am - 12.00noon 1.00pm - 4.30pm Friday 8.30am - 12.00noon 1.00pm - 4.00pm

Stranton Cemetery Office
Tanfield Road
TS25 5DD

Telephone: 01429 274517