Headstone safety a priority for council

Published Wednesday, 17th November 2021

Hartlepool Borough Council are regularly carrying out memorial safety checks at its cemeteries to ensure they are safe places for visitors, staff and anyone working in them.

The work forms part of a pre-planned five-year programme to test the safety and stability of all memorials within cemeteries and closed churchyards which are managed by the authority.

This type of testing is standard practice across the country to ensure public safety.

If any memorials are found to require attention, the memorial owner will be contacted where possible and the Bereavement Service Team will provide advice to help ensure any memorials of concern are made safe.

Sarah Scarr, Heritage and Countryside Manager, at Hartlepool Borough Council, said:  “Each of our burial grounds has a special significance for families across Hartlepool and we would like to reassure residents that these safety inspections will be carried out with the greatest respect and sensitivity.

“Our staff are highly trained and experienced in this important work and they will treat every headstone with care and dignity.

“Each memorial will be visually inspected and if there are any signs of damage or instability a gentle ‘hand test’ will be performed on the headstone to check for movement. Where a headstone is found to be unsafe, a notice will also be placed by the headstone advising the owner what to do next - this also acts as a warning to members of the public so please leave these notices in place.

“If we are unable to trace the owner of a headstone, we will endeavour to make it safe in the most sensitive manner possible.

“Although Hartlepool Borough Council doesn’t have the right or responsibility to repair memorials, we can support you by helping you to understand your options and how to move forward by making arrangements with one of the local memorial masons on our list of registered firms. Do get in touch with our bereavement team if you require any support.

”We appreciate this is a sensitive issue, however the actions form part of Hartlepool Borough Council’s legal duty of care to ensure our cemeteries are safe places for visitors, staff and anyone working on them.”

Should you require further information about the memorial inspection process, please contact us on 01429 274517 or by emailing cemeteries@hartlepool.gov.uk or visit www.hartlepool.gov.uk/memorial-inspections