Grave Stones - Obligations and Rights (General)
Apologies if this has been covered - searched here but did not find anything beyond reuse of chapels.
On a recent trip to the Ross area, I discovered the gravestone my Gx7 grandparents from 1729 in a parish churchyard. Quite apart from being chuffed at finding it and touched that it existed at all (I assumed that, as they were not particularly wealthy, they wouldn't have a stone marker), it contained some valuable information (ages) that have helped tie them to baptisms.
The gravestone is in very good condition compared with some of its contemporaries. Unfortunately it has been moved from the grave and is now propped against a wall. No one at the church seems to know when this occurred and they are no known records or maps of the grave locations.
This leads me to some queries:
- is anyone aware of gravesite mappings / memorial transcriptions etc covering South Herefordshire parishes? HFHS have transcribed many to the north of the county but not reached this far down as far as I can tell.
- what, if any, are the churches' obligations to preserve and maintain graveyards? Is there specific law on the matter? For that matter, did people have to pay fees for burial in the 18th century and if so, do those ‘contracts’ convey any obligations? I have much later documents (19th & 20th century, municipal cemeteries) that do transfer rights to descendants.
- what protection is available against the disposal / reuse / destruction of such stones, and indeed graves, by the church? Whilst I have no reason to think this is planned at this particular church, the clergy are mostly concerned with their living parishioners and mission rather than long dead parishioners and passing family historians on a mission. At least one parish church nearby is, due to lack of space, systematically reusing old (seems to mean mostly 1800's) graves. They don't seem to preserve the old stones and certainly not record them; the grave yard map that did exist is ‘missing’ (HRO confirmed this).
Do we have any rights as descendants?
Thoughts and comments appreciated