Headstone Safety

A programme of memorial/headstone safety inspections is a permanent responsibility of all burial authorities.

The background

Lairholders are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their lairs, including memorials and headstones and Dumfries and Galloway Council are responsible for the safety of members of the public, visitors and our team members within our cemeteries.

Dumfries and Galloway Council is a burial authority. Burial authorities have a legal obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc.1974 and the Occupiers Liability (Scotland) Act 1960 to ensure that, as far as is reasonably practicable, cemeteries are maintained in a safe condition. A programme of memorial/headstone safety inspections is a permanent responsibility of all burial authorities.

It is recognised that any work progressed within our cemeteries requires to be completed in a sensitive and respectful manner, this has and will continue to be a priority for Council officers and our contractors.

Following the very sad death of an eight-year-old boy in Glasgow in 2015, as a result of being hit by a falling headstone, Dumfries and Galloway Council like other local authorities started a programme of works in our cemeteries to inspect and make safe memorials/headstones in line with national guidance.

The Scottish Government 'Burial Grounds Memorial Safety - Guidance for Scotland's Local Authorities' and The Ministry of Justice 'Managing the Safety of Burial Ground Memorials' Guidance is the primary focus of our headstone/memorial safety inspection regime and progressing the project within Dumfries and Galloway.  Links to both of these documents (and others) can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

We have management rules in relation to the management of public burial grounds in Dumfries and Galloway which state:

  • The Lair holder must keep tombs, monuments and other erections in good order and repair
  • Where a memorial is found to be in an unsafe condition, the Council reserves the right to make safe and charge the lair holder for any works carried out. The Council may refuse further interments in these lairs until costs incurred have been paid in full.

Committee Reports

It is recognised that any work progressed within our cemeteries requires to be completed in a sensitive and respectful manner, this has and will continue to be a priority for Council officers and our contractors.

Completed work

To date, work has been completed in 15 cemeteries with a total of 11,606 headstones tested, of which 1,403 headstones were identified as requiring work and were therefore made safe. The 15 completed cemeteries are as follows (Structural survey works are still to be progressed where applicable)

  1. Dryfesdale, Lockerbie
  2. Moffat Old
  3. Dumfries High Cemetery
  4. Dumfries St Mary's Greyfriars
  5. Dumfries St Michael's Old
  6. Dumfries, Troqueer Church yard
  7. Annan Old Church
  8. Dryfesdale Churchyard, Lockerbie
  9. Moffat Cemetery Old
  10. Dumfries St Michael's
  11. Dumfries Troqueer, Old Cemetery
  12. Kirkconnel Churchyard
  13. Morton, Thornhill
  14. Kirk Wynd, Langholm Church yard
  15. Ecclefechan Churchyard

Next steps

The next steps to continuing with our Memorial/Headstone Safety Project is to complete works within the following 16 cemeteries which is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2022.

The next cemeteries to be inspected and made safe are as follows (this page will updated as inspections a programmed).

  1. Newton Stewart, St Couans - Signage displayed on 11 February 2022, inspections commence on week commencing Monday 14 March 2022
  2. Stranraer, Glebe - - Signage displayed on23 February 2022, inspections on week commencing Monday 28 March 2022
  3. Sanquhar Churchyard - To be completed
  4. New Abbey
  5. Newton Stewart Old Cemetery
  6. Stranraer Sheuchan
  7. Whithorn, St Ninian's
  8. Castle Douglas Cemetery Old
  9. Dalbeattie Cemetery Old
  10. Kirkcudbright Old Cemetery
  11. Minnigaff Churchyard
  12. Portpatrick Old Cemetery
  13. Portpatrick St Andrew's
  14. Stranraer, St Andrew's
  15. Whithorn Churchyard
  16. Wigtown, St Machutus

Communication

We recognise that when we are working within our cemeteries, this is an extremely emotive subject which requires to be progressed sensitively. We are keen to ensure we can provide our communities with as much information as possible as it is important that we can keep you informed.

We will try and contact our communities and lair holders through various channels which will include the following:

  • Signage will be displayed throughout cemeteries (at entrances, water points, benches, etc) to confirm that work is due to commence, this will include details of work and contact details for further information. This will be at least 28 days in advance of any work commencing
  • We will write to lair holders who we have details for to provide information on the issues found with their memorial/headstone. It is acknowledged that there is no guarantee of accurate lair ownership details being held due to the age of the some of the memorials/headstones. To mitigate these other options should be considered as detailed below
  • If records of Lair owners or descendants are not known, contact will be made with local funeral directors and stone masons to determine if they have up to date contacts of lair holders
  • Where it is safe to do so, add a sign to headstones confirming the date of inspection, that it is unsafe and contact details of our Council to discuss options. A timescale for contact will be included but this will be dependent on the risk associated with the headstone/memorial. If headstones/memorials are deemed very unsafe and a risk to public safety, they will be made safe
  • Use as many digital channels as possible to raise awareness of the project including social media

The signage below shows example signage that will be displayed within our cemeteries.

Headstone Safety

Record Information

A key part of the process of assessment and making safe is the accurate record keeping of individual memorials and headstones. Information recorded includes, date of inspection, memorial/headstone information, type of memorial, condition, the outcome of the inspection, photographic evidence and actions taken.

Listed Building Consent

We will check statutory designations within a burial ground and/or an individual memorial and apply for Listed Building consent or scheduled prior to works commencing. We will also discuss with Historic Environment Scotland (HES) if applicable.

Further information

If you have any enquiries or would like to discuss the Headstone Safety project, we can be contacted using the details below:

Page last updated: 08/03/2022
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