Choosing a memorial

This information refers to memorials usually erected in cemeteries and churchyards. These need to be of a material that:

  • Will withstand the weather
  • Can take a lasting carved inscription  
  • Is suitable for shaping and ornamentation.

Time has shown that natural stone (i.e. stone, slate, marble and granite) has all these qualities.

Choosing a memorial

Because a memorial is a lasting monument and tribute to a person’s life, it is important to choose it carefully. A hasty decision can often result in later regrets, so it can be sensible to wait and to spend time selecting a suitable design. A number of options will be possible.

Selecting a memorial mason

The Cemeteries Team have a list of registered stonemasons, however, you may wish to use a company recommended by a friend or relative, or you may wish to look around. It is generally advisable to use one which specialises in memorial masonry. They should understand stone and so be able to give you reliable advice as to whether the stone you are choosing is suitable for the type of memorial you require and the area in which it is to be fixed. Weather, pollution and surrounding vegetation can have an effect on this.

Memorial masons must have public and products liability insurance of no less than £5million and must also give a ten year guarantee.

What you may choose

General: cemeteries and churchyards generally have regulations governing the kinds of memorials, and sometimes also the inscriptions and ornamentations they will allow. These vary from place to place and so need to be checked before any choice is made. A reputable memorial mason will be able to assist.

Cremation: there are special areas for the burial of cremated remains.

Obtaining permission

Before a memorial may be erected in a churchyard or cemetery, written permission must be obtained from its management.

The initial enquiry

It is important to obtain a written estimate clearly setting out full details of the memorial you are considering and all the costs involved. The estimate should include the memorial itself (with full details as to size, materials etc), the lettering, any ornamentation and finishes, the secure installation of the memorial on a proper foundation, the cemetery or churchyard fees and VAT.

Lettering and ornamentation can be carved, sand blasted or machine cut. These options and the different types of stone available all vary in price. If you obtain estimates from more than one company, do check them carefully to make sure you really are comparing like with like.

Placing the order

When you place the order you may be asked to pay a deposit, with the balance of the agreed price payable later. Before signing to confirm your order it is important to check it thoroughly. Be particularly careful that the wording and spelling of the inscription and any dates are shown correctly. Any alterations should be confirmed immediately and in writing.

Please note: unless you give definite written instructions to the contrary, the layout of the inscription may be left to the letter carver. The availability of the materials, the complexity of design and the condition of the ground will affect the time the memorial will take to complete. A reputable memorial mason will advise you on this.

Responsibility for the memorial

It is important to remember that it is you, and not the cemetery or churchyard management, who is responsible for the maintenance of your memorial. If it should become dilapidated or unsafe, steps may be taken to lay it down or remove it. It is therefore wise to arrange for it to be regularly maintained and insured.


It is highly recommended that a memorial is insured against accidental damage, vandalism and theft – and to make sure the cover takes effect immediately the stone is fixed in the cemetery or churchyard. The cost is very reasonable and usually insignificant when compared with the possible cost of repairs. Any reputable memorial mason should have details of the schemes available. A list of approved memorial masons is available by contacting the Cemeteries office.