This page is written in response to various comments and questions on the Facebook page “Spotted Tutbury” relating to St. Mary’s Priory Church, Tutbury – it is intended to help explain how the Church and Churchyard operate specifically in the context of the points raised.
I write the following as a “Church/Churchyard volunteer” – I am not religious, I have no official position within the Church, just a love of the building and the churchyard and a friendship with those who try to keep both going.
For our part, my wife and I are local volunteers for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), attempting to keep the seven War Graves looking respectable, and we are also Regional Volunteers for the War Memorials Trust.
Before I get on to the detailed explanations can I just say that anyone who would like to volunteer to help maintain the churchyard would be more than welcome – please see the Volunteering page and/or contact Roger Sharp via the Contacts page – we would love to hear from you.
Many people (of faith and no faith) already volunteer large amounts of their time to keep St. Mary’s open. Over 3,000 “volunteer hours” were required for the conservation of the War Memorial and a further 1,000 for the conservation of the Alabaster Arch.
The Church is open at some period on 5 days of the week – this takes volunteer effort.
A Community Volunteer project for the Churchyard was tried once before, but this only attracted two volunteers for a limited period.
First, can we clarify finances – whatever your views of the Church of England finances, the basic fact, which cannot be altered, is that each individual church is responsible for financing its own building and churchyard maintenance and repairs, something that requires much effort each year with, as Jackie says, an ageing congregation. Therefore St. Mary’s has very limited funds and resources at its disposal. This has not been helped this year by the recent break-in.
The overall cost of keeping St. Mary’s running is £8 per hour excluding special projects.
You may know that both the War Memorial and the Alabaster Arch have been conserved in recent years – all the funds had to be raised by us – none were provided from the ‘centre’.
Small things like people not taking their rubbish home when tending graves makes a difference – the skip costs us £96 to empty.
We have two major expenditures coming up for which we have to raise funds:
Lighting – the current lighting was installed some 60 years ago, and the lighting units are not replaceable. A new system is urgently required, and the expenditure is expected to be about £26,000.
Easy Access – for people with walking difficulties, in wheelchairs or with pushchairs, access to St. Mary’s is difficult – the expected cost to enable Easy Access is about £35,000
Different areas of the Churchyard are the responsibility of different organisations. Despite being a Church of England Churchyard, anyone of any faith or none may be buried there under civil law.
The Closed Churchyard, the two sections to the south or village side of the Church, are maintained by the Parish Council as prescribed by law.
The rest is the responsibility of St. Mary’s. There are no funds to employ anyone to maintain the Churchyard, so it is done by volunteers.
The “New Churchyard”, that section to the west (Castle side) of the church where current burials and internments take place, is maintained by a husband and wife volunteer team from Tutbury who tend the Churchyard almost every week during the growing season and have done for many years. They have performed a tireless task and I am sure the village, as well as the Church, is very grateful for their efforts keeping that section of the Churchyard looking so lovely.
For the rest of the Churchyard (North and East), the primary source of volunteers is Sudbury. Depending on availability and their willingness to volunteer we have between 0 and 2 in the spring and summer – at the moment we have 2.
The area immediately to the north and east of the church has few gravestones and kerbs round the graves, making it the easiest to maintain.
The section to the east of the Church and east of the path has burials from living memory and is the next priority, but this is a very difficult area to manage because of all the kerbs round the graves and the closeness of the graves. Only strimmers can work in this area. It is not easy work and is done as and when resource is available.
In those times when the Eastern section is under control, then the section to the North of the Terrace steps is tackled – currently in a very poor state.
Note that the War Graves are at the top of the Terrace and the North end of the Churchyard making them very difficult to maintain.
After a long damp/wet spell when grass cutting was not possible, we had warmth and sunshine in abundance that made everything grow very rapidly. The Sudbury volunteers will next week (week beginning 8th July) start re-cutting the path to the North end of the Churchyard to enable access to the two WWII War Graves.
One area where we have had success recently is “Care for a Square”. The “Rose Squares” along the East/West path are now maintained by individuals – people maintain one or two squares each – a manageable size, and it seems to work – these look very good.
Grave “Ownership” – although people often think that they “buy” a grave plot, they actually only buy the right to bury someone in that plot, and the right probably only lasts for 50 or 75 years.
The ownership of the ground always resides with the church, and when the right to bury someone was purchased, the person doing the purchasing will have signed to say they will abide by Churchyard Regulations – see Regulations and Rules.
Regulations: it is worth noting that all the regulations in a Church of England Churchyard are very similar to those in Council run cemeteries; in general Councils enforce the regulations for more strictly, removing items that do not fit within regulations without warning.
Ornaments and Decorations: items left on graves such as vases and ornaments can be dangerous – if accidentally touched by a strimmer they can shatter and cause serious injury – please abide by the regulations.
Dog Fouling: have you ever accidentally strimmed dog mess left behind by some uncaring dog owner – some of our volunteers unfortunately have – they then have to go home, wash all their clothes and have a shower – it is disgusting! Please pick up after your dog.
Volunteering – You Can Make a Difference
As said before, anyone who would like to volunteer to help maintain the churchyard would be more than welcome. You do not have to work as part of a group – please contact Roger Sharp – see Contacts – we would love to hear from you.
St. Mary’s Village Meeting
The Parochial Church Council (PCC), at its meeting next Monday evening (8th July), will discuss the idea of a Village meeting at St. Mary’s where people from the village can come and ask questions and discuss issues and hopefully receive answers. Date and exact format to be announced.
Finally – Thank You
Finally, a thank you to all those who are able to maintain areas around their loved one’s graves, particularly to the East end – every bit you can do enables the Sudbury volunteers to move on to other sections.
If you would like to meet someone in the Churchyard to discuss a particular issue, please contact us.