Moving Gravestones to read Inscriptions
NB: Neither SeaMIG nor any church or civil authority will accept responsibility for any injuries sustained or damage caused|
while stones are being moved, whether or not permission to do so has been granted. Assess the risks first.
|Moving Stones in Graveyards & Cemeteries|
|The best advice is don't! There is, however, a time and place for everything. It may be that you've read the memorial stones for all the Whitesmiths except Arthur, whose headstone is in fact the lump of something in the grass you keep tripping over, having fallen and lain undisturbed for many years, slowly acquiring a covering of soil and vegetation. Or you've simply come across a partially visible part of a memorial. In such cases some positional restoration of the stones is usually justifiable.|
Memorials are intended to be visible so they can be read. However, softer sandstones and older monuments with lead lettering which fall or sink may have their surfaces and inscriptions protected from weathering and grass-strimmers etc. Turning them permanently does risk exposing them to erosion. And some soils may accelerate deterioration. Whether to leave a recorded memorial upright is better than leaving it face down is a matter for local judgement.
If you decide to excacate and/or move such objects, first ask the permission of the site owners, usually the Vicar and churchwardens, or the local Council. Some may be willing to allow misplaced and fallen stones to be raised for the purpose of reading inscriptions, or to replace kerbstones which have moved so that the lettering is once again revealed. Others may object to any disturbance.
|Small Stone Repositioning|
|Footstones, Tablets & Small Memorials|
Sometimes these find their way onto paths between rows or even to the wrong plot. Lifting and replacing them where they belong is self-evidently justifiable, but be sure to put them on the right plot! The grass they were lying on will usually recover within a few months.
Smaller stone memorials often sink more quickly than larger memorial elements, which should have had robust below-ground support. They may be heavy! Memorial tablets can fairly easily be raised back to ground level by simply digging them out and packing the extracted earth below them. They will sink again in time, but can easily be cleaned and the inscriptions made legible once more, and cannot fall or become a safety hazard.
Small footstones and other memorials (such as smaller scrolls) should only be restored to a vertical position if they can be sunk back into the ground firmly. If they cannot, leave them lying neatly.
|Larger Stone Repositioning|
|Headstones, Kerbs, Scrolls and Larger Monuments.|
All stonework is heavy. Old monument stone can be brittle, and easily damaged. Soil settling and subsidence, and the natural decay of coffins can leave voids beneath the surface. Test for this by probing the ground, particularly around heavy objects such as scrolls, before attempting any digging, as there may be no support which would tolerate movement. Lifting stones out of collapsed graves is a professional task. Fallen headstones and crosses need professional restoring to their original upright positions, due to their weight and height, and the safety hazards they pose if not securely fixed. This should not be attempted, therefore.
A robust garden fork with a strong wooden handle may suffice to raise small and medium size headstones, footstones and parts of displaced kerbing, but should be tested before any hands are placed beneath a stone, and before a stone is raised fully. Baulks of timber should be inserted underneath as soon as sufficient ground clearance makes this possible. They are there to ensure that, should the stone fall, it will not shatter. Taking care not to scratch or otherwise damage the stones is easier using wooden levers. Any raised stone should normally be lowered gently back to its original position. To restore inscription legibility it may occasionally be worth putting displaced kerbs on their bases, if still intact.
With heavier fallen headstones, which cannot be easily manhandled but need turning and moving back to their correct positions (on top of their own graves), placing wooden runners beneath them is helpful in both reducing the effort required and keeping them clear of the ground while doing so.
|Click to enlarge|
|In all cases remember that the effort to reveal and record does not include a commitment to fully restore.|
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