Memorandum by the National Association of Memorial
Masons (CEM 42)
1. The National Association of Memorial
Masons (NAMM), which was founded in 1907, is the trade association
for memorial masons in the UK. We estimate that we represent about
one third of the memorial masonry businesses meeting our entry
criteria. We also have some 28 burial authorities in corporate
2. NAMM wishes to submit representatives
to the Committee on the following topics:
The condition of existing cemeteries.
Aspects of the management and provision
of cemetery service.
The funding of cemeteries.
3. NAMM's mission is "To further
the memorial masonry industry and safeguard the interests of the
bereaved through the promotion of high standards, wide choice
and increased understanding in all matters relating to natural
To give assistance and support to member
companies and to promote their interests".
To this end NAMM:
operates a "Recommended Code
of Working Practice", which is accepted by a rapidly increasing
number of burial authorities as the minimum standard to which
memorials should be fixed.
develops and tests methods of fixing
operates Codes of Ethics and Business
Practice to which all members are expected to adhere.
operates a "conciliation and
arbitration service" in the event of customer/mason disputes.
assists burial authorities in the
reviewing/redrafting of their cemetery regulations.
runs "training days" for
burial authorities in how to assess the stability of previously
provides technical and other advice
to burial authorities and other relevant parties when requested.
is setting up, via the BSI, a British
Standard on Memorial Stability (Note: this is in its final
stages within the BSI and should be published as a standard within
the first half of 2001).
is working to set up a national register
of accredited memorial masons.
co-sponsors the Cemetery of the Year
publishes an advisory leaflet for
the memorial-buying public.
offers any other appropriate assistance
it can to any party involved with natural stone memorials.
4. Cemeteries are important places. They
are part of our heritage in addition to being places in which
to bury our dead, they should also be:
comforting and safe for the bereaved.
Research has shown that they have a very valuable part to play
in helping the bereaved come to terms with the loss of a loved
one. It has also shown that memorials often provide a focal point
first for their grief and later for remembrance and tributes.
a fitting backdrop to the social
history they inevitably contain.
pleasant and properly managed open
safe habitats for many of Britain's
flora and fauna.
5. NAMM considers the following to be some
of the problems which need addressing:
(i) Graves and memorials may not always be
properly maintained by the family of the interred and can fall
(ii) Poor ground maintenance.
(iv) Unnecessary and/or ill-advised regulations.
(v) A frequent lack of co-ordination.
(vi) Insecurely erected memorials.
(vii) Vandalism and other misuse.
(viii) A lack of respect by society in general
and the local community in particular. (Note: This is not helped
by our culture in which anything connected with death is still,
to a great extent, taboo).
6. Graves should be "sold" on
a renewable lease basis as has long been the accepted practice
in other European countries. This would help to overcome the problems
of memorials falling into disrepair.
It is recognised that this idea would need to
be very tactfully "sold" to the public. However, it
should not be an insurmountable problem. The recycling of graves
is also necessary if parts of the country are not to run out of
space for new burials.
7. Cemeteries should be able to charge families
of the interred a small annual ground maintenance fee. The income
from this, and all other income directly in respect of cemeteries,
should be used for cemetery management and maintenance, it should
not be put into the general funds of the local authority.
8. Good ground maintenance is extremely
important for both the appearance of the cemetery and the stability
of memorials. Cost cutting in this area should not result in any
lowering of standards.
The overuse of weed killer around memorials
can result in bare areas of earth which, apart from being unsightly
can lead to dangerous ground erosion, particularly on sloping
ground. This can undermine the stability of the memorials.
9. The impact of poor cemetery design may
go much further than merely affecting the cemetery's appearance.
For example, insufficient planting whilst also making the cemetery
look bleak, can lead to ground erosion.
A cemetery layout which requires memorials to
be erected on the dug ground of a grave will inevitably result
in potential memorial instability.
10. Memorial instability is currently an
extremely important issue. NAMM is working hard to assist local
authorities in assessing the risks of memorial instability and
in the testing of memorial fixings designed to minimise or eliminate
any potential risks. It also offers local authorities help in
reviewing/rewriting their cemetery regulations. (Note: As a result
of extensive tests NAMM has produced a Recommended Code of Working
Practice which a rapidly increasing number of burial authorities
now cite as the minimum standard to which memorials must be fixed).
However, ultimately it is the local authority
who must determine cemetery regulations and, more importantly,
police them. There are an increasing number of cases where cemetery
regulations are quite clearly being breached yet a number of local
authorities do not seem to have the will to enforce them. This
can often seem unjust to both the public and to memorial masons
who abide by those regulations.
11. Vandalism, misuse and a general lack
of respect for cemeteries are symptomatic of the problems facing
society in general. Whilst extra security is obviously one way
of tackling the problem, it is costly and unlikely to change attitudes.
NAMM is of the opinion that, in the long run, and in addition
to extra security, actions such as the following could be of real
long term benefit:
improving the way cemeteries look
(generally the better places look the less the likelihood of vandalism
and other such misuse occurring).
actively encouraging young people
to understand the interest and importance of cemeteries. Many
cemeteries make excellent classrooms for the study of a multitude
actively encouraging interest groups
to use them.
actively encouraging "open days"
which are designed so as to attract all sectors of society (ie
not just those who already have a direct interest in the cemetery
12. NAMM accepts that in order to make and
maintain improvements in cemeteries, money is required. However,
it also believes that because local authorities already have complete
control over the charges made for the cemetery services, unrestrained
by any sort of competition, they already have at their disposal
sufficient areas in which they can raise financefor example
the sale/lease of graves, the levying of fees for the erection
of memorial and subsequent work carried out on those memorials,
burial and cremation fees. If all the income from these, along
with the potential income accruing from grave/ground maintenance
fees and the recycling of graves were used to fund the ongoing
costs of cemeteries, sufficient monies would be available.
13. NAMM does not believe that the sale
of memorials by local authorities is permissible necessary or
to be desired.
Indeed, NAMM has recently made submissions to
the DETR in relation to the local authority led IBCA proposals
that regulations should be made under s.150 Local Government and
Housing Act 1989 to allow burial authorities to sell memorials
to the general public at cemeteries and crematoria. In order to
formulate its response the Association organised a number of regional
meetings open to all memorial masons, whether or not they were
members, in order to acquire a truly representative and informed
response. Those meetings were held in East Anglia, London, the
Midlands, the North East/North West, Scotland, the South East,
the South West and Wales. The Association has drawn on the results
of these meetings in formulating its submission where relevant.
14. Over recent years local authorities,
when acting either as burial or cremation authorities have increasingly
extended their activities into the traditional activities of the
memorial mason in the supply and sale of memorabilia to the general
public. One justification offered by the local authorities is
that this revenue assists in funding cemeteries. We do not understand
how this can be the case since any revenue received will go as
part of the Council's revenue to its general fund, cemetery revenue
is not hypothecated to the burial authority. In any event, the
Association strongly opposes this unfair trade.
15. The trade is unfair for two reasons.
First, because a publicly funded local authority has an advantage
in economic terms over the small business represented by the local
firms of memorial masons who have only their turnover on which
they can rely. Secondly, because the local authority enjoys an
unfair advantage over the memorial mason in that the public generally
comes first to the local authority either to arrange for the grave
plot or the cremation in question, or to the funeral and/or to
visit the grave. The local authority then exploits that access
to the public to offer its services as a supplier of memorials
to the disadvantage of the members of the Association. There are
a number of crematoria that now sell memorials for cremated remains
on an exclusive basis. The public are not permitted to purchase
them from the private memorial mason. There are also some cemeteries
that sell certain memorials, such as memorials on the children's
section, in a similar fashion. This not only flies in the face
of consumer choice, it also cuts into the already hard-pressed
margins of the local memorial masons and can threaten their survival.
16. Ther is no need for local authorities
to engage in this trade in order to provide services the public
would not otherwise enjoy. The trade is highly competitive and
extremely price sensitive.
17. NAMM has been advised that this trade
by local authorities is not lawful. No power to supply or sell
gravestones or other memorabilia to the public is granted to burial
authorities by the relevant legislation. The Association has taken
the advice of leading and junior counsel on the issue on more
than one occasion.