Although many of may have never considered it a possibility, the easy answer is actually yes, you can be buried in your garden or any private land you own, with a few caveats. The Burial Law Amendment Act 1880 made sure of that. After all, ancestral homes are littered with family cemeteries, and mausoleums, and it has been a custom to bury our loved ones near to us for centuries. Some religious groups such as the Quakers also prefer to be buried in their gardens. It is also becoming an increasingly popular choice as a cheaper, more intimate and often more environmentally friendly burial option.
Here’s our lowdown on the top things to bear in mind when considering planning a burial in your garden:
How long will the land be owned by your family and what will happen if they sell it?
Unless you own a stately home, it’s likely that your ancestors will sell your property at some point in the future and you need to assess whether your plans will affect their ability to sell (most experts agree that having a burial plot in the garden reduces the market for a property and consequently its price) and what would happen with your burial plot. Would the new owners allow access to their garden to visit your burial plot or possibly request that the body be removed?
Do you need permission to do it?
It is unlikely that you will need planning permission from your local authority, unless you are planning a very large memorial to mark the spot, or planning to bury more than one person (in which case a change of use from a private garden to a burial ground could be argued). However, you will have to liaise with them to comply with the Environment Agency’s minimum groundwater protection requirements such as burying a body above the water table and at least 50m away from any water source to ensure your plans pose no risk to health, specifically pollution via waterways. Click here for further details. It’s also a good idea to check any deed covenants and bye laws relating to the land to check they don’t prohibit a burial. Do also look up how regulations around home burials differ between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What paperwork will need to be done?
In addition to gaining authorisation from the Environment Agency, the people responsible for your burial will need to register your death in the same way as normal, but at the same time obtain a Certificate of Authority for Burial from the Registrar (also referred to as the green form). They must complete information on the certificate to provide the location and date of the burial and return it within 96 hours of the burial. The property owner of the land must also keep a register of where the burial plot is, alongside other information about the land.
Where’s the best place to allocate a spot?
If you want to be buried in your garden, you will need to bear in mind the type of soil in your garden. Sandy soil will not work very well over a certain depth and you may also need to factor in pipes other than those carrying water or large tree roots and rocks. You may also want to think about how you would like your burial to be marked above ground and whether the space permits it.
Grave digging is not an easy job and unless you have a willing family member, you might wish to make financial provision in your funeral plans to hire a freelance grave digger. You may also wish to consider providing contingency plans should your wishes not be able to be carried out in exceptional circumstances (e.g. if you die of a highly contagious disease). As garden burials are a less conventional option, you might also like to provide more detailed plans for your loved ones to help them carry out your wishes. For example, The Natural Death Centre advise informing the local police in advance of a garden burial to avoid any misunderstandings!