Spaces for burial are generally allocated on a first dies, first served basis to those entitled to them – that is, those living in the parish and those on the church electoral roll.
From time to time, however, applications are received from parishioners and others wishing to reserve a grave space for future use. Experience suggests that such applications are more frequent in cases where the space remaining for future burial in a churchyard is adequate only for a few more years, but they do arise occasionally in other cases.
A grave can only be reserved in a particular place for future (as opposed to immediate) use after a petition has been been made to, and granted by, the Chancellor. An Incumbent has no right to reserve grave spaces, and a promise made by them will on its own be ineffective. On the other hand, the Chancellor will always wish to be informed of the views of the Incumbent concerned, and Incumbents may wish to consult others, including especially the Parochial Church Council.
A common instance is where a husband or wife (or partner) wishes to have a space reserved next to a spouse (or partner) who has already been buried, or where children wish to be buried near their parents. Sometimes a number of grave spaces may be reserved with a view to the creation of a family burial area.
The faculty will normally be subject to a condition requiring a fee to be paid to the Incumbent and/or into the churchyard maintenance fund of the church concerned. A faculty will relate to a particular individual or individuals and cannot be transferred even to another member of the family without a new faculty. Reservation of a grave space does not carry with it any associated right to erect a memorial.
Once a faculty has been granted by the Chancellor, the Incumbent must keep a record, so that there can be no risk of the space being used for anyone else. It will also minimise the likelihood of future problems if reserved spaces are physically marked on the ground in some way.
By law, where a grave space is reserved, a burial must take place therein within a maximum period of 100 years. In our Diocese, reservation is unlikely to be granted for a period in excess of 40 years (save in the case of family graves), and account will be taken of the date by which the person to be buried is likely to have died. A reservation can be extended by further faculty.
Once a burial has taken place in a reserved grave space, there is no bar to its being used again for an unrelated burial once a period of approximately 75 years has elapsed.
Incumbents will give advice to people seeking to reserve a grave space, and should discourage at the outset any applications which are almost inevitably going to be turned down.