Care of gravestones
Key pointers for looking after your gravestone (get download [37K]) are:
- If your gravestone has statutory protection, this will affect what you can do to the stone (get download [40K]).
- As a general rule, gravestones should not be cleaned except by an experienced conservator. Even cleaning consisting of gentle brushing with a soft bristle brush and rinsing with clean water, has the potential to cause irreversible damage to porous stone. Basic guidance is given in notes developed by the Woodlawn Cemetery (Canada) and Chicora Foundation (USA).
- Different stone types (get download [557K]) are more susceptible to decay (get download [422K]). Sandstone memorials are particularly vulnerable to decay and other forms of damage.
- Seek specialist advice when dealing with materials other than stone. Historic Scotland have produced free guidance leaflets for advice on caring for monumental bronze and reinstating boundary ironwork. Guidance on cemetery ironwork is also provided by Chicora Foundation.
- As a rule, no attempt should be made to realign tilting markers, unless they are in danger of collapse, as this may disrupt adjacent graves and detract from the character of the graveyard. For guidance see notes by Historic Scotland (get download [1.3MB]) or by the Woodlawn Cemetery (Canada) and the Chicora Foundation (USA).
- Seek specialist advice to deal with graffiti especially on porous stone as inappropriate treatment can cause irreversible damage.
- Gravestones or gravestone inscriptions should not be painted as this may harm the stone. Where there is evidence that paint was applied as an original feature, seek professional advice from a conservator before re-painting. For more information on the issues involved in caring for inscriptions see Sections 7.4 and 7.5 in The Guidelines for Cemetery Conservation prepared by the National Trust of Australia (NSW).
- Take appropriate action with buried or overgrown gravestones. Basic guidance on dealing with vegetation on gravestones and historic structures more generally has been prepared by the National Trust (England) and the Chicora Foundation (USA). A methodology to locate, and record buried gravestones has been developed by the Moray Burial Ground Research Group (get download [1MB])
Page last updated August 2006