Cemetery Conservation

Grave Site Maintenance


Subsidence of the ground and poor footings under the headstone will eventually cause the stone to lean and fall. This can cause damage which cannot be easily repaired. If your headstone is leaning you should seek professional advice from a qualified monumental mason. He will be able to stabilise it for the long-term.

Broken material

Do not dispose of any broken material. It may be very useful for any future conservation or restoration. Some cemeteries were ‘cleaned up’ in the past and many valuable pieces of graveyard furniture were lost forever. You should replace broken pieces nearest to where they originated, if obvious.

Stone lying flat on its face or back

Stones lying flat deteriorate faster than those standing upright because of constant dampness. Should you try to stand the stone upright if intact and not cracked, lean it against something. Be very careful – stone is very heavy and difficult to handle and could easily be broken and/or result in injury to yourself.

Lead lettering

Over time the stone erodes and some of the lead lettering will fall out. Because of the erosion the lettering cannot be easily replaced without further stone cutting. However, because of the channels cut for the lead it is usually still possible to read the message. We advise that in such circumstances it is best to leave the stone well alone.

Wrought iron work and metal fences

Early wrought iron surrounds are works of art and can have great historical and architectural significance. It is a shame that so many of them have been broken and lost their gates. Any loose pieces should be stored inside the grave site where in future they can perhaps be restored. If you wish to commission a new gate or any other repair work you should contact the cemetery authority who will recommend an approved tradesperson. If rusting is superficial and not flaking painting with fish oil on a regular basis is the best preservative. If heavily pitted and/or flaking, scrape before treatment with fish oil.


Originally grave enclosures were to protect the graves from being trampled by wandering livestock, and were an indication that the grave was being maintained. Subsidence and tree roots are the main causes of concrete surrounds cracking. They were usually not reinforced and not much can or should be done with these items. If you want them restored you should contact a master stonemason in the area.

Grave Cover

You should avoid walking on the surface of the grave. If it is soil or wood chips there is a risk of sudden subsidence. If it is a plaster or concrete cover, again it may be hollow underneath, and there is a risk it may collapse.


Marble headstones are particularly prone to staining as the chemicals leach out. Stains are a normal and harmless process and no effort should be made to use other substances to remove them.

Moss and Lichen

These are part of the normal weathering process and most do not cause a great deal of damage. They are best left alone, otherwise you risk damaging the stone and lettering. If the inscription is largely unreadable, the moss or lichen can be removed by applying copious amounts of water with a natural bristle brush. It will take time. Alternatively you can apply a good proprietary moss killer. Do not use wire brushes.


These are normally controlled by a contractor but their maintenance cycle may still allow weeds to flourish. We suggest you remove weeds where necessary and take away with any other litter.

Tree roots/branches

It was sometimes considered appropriate to plant trees in the four corners of a new grave. These were often yew or holly. Over time they will have grown into substantial trees and may need to be pruned or removed. All trees and their roots have the potential to cause much damage if they are in or near to graves. Wilding or seedling trees and shrubs should be removed before they grow too large by cutting off at the base and applying a stump killer. Do not attempt to remove the roots as they will have wrapped themselves around anything and everything and their removal could do great damage.


Please remove any litter by taking it away with you for disposal.

Please use the link bar on the right to read more information on how to conserve cemeteries.