Churchyard Closure

There has been church on the site of St John the Baptist and St Helen’s Church since Saxon times and, in all probability, burials have been taking place for just as long. The churchyard has been extended many times and now covers around five acres. Many thousands of past residents have been laid to rest in this beautiful and tranquil setting. However, the available space for burials has now been used up and the churchyards is full. We have reached the end of an era.

In view of the fact that we had very few grave spaces left, we gave written notice to Wroughton Parish Council and Swindon Borough Council of our intention to close the churchyard and transfer maintenance to the local authority on 26th February 2021. We also put notices about this in the Swindon Advertiser and Wroughton Monthly.

Historically, churchyard maintenance has been carried out on behalf of Wroughton residents by Wroughton and Wichelstowe Parish Church and paid for through a combination of the income from burial fees and a grant from Wroughton Parish Council. Since February 2021 we have been working with Wroughton Parish Council to help them understand the scope of the maintenance task and the areas where the church retains legal responsibilities, even after a churchyard has been closed (authorising the introduction of monuments and maintaining burial records for example).

On 12th October 2022 the King’s Privy Council gave notice of its intention to make a closure order for the churchyard (our own MP, Robert Buckland, was present at this meeting) Wroughton Parish Council were kept informed and a notice was placed on  the church door for one month (a legal requirement).

Our last burial took place in November 2022 and on 14th December the Privy Council made the final closure order. This means that it is no longer possible to create any new graves. However, we are still allowed to bury additional family members in existing graves (provided that there is space). We are also able to bury ashes, either in existing family plots, or in the Garden of Remembrance.

Accordingly, on 22nd December 2022 Wroughton Parish Council were given a further three months formal notice to take over churchyard maintenance. The legal process allows the Parish Council to pass this responsibility to the Borough Council, something that they did on 12th January (the Borough Council have no option other than to accept).

From 22nd March 2023 Swindon Borough Council are legally responsible for churchyard maintenance. SBC have advised that headcount freezes mean that they already have insufficient capacity in their grounds maintenance team to cover their existing work. We should therefore expect to see a very significant reduction in the standard of maintenance in the churchyard. Discussions about what this will look like are ongoing.

As a church community, we will continue to support the friends and relatives of those buried in our churchyard by providing car parking, fresh water and toilet facilities.

We hope that the churchyard will be managed with sympathy and understanding for wildlife while looking well-cared for and attractive to people, as well as to plants and animals.



The churchyard covers around five acres which includes a wild area, an extensive area of grass and two steep banks where over the years trees has been planted. It is cared for by parishioners whose aim is to make it an oasis of peace and tranquility. Visitors can make use of the numerous seats to sit and contemplate, as well as marvel at the panoramic views to the north over our neighbour Swindon and beyond to the Cotswolds on the horizon. A fine old yew dominates the front which protects some fine old tombs under its wide branches.

For many centuries the area around our church has been used both as a place to walk or sit, offering peace and tranquillity, as well as for burials. It has a special character which is appreciated by the many people who come to enjoy it and tend the graves of loved ones, or visit the Garden of Remembrance. Those looking after the churchyard take great pride in caring for the churchyard, and ensuring it is maintained and kept in good order.

In order for the churchyard to be maintained properly, and so that it is a place for all to enjoy, it is governed by a set of rules and regulations. The regulations are made by the diocese and similar regulations apply to all churchyards across England. There are a very few local rules set by the Parochial Church Council. The rules and regulations cover monuments and memorials, the grave or ashes plot, and the Garden of Remembrance, and we respectfully ask that you adhere to them. This page gives a summary of the regulations.

A full copy of the Diocese of Bristol’s Churchyard Regulations can be downloaded here.

A copy of our Local Churchyard Regulations can be downloaded here Local Parish Churchyard Rules 09.2021 v2.

If you have any questions about anything in this page, please leave your details with the Parish Office, and a member of our churchyard team will contact you.

Burials in the Churchyard

Anyone who lived or died in Wroughton or Wichelstowe is entitled to be buried in the churchyard so long as there is space. The churchyard is nearly full, and we are not able to extend the churchyard any further, so to make best use of the available space we do not allow grave spaces to be reserved.

We usually ensure that each grave is dug deep enough that a second close relative can also be buried in the plot. If we know in advance, we can arrange for the grave to be dug deep enough so that three people can be buried in one grave plot.

Ashes may also be buried in a family grave (see below), but not until all burials have taken place.

Please note that, unlike in some civil cemeteries, the family has not bought the plot, and ownership remains with the church.

Caring for graves

The Parochial Church Council needs to ensure the safety of the
public and our maintenance staff, and also ensure that the churchyard can be maintained easily and kept in good order for everyone to
enjoy. For these reasons the churchyard rules cover the following:

a) No photographs, metal or plastic inserts, railings, chippings, statues, bird baths or other such artefacts are permitted on graves, except for placing flowers (see (b) below) – flowers may only be placed in a removable unbreakable container (glass vases are not permitted for safety reasons), or laid directly on the grave.

b) Wreaths and cut flowers may be placed in such containers or laid on any grave, but must be removed as soon as they appear to be withered or dead. (We will do this from time to time as part of the day-to-day maintenance of the churchyard.)

c) Artificial flowers are not permitted.

d) Wood bark or chippings are not permitted as they cause a hazard when grass cutting

e) Planting of trees and shrubs are not permitted – however bulbs and small annual plants may be planted

f) Grave spaces must not be enclosed with any form of edging

The PCC reserves the right to lay down or remove any memorial that has become dangerous or is in a bad state of repair. We will only remove a memorial with the permission of the Diocese and after making attempts to contact any descendants of the person

Burials of ashes

Most people now are cremated. Cremated remains may be buried in the churchyard. The scattering of ashes in the churchyard is strictly forbidden.

To make the most of the available space all ashes are buried directly into the ground. We always do this in a way that the ashes are not visible.

The current cremation plot is the Garden of Remembrance.
Cremated remains may also be interred into existing family graves where there will be no further burials. Please contact the Parish Office to make a request. Where there is room cremated remains may also be buried in an existing family ashes plot.

Garden of Remembrance

The Garden of Remembrance is designed to allow burials of ashes for many years to come even after the rest of the churchyard is full. To make this possible there are some specific rules relating to the Garden of Remembrance.

Plaques, memorials and vases are not permitted in the Garden of Remembrance, as there is insufficient space between the plots.

Cut flowers (with no wrapping) may be placed on any part of the garden – but no other plants or flowers are permitted. For those wanting a memorial, names of those whose cremated remains are interred in the Garden may be entered into the Book of Remembrance in the church (a small charge is made for this)

Each plot can be identified, using a grid system, so that a partner’s ashes may be buried together. Please let us know in advance of the first burial if this is your wish.

The Garden of Remembrance has a large marker stone to indicate what it is, and a bench so that mourners and others may enjoy the peaceful surroundings.  It is surrounded by a box hedge and is accessible to all.

How to Place a Memorial in the Churchyard:

The appropriate permission must be obtained for the introduction of any monument or memorial.  There are specific requirements that memorials must conform to. Until the appropriate permission for a monument has been obtained, no estimate should be accepted, and no contract entered into with a funeral director or stonemason

  • Visit a stonemason (monumental mason) – you can do this as soon as you wish, but remember it takes 9 – 12 months for the earth on a grave to settle, and permission cannot be given until a period of 6 months has elapsed since the death of the person.
  • Discuss your requirements with the stonemason. They will know the churchyard rules and will be able to advise you. If you have any questions they can’t answer, please contact us via the Parish Office (contact details at top of page)
  • The stonemason will apply, using the official application form (the form can be downloaded here), on your behalf for permission to place the memorial in the churchyard and see that the correct fee is paid – full details of the memorial have to be given on the application
  • If the application is approved the stonemason will receive
    written permission to place the memorial in the churchyard. When the memorial is ready (this can take up to 3 months) the stonemason will arrange to install it on the grave
  • The churchyard rules show clearly what is permitted and local stonemasons are familiar with them and will be able to show samples of the type of stone, decoration and inscriptions that are permitted.

Upkeep of memorials

The upkeep of the memorial, and the resulting costs, will be the responsibility of the heirs of the person whom it commemorates.

However, the PCC retains the right to lay down a stone if it is found to be dangerous. If this happens we will try and contact you if we are able.

A gravestone or memorial may not be moved or permanently removed without permission from the diocese. Where repairs are proposed, you should consult us through the parish office, so that we can determine whether permission will be required from the Diocese.

Contact details

We retain contact details of the relatives of those buried in the churchyard so that we can contact them if there is any question about further burials or the introduction of monuments.

We retain contact details of those who have been given permission to introduce a memorial into the churchyard so that we can contact them if there is any question about the memorial (e.g. if it becomes unsafe or damaged) or if there is an application to add an additional inscription.

We keep these details confidential in accordance with our privacy policy and we will only use them for this purpose.  You can find a copy of our privacy policy on our website or you can request a copy from the parish office.


A full copy of the Diocese of Bristol’s Churchyard Regulations can be downloaded here.

A copy of our Local Churchyard Regulations can be downloaded here  Local Parish Churchyard Rules 09.2021 v2.

A user friendly booklet  Wroughton Churchyard – A Guide to the Churchyard Rules.

Page Updated 28/11/2018