Should Quarrington Hill Churchyard be closed to future burials?
You will be aware that last summer the Quarrington Hill Churchyard was temporarily closed to visitors and burials due to Health and Safety concerns about the stability of the ground and movement of headstones.
Cassop-cum-Quarrington with Bowburn Parochial Church Council (PCC) who are the responsible body for the churchyard held a public meeting in August 2019 attended by 80 residents of the village, and stated then that it was their preference to close the Churchyard. This was vehemently opposed by residents and it was suggested that this decision was premature.
Shortly after the public meeting a local geologist explained the geological history of the area around Cassop and Quarrington Hill and took a group including representatives from the PCC, Diocese, local councils and Tarmac around to look at the extreme geological features of the area and then into the churchyard where it was concluded that these features were not evident in the churchyard. Indeed that it looked pretty much like many other churchyards around County Durham. A generous offer was made by Tarmac to do some monitoring of the movement of headstones to hopefully reassure the PCC that conditions were not as bad as feared.
As the PCC stated that they did not have the resources to carry out a full geological one, Tarmac ended up commissioning an independent report. This was received by the PCC in June and was formally considered by the PCC in September.
On the basis of that report the PCC reaffirmed its wish to close the Churchyard to new burials (except for ashes) and pass the closed churchyard on to Coxhoe Parish Council or Durham County Council (people can still visit a closed churchyard, but new burials cannot take place). Either way the PCC would have to do remedial works first to pass it on to one of the Councils. It could then be opened up for visitors.
The Geological Report identified that there may be some mining issues for the Coal Authority to resolve, similar to seven others in close proximity which they have already dealt with. It also recommended that some further investigation of the Headstones was carried out with that. It states that: ‘it is considered that the risk of injury to visitors is low with the following mitigations recommended: Main access routes through the churchyard are reinstated and maintained…prevention of access to older areas of the graveyard…erection of information boards… warning of uneven ground and tripping hazards….’
Coxhoe Parish Council resolved at a Special Council meeting to support the view that residents had expressed at the Public meeting and offered to take over control and maintenance of the churchyard from the PCC as a churchyard still open for burials, but to consider the risks and implications before reaching a final decision.
The Parish Council agreed that if the PCC proceeded to apply to the Ministry of Justice to close the Churchyard to challenge this, but to seek for the PCC to put the mitigations suggested in the report to get the churchyard open for visitors ASAP.
Sadly, the PCC rejected this offer on 1 October stating: ‘After consideration I am afraid we decided to decline at our meeting last Sunday. Unfortunately, we felt it did not answer all our concerns. We have decided to continue with the process of closure for burials.’
To see other consultations, please visit our Consulting our Communities page.
Thank you to all who took part. The results are summarised below.
These results will be used by the Parish Council to inform its considerations and decision making. It is clear that not everyone agrees however the Parish Council is committed to doing its best to represent the views of residents.
Many of these activities are longer term aims for an already busy Parish Council, which means that plans and considering resource requirements will take place over coming months and quite possibly years. They also involve working with partners and other organisations, which again takes time and consideration.
Most of the comments received are also below. Please note that identifying characteristics have been removed to remove the risk of people being identified, but the Parish Clerk is considering all responses, including those where a response was requested. The Parish Clerk will be contacting people who requested a response, and when appropriate those who said they would like to be kept informed; please bear with Officers while this takes place.
Quarrington Hill Churchyard survey results
Do you think Quarrington Hill Churchyard should be closed to future burials?
a) Would you support Coxhoe Parish Council taking on the maintenance of the open churchyard from the Parochial Church Council to allow burials to continue?
b) Do you think that Coxhoe Parish Council should challenge the closure application to the Ministry of Justice by the Parochial Church Council?
c) Do you think remedial works should be carried out as soon as possible to enable the churchyard to be re-opened for visitors to the graves?
1. The churchyard should be re-opened for visitors ASAP
2. I object on the strongest possible terms to the Parish council taking on additional responsibilities that are not theirs. The Parish Council is not responsible for providing services that other people ought to provide and cannot provide because they don’t want to or can’t afford to. The Parish Council cannot go from year to year simply taking on things without any real assessment of where the money is going to come from. We know where it will come from, the community who will be given no say or choice in how the Council budgets and spends. Every year the Council’s precepts go up more that three times the scale the DCC Council Tax increase in percentage terms without any options being provided to those who pay. It’s completely unacceptable in my view.
3. Whilst we do not live in Quarrington Hill now, our family have  relations buried there and would like to visit to tidy the graves, even in the older part of the cemetery as well as the newer part.
4. I want to go and visit my late  and also my  grave
5. I will be visiting the churchyard Christmas as I have done for the last  years
6. Although I do not live in Coxhoe now i still visit Quarrington hill churchyard as I have relatives buried there
7. Many generations of my family are buried at Quarrington Hill and many more local people would love to be buried alongside their family members. I see no reason why any objections would be received to keep the church yard open to burials especially when an organisation is willing to take this forward.
8. The poor condition of the cemetery is down purely to neglect, the decision to try and close it is preplanned and financial.
9. My  relations are buried in the cemetery. I always pay respects when in the area.
10. It seems to me that that, thus far, the views of those most directly concerned have been ignored and help is needed.
11. What about people who have already paid for their plot to be with their partner
12. I have [relatives] buried in the churchyard and would like to see it in back in good condition. I do not live in the village but know some residents would like it kept open for burials,so I hope this is achieved.
13. My husband’s family live in Quarrington Hill and he has  family members buried in Quarrington Hill Churchyard that he visited and tended their graves and it is his desire to be buried there too
14. It is a disgrace the way the church has treated the residents of Quarrington Hill locking the cemetery gates stopping them to tend their loved ones graves.
15. The churchyard should opened up for residents of Quarrington Hill and anyone with loved ones in the church yard to tend that grave
16. My [relatives] are buried in the churchyard, my [relatives] ashes are there. I have lots of family members in the churchyard and would perhaps like to end up their too. So I want it to stay open. It’s typical of the Church of England not to want to spend any money. It’s time they opened their coffers. They have plenty of dubious investment.
17. If you closed the grave will u be relocated these that are buried there because my [relatives] are buried in Quarrington hill grave yard with generations of my family
18. My [relative] is buried in this churchyard. My [relative] Is absolutely distraught about the whole situation.
19. I want to have the right to be buried with my family and my community.
20. Cannot visit [relatives] grave.
21. I have family buried here and also elderly family still living in quarrington hill who would like to be buried here with the older generations .
22. The closure of the churchyard has caused a lot of people distress and should be addressed as soon as possible
23. The state of the graveyard is purely down to neglect over a long period of time. The parish excuse of geology is laughable as the geology has been the same for a few million years and not changed its purely financial.
24. I think it’s absolutely disgusting that they are stopping people going to graveyard and wanting to stop buriels
25. It is a beautiful grave yard and as long as people are aware of the possible dangers people should be allowed to make their own decision on wether they visit or decide to be buried there.
26. Please fight for this beautiful graveyard for the village!! The church itself was taken down far too easily I feel we should fight for our families who have generations of family buried there!
27. Save the graveyard!! We are the only voices that can help save it hopefully
28. So what about the double plots ect for ppl you need tho think how the ppl will be reimbursed ect, either way you need to decide as the graves are detiorating fast are you going to cover the cost of damage caused due to the closure?
29. I used to go to the church at Quarrington Hill over 50years ago and there was supposed to be subsidence in old part of churchyard then.No church there now so is it a case of just saving money.people pay a fee to be buried there,used to be around £280 pounds.
30. Council should be responsible for maintaining the graveyard as they gave permission for the adjoining land to be mined/ quarried. People should be able to access the graveyard via the gates as older people are walking on the road and through the hedge to see their loved ones graves. I have family buried in this church yard.. I tend their graves .. something needs to happen urgently to keep it open !!
31. Family’s are still going in the churchyard and will continue to do so, it would be lovely for people if it was made safe. Family’s need to visit their past loved ones
32. I spoke to the vicar regarding having a gravestone put [on a] grave  I think it is disgusting the way people in Quarrington Hill have been treated 
33. My [relative] is buried at this perticular site and I’d love to be able to visit as I miss her a ridiculous amount and it would be an upset to a huge family not being able to go and see her as we are regulars visitors
34. None of my family are buried in the church yard but I know people with loved ones there who wish to be buried next to them. This gives them some peace of mind going into the future.
35. I hope it is reopened as all of my family are buried there
36. A lot of people who live in Quarrington Hill are very passionate about their village, . I know his wish would be to rest in the same graveyard as his [relatives]. It would be a real shame if the alive generations were denied the chance to be buried in the same grounds as their loved ones. Thank you.
37. This may be just a churchyard to many but to most of us and our village it is where our loved ones are laid to rest. We lost our beautiful church as no money to repair yet still built a new one in bowburn. Come on people show some respect and realise this is all some people have left where they can visit and feel close to their loved ones
38. If the graveyard closes. What would happen to the graves with our loved ones.? Where would the people of quarrington hill bury in the future
39. Families need to be able to visit their loved ones and pay respect at their families final resting place, we as a community request that all is done to allow this.
40. The whole of County Durham is built on mine workings with none or very little subsidence, quarrington hill church yards problems are and have always been because of the quarry works . The old side of the church yard has historic problems Which ceased from worsening once the quarry closed , the new side of the church yard only started to have problems when the quarry began works again . The church yard has been poorly maintained for as long as I remember it’s a disgrace and disrespectful to those buried there . The owners of the quarry should be held responsible and ordered to pay for remedial works , the grave yard should of course remain open for anyone that has family and friends at rest there and whom wish it to be their final resting place .
41. Have loved onea there all this is discusting
42. I have relatives buried there
43. My grandparents are buried here
44. The church yard is a place that people can explore their spiritual needs and maintain their mental health based on gaining some peace and many may use this to greave. By closing or stopping further burials it removes a persons right to a biological and psychological normality and to be buried with lost loved ones.
45. This Churchyard needs to be reopened so people can visit their loved ones.
46. I don’t believe my council tax money should be being spent on religious burials or care of churchyards. I think there are more important priorities and people who want to use the churchyard could pay for what needs doing if they want to.
47. I am of the opinion it is vital that Quarrington Hill churchyard should remain open for burials and for continued access for all parishioners to be able to visit, pay their respects and maintain their loved ones graves. This is a very sensitive and emotional issue which has greatly upset a lot of people within the communities.
48. Prior to the closure of the graveyard, the upkeep of it has always been appalling. It does not get the same attention that other graveyards in the area have i.e Bowburn and Coxhoe. Furthermore, the public meeting that took place was held during the day of a working week for which I and many others were not able to attend.
49. It would be nice to be able to visit family members again, tidy up the gravestones and lay flowers. It would be great if, one day, burials will be allowed because it’s sad that people can no longer be buried here with the rest of their family.
50. As previously commented even when the church was there this graveyard has never been maintained well (similar to the church hence for costs and safety reasons -simply it knock down and save money but let us still take money for burials – which is appalling!). Health and Safety was not as much as a big issue then however it still wasn’t safe back then and as that is a BIG priority nowadays this needs sorting out ASAP as sadly folk have lost loved ones who meant a lot to them and certainly they still do mean a lot to them therefore this effects them so much mentally as they still fight many mixed emotions and need to visit graves regular as a form of love and comfort hence this is not only frustrating but it is so sad and traumatising as sadly they’re unable to.
51. If folk knew this whey back they would NOT have paid fees to burry loved ones there and used another local graveyard knowing they could visit regular rather than finding after burials that there are now Health and safety issues and the Parochial Council are simply ‘running away’ from responsibilities ‘shutting the gates’ So to speak ! There are certainly many other local graveyards maintained to a very high standard and lots will sadly have regrets using Quarrington Hill due to this and what has come about over years neglect. Like said the graveyard has been very run down for years so why over many years still take money, let them burry loved ones knowing the state it has been in and obvious it was coming to this situation?? This is so frustrating for many and l know as l have loved ones here . Such a sad situation for so many not just in Quarrington Hill but other areas who used this graveyard and had full faith and trust in the Parochial Council. This certainly needs prioritising and reassure local folk that their loved ones are still with them.