St. Chad’s and its Churchyard: Frequently Asked Questions

We often see discussion on social media about St. Chad’s and the churchyard. As our responses there are easily missed, we thought it best to post some answers to the questions that we often see asked.

Q1. Who do the church and churchyard belong to?

The parish of Kirkby is a charity registered with the Charity Commission, and we hold St. Chad’s and its churchyard on trust for the parishioners of the parish.

Q2. Who is responsible for maintaining the church building?

St. Chad’s is run by its Church Council, local people who are members of the church and elected by the congregation. They do this as part of the wider parish of Kirkby, which also includes St. Andrew’s in Tower Hill, and St. Martin’s in Southdene. St. Mark’s in Northwood used to be part of the parish as well. We are responsible for maintenance of the church, and we have to fundraise to pay for this.

Q3. Who is responsible for maintaining the churchyard?

When a churchyard is full, and has no space for new graves, legal responsibility for its maintenance is passed to the local authority, which for us is Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council.

Q4. What’s the difference between a churchyard and a cemetery?

Civic cemeteries are run under a different set of rules, and anything you read online about graves should make it clear when they’re talking about civic cemeteries (like Anfield, Kirkdale, Everton, Knowsley) and churchyards like St. Chad’s.

Q5. I’ve read on a website that graves are bought by a family, and they come with a trust deed – why don’t I have one for St. Chad’s?

Graves in churchyards are not ‘sold’ in the way that they are in cemeteries. Permission to be buried in a grave is granted in each case by the incumbent of the parish (i.e. the vicar).

Q6. How is the church funded? Hasn’t the church got loads of money?

As an independent charity in our own right, the parish of Kirkby has to find the funding to maintain our buildings ourselves. Like every parish church, everything that is spent in Kirkby has to be raised here, whether through donations, grants, fees from services, rental income, or fundraising. The roof project in 2019 was funded by a mixture of grants (including from the National Lottery Heritage Fund) and local fundraising. We don’t have huge reserves of cash that we’re sitting on, instead most members of the church give freely of their time and money because they see this as part of their Christian faith.

The Church of England nationally is a large organisation, with pension fund liabilities, thousands of people to pay, and tens of thousands of historic buildings to maintain, so it does have some assets. But across the whole Church of England, the vast majority of income is in donations from ordinary people who are part of the church, and who care about the work that it does.

Q7. Why doesn’t the council do more to maintain St. Chad’s churchyard?

We know that KMBC, and the people who work for the council, take great pride in their work, and in St. Chad’s. However, the funding cuts of the past 10 years have left them only able to manage a more basic service. Frankly, if the choice is between cutting the grass weekly at St. Chad’s, and making sure that elderly people get proper care, we’d prefer the grass to be a little longer. It’s better for the bees anyway.

Q8. I’ve visited the churchyard in the spring, and the old section to the right of the path as you walk in, is absolutely beautiful with all the bluebells, daffodils, snowdrops and other wild flowers.

Yes, the spring is particularly special in that section.

Q9. I’ve visited the churchyard in June or July, and the old section to the right of the path as you walking, is overgrown with long grass and nettles. It’s a disgrace!

Yes, in order to get the wild flowers in the spring, the management plan for that section of the churchyard means that the grass doesn’t get cut back until later in the summer. This is also better for bees and other wildlife.

Q10. Why are the graves behind the church overgrown with brambles?

We would like to get these cleared eventually, but at the moment, we don’t have the ability to clear them or keep the ground maintained. This is also an area that sadly sees significant anti-social behaviour, and the brambles help to protect the graves from damage.

Q11. Some of the older graves look like they’re likely to fall down – are they safe?

Many of the older graves are a single slab of stone that extends quite far into the ground, so even when they’re no longer vertical, they aren’t likely to topple. Having said that, if you have concerns about any particular grave, do let us know.

Q12. Some of the graves and memorials are broken – why don’t you repair them?

Ownership of and responsibility for the gravestones remain with the families who erected them. There may be various reasons why they have not repaired them, possibly because the family have moved away, the cost is prohibitive, or they don’t want to repair it only to see it broken again.

Q13. What is the stuff growing on the old graves? Why don’t you clean them?

This is lichen (pronounced Lie-chen) and grows in clean air on stone and wood surfaces. It is part of the natural environment, and churchyards provide valuable habitats for it. It doesn’t do any harm to the surface of the stone (in fact, cleaning it off is more likely to damage the stone), and is a sign of clean air and biodiversity. More information is available from the British Lichen Society.

Q14. What can I do to help with the maintenance of the building?

Why not come along for a Sunday service, and get to know the congregation? They’re a friendly bunch, and we’re always glad to welcome new people.

Q15. What can I do to help with the maintenance of the churchyard?

We are currently trying to get a churchyard project together to enhance the natural environment of the church. If you are interested in spending some time in the grounds of the church, then get in touch and we’ll let you know when the project starts.

Q16. I have another question not listed here – how can I get an answer?

Get in touch via the comment forms on any page, or via the contact page from the menu above.

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