Discovering England's Burial Spaces

Resources for graveyard research

Start Surveying!

A Celtic-style cross with floral patterning from the necropolis in Glasgow

The DEBS Project

Discovering England's Burial Spaces (DEBS) was a Historic England funded project based at the University of York and the Archaeology Data Service.

We worked with community groups to design and test resources that will help people to record burial spaces like churchyards and cemeteries. These resources introduce a new standardised methodology for surveying, meaning that datasets from different surveys can be compared with one another to reveal trends and patterns in the history commemoration.

We also created a system for digitally archiving survey results. The Burial Space Research Database enables groups conducting research into burial spaces to safeguard their research in perpetuity and share findings freely with the general public and other researchers.

To support this work, we developed a new online form that can be used to add a record of research conducted to the national Online Index for Archaeological Investigations (OASIS). Using OASIS, heritage bodies and organisations that care for burial spaces, such as Historic Environment Record officers, are able to see when a survey has taken place. This ensures that findings from community-led research will support scholarship and inform future development.

Explore your burial space


Design and fund your research

Surveys of burial spaces are popular activities for community heritage groups. They are a great way to revive and reconnect with under-used and unloved churchyards and cemeteries, and can be funded by small grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. DEBS surveys are...

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Suitable for a range of ages and abilities
  • Easy to set up - they don't require specialist equipment

Record and interpret your burial space

Every burial space is a unique archive, documenting the history of our communities and our families. They are places in which identities are constructed, and widespread social changes marked. Use DEBS resources to...


Share your findings

Burials spaces are important windows on local history, but they also document fascinating national trends concerning commemoration and attitudes to death. In the past, this kind of research has been hindered by disparate methodologies and archive practices. Use DEBS resources to…


for your burial space research.

Our Team

Our Partners

The Churches Conservation Trust logo
Historic England logo
Caring for God's Acre logo
Churchcare logo
Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers logo

Contact Us

at the University of York.


Archaeology Data Service
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor
Exhibition Square
York, YO1 7EP


01904 325666

Email Address