Handbook and Guidance

Guidance Documents

Everyone in Britain has burial grounds in their locality which are of historical value. Yet, threats from vandalism and natural erosion mean that we need to record graveyard evidence before it is lost. Past generations cared for graveyards, as they contained the memorials and remains of friends and relatives. In today’s more mobile society, local identity and commitment to place has become eroded; therefore, it is even more important that historic graveyards should not be forgotten, but rather treasured as repositories of local culture.

Whilst many gravestones have been recorded through having their inscriptions transcribed, there has been little other recording and only piecemeal analysis of graveyards, cemeteries and their monuments. The advice and information available on this page demonstrate how graveyards and their monuments can tell us much of intrinsic value about the past.

The documents below will guide you through the process of setting up your project, conducting your survey, and archiving your results. By following our methodology and using our resources, you will:

  • Create a site plan marked with individually numbered memorials
  • Conduct an archaeological survey of each memorial in your burial ground
  • Archive your dataset with the Archaeology Data Service, and make it publicly available through the Burial Spaces Research Database
  • Report your survey to local and national heritage bodies, making them aware of your findings and alerting them to the significance of your site

This guidance complements a new handbook by Professor Harold Mytum on Recording and Analysing Burial Grounds, to be published by the Council for British Archaeology.

If you would prefer, a PDF of the combined guidance pages is available for download.

Before you begin
Introduction to the DEBS method An introduction to surveying burial grounds, and why you should use our guidance and methodology to do it
Carrying out a project Information on where and what to survey, how to make sure you've got the correct permissions, and how to manage your project
Conducting your survey
Recording How to fill in our recording forms Recording Form
Code Sheets
Identifying Monument Types Detailed guidance on how to identify different monuments, and some of issues you might encounter A Guide to Graveyard Geology
Photography and Additional Recording How to take good photographs, and other techniques you can use, such as rubbing and RTI
Making a Plan How to produce a plan of your burial ground
Graveyard Research for Families A simplified version of our method. Burial grounds are wonderful locations for respectful but exciting exploration of the natural world, local history and heritage Family Activities Worksheets
After your survey
Using the Data Entry Tools How to use our spreadsheets and online forms for storing your survey data Data Entry Tools
Dealing with Legacy Data What to do if you have data from a previous survey that didn't use our recording system
Interpreting Your Data How to begin examining your results to find interesting trends and patterns
Archiving How to deposit your data with the Archaeology Data Service so that it is included within the Burial Spaces Research Database Archive Information Form
Copyright and Personal Data How to keep on the right side of the law when it comes to collecting data and archiving your results