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Taking Care of Gravestones

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  • 13-10-2014 1:37am
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 7,108 ✭✭✭


    Any specialists around who can advise about looking after old gravestones? We can get it done professionally but will cost a bit so wondering if there are any eco friendly DIY experts out there who can give some pointers. If the DIY method is not recommended then back to the professionals I suppose.


Comments

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 11,382 Mod ✭✭✭✭Hermy


    What is it you want to do with the stone?

    Genealogy Forum Mod



  • Closed Accounts Posts: 7,108 ✭✭✭Jellybaby1


    The stone has some yellow staining on it, what I would call algae-ish. There are no trees near it so it hasn't dripped down, looks like its growing on it. There is lead lettering on it which has faded and isn't legible any more. Also for newer gravestones is there any way of protecting them from deteriorating like this?


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,511 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus


    What kind of stone is it?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 7,108 ✭✭✭Jellybaby1


    Absolutely no idea, we didn't put it up.


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,511 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus


    Yes, but presumably you can tell from looking at it that it it's granite, or marble, or slate, or whatever. This matters because the options for cleaning or conserving it depend on what stone it is. Techniques which may be beneficial with one material could be positively damaging with another.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 7,108 ✭✭✭Jellybaby1


    Peregrinus wrote: »
    Yes, but presumably you can tell from looking at it that it it's granite, or marble, or slate, or whatever. This matters because the options for cleaning or conserving it depend on what stone it is. Techniques which may be beneficial with one material could be positively damaging with another.

    Not marble anyway. Granite possibly, but that's a really really wild guess on my part simply because you mention it, but as I am trying to remember the stone from a couple of months ago, it could be slate too, I know flip all about stone. I will need to revisit the grave and ask any caretaker that might be around to clarify.


  • Registered Users Posts: 799 ✭✭✭cobham


    You are not supposed to remove algae :( but moss and ivy can be.

    If it is lead in the lettering, it should not deteriorate. A polish up with some oil will bring it up unless it has fallen out and is totally gone. Then it is expensive to restore as stone needs to be removed. Lettering that is painted as well as etched on the stone can be touched up in situ.


  • Registered Users Posts: 18,564 ✭✭✭✭_Brian


    Sounds like an old 1800's sandstone style headstone.
    This is lichen on the headstone and it's seriously advised by heritage not to remove it.
    Anything strong enough to remove it will speed up the deterioration of the stone.

    Best practice is to leave it as is.

    What date was the first burial on the headstone.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 7,108 ✭✭✭Jellybaby1


    Well the first death was 1895 but I don't know when the stone was put up. I don't mess about with gravestones except for a spray of water to help me read them, but I've never thought about the maintenance before, hence my question here as I know its easy to do damage, in which case I'd rather do nothing to it. There are a few other family graves that look like they are going the same way.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1 johntie


    It is probably white marble. Soapy water,elbow grease and rinse off. Wont be perfect


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 7,108 ✭✭✭Jellybaby1


    I wouldn't have thought of soap, particularly with the chemicals that might be in it. Is it safe to use - have you used it before?


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 5,524 ✭✭✭owenc


    Why do you not get a replica made??


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 7,108 ✭✭✭Jellybaby1


    Do you mean a whole new gravestone? Sounds expensive. As I say we didn't put the stone/stones up so we are probably not responsible for replacing it but we thought it might be possible to clean it up a bit without doing any damage or making it worse.


  • Registered Users Posts: 799 ✭✭✭cobham


    Perhaps you could ask the advice of a local stonemason. Is it the lettering that is getting hard to read that bothers you? There are websites dedicated to photographing old and new headstones. Is there a record of it online with the inscription noted? I have seen gravestones that seem to have been professionally cleaned up/restored but only the section to make the lettering legible. Glasnevin have done a huge job of restoration in past 5 years. I am sure they would advise if you can manage to track down someone by phone. They removed all adjacent vegetation and repointed monuments... perhaps re erecting leaning over ones? I rechon they would have the 'expert' view on removal of algae. I thought algae has some special significance like an endangered species and hence was to be protected? My father used to clean headstones with bit of bleach and a soft brush but that would do for the algae :( Then a year or so later he arrived to find a community centre built over the grave. :mad::mad:


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 7,108 ✭✭✭Jellybaby1


    I need to call a family meeting about all of this advice, and already feel there won't be anything done. I will investigate getting specialist advice myself anyway. Thanks everyone for all the interest. Cobham, how on earth was a community centre allowed to be built over graves? That is quite shocking.


  • Registered Users Posts: 799 ✭✭✭cobham


    Yes building over old graves is shocking. But with most graveyards you only have a right to the plot for so many years depending on original agreement. Possibly it was sufficient to put up a notice on the site to inform people. This grave was from 1700;s and in England. I presume the stone is located elsewhere around the boundary of the graveyard but I never pursued the matter. It must have had a legible inscription as my father knew its location, perhaps from childhood days when it was less weathered? I really do not want to know did they disinter remains? I think I remember some stones being laid on the ground to form a path to the new building :( A more recent grave dating from 1899, has been allowed to become overgrown to form a wilderness area as a deliberate policy, well that cuts down on maintenance costs.

    Do family members 'own' a headstone as distinct from the plot? Could you remove it altogether if there was a proposal to build a road or whatever over the land? I think the burial rights/ownership can be handed down in a will. Things to ponder!


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 7,108 ✭✭✭Jellybaby1


    cobham wrote: »
    ....Do family members 'own' a headstone as distinct from the plot? Could you remove it altogether if there was a proposal to build a road or whatever over the land? I think the burial rights/ownership can be handed down in a will. Things to ponder!

    Interesting questions all right.


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,511 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus


    Obviously the law is going to vary from place to place. But, at least in this corner of the globe, it's heavily influenced by the historical and social background.

    1. Historically, people were buried in churchyards.

    2. They didn't own the churchyards, natch, or even a tiny little corner of the churchyards. What they had was a right to be buried in the churchyard, usually arising out of the fact that they were resident in the parish.

    3. Neither individuals nor families had any exclusive right to any particular corner of the churchyard. The incumbent of the parish decided who got buried where. The more long-established and socially influential a family was, the more likely it was that they had a corner of the churchyard which was treated as "theirs", but it was never absolute.

    4. You could put up a headstone or monument with the permission of the incumbent, which was routinely granted. But, legally, once it was erected, it didn't belong to you; it formed part of the churchyard just like the walls, the gates, trees and plants growing, etc.

    5. When the churchyard was full, graves were re-used. Headstones (if any) from previous burials would be removed and re-erected, e.g., along the boundary wall, or simply thrown away, depending on whether there were any family members still around and still visiting the churchyard.

    6. Particularly where formerly rural parishes were urbanised, the resulting population growth mean that churchyards filled up very quickly, and graves were re-used after a remarkably short time. One way of resolving this pressure is to acquire more land and extend the churchyard, but in urbanised areas this wasn't always possible.

    7. In short, while people might have a legal right to be buried in the churchyard, they had no exclusive right to any particular part of it, no right to prevent anyone else from being buried on top of them, and no right to have a headstone or monument preserved indefinitely.

    8. Cemeteries - burial grounds not annexed to churches - were the response. And initially people's rights in cemeteries were more generous forms of their rights in churchyards. You could buy a right to be buried in a cemetery, but what you got was not legal ownership of a plot, or even a lease of a plot, but an exclusive licence to use the plot for burials for a limited time. When Glasnevin Cemetery started up, for example, the typical arrangement was a ten-year licence over a grave plot. After ten years, the cemetery board could licence the plot to someone else, and your headstone could be removed. In practice this didn't happen; ten years after opening they still had plenty of space, so they were opening new plots rather than exercising their rights to re-use old ones. And then over time the rights the rights they granted became more extensive. I don't know whether, nowadays, they grant perpetual licences over grave plots but, even if they do, there will be a term in the licence requiring the licensee to maintain the plot, possibly to even pay maintenance fees, and providing for the licence to be terminated if this is not done.

    Nothing lasts forever - not even the grave!


  • Registered Users Posts: 799 ✭✭✭cobham


    Peregrinus, what a marvellous answer to my pondering.... thank you :)


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