|The gravestone of ‘Brusher Mills’|
in the churchyard of St Nicholas, Brockenhurst.
The National Park Authority is asking people to help locate any churchyards or burial grounds where there are monuments or gravestones that need to be repaired, by filling out a simple online questionnaire.
A minimum of 10 sites will be chosen, based on the number of gravestones in poor condition and the historical significance of any listed monuments.
Volunteers from across the New Forest will be trained to assess the condition of the memorials and record and photograph them, before adding them to an on-line portal. This website will allow anyone undertaking family or social history research anywhere in the world to locate a family memorial.
The project will be led by the New Forest National Park Authority and will form part of the £4.5 million Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme, which will run from 2016 once funding is confirmed.
As well as surveying and conserving monuments and gravestones in need of attention, the project also aims to map all the burial grounds in the New Forest, including recording details of who is responsible for their maintenance. This comprehensive database is being established in the New Forest for the first time, in partnership with New Forest District Council and staff in the Winchester Diocesan Office, in order to prevent more gravestones slipping into a state of disrepair.
Frank Green, New Forest National Park Authority archaeologist, said: ‘Gravestones and monuments in cemeteries are privately owned and are usually erected by family members, so legally they are family heirlooms.
‘This means that it is the family that has responsibility for maintaining the memorials, not the organisations that manage the burial sites. However locating family members responsible for maintaining gravestones that are hundreds of years old is virtually impossible, so this project will help ensure that these memorials, which contain so much social and family history, are kept in good order for future generations.’
If you know of gravestones or monuments in a poor state of repair in your area please fill out the questionnaire at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/memorials.
For more information about this project, including how to volunteer, email email@example.com.
The Landscape Partnership Scheme is led by the New Forest National Park Authority working alongside several delivery and funding partners including the Beaulieu Estate, Commoners Defence Association, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Natural England, New Forest Centre, and the New Forest Land Advice Service.