Would you turn your garden into a graveyard?

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a coffin in a morgue with a...

This week, two bereaved people took the unusual step of burying their loved ones in their own garden. Patricia Waters, an 81-year-old from Kidderminster, buried her husband Eddie in the back garden. Meanwhile 56-year-old Philip Topham from Nottinghamshire buried his wife Catherine in the front garden.

For this to happen twice in one week is very unusual, but how common is this approach, and what does it do to the re-sale value of the house?


Waters told the Kidderminster Express and Star that her husband of 27 years had wanted to lie in the shade of a large horse chestnut tree in the garden. She hired an undertaker to bury him in the garden, and when a Catholic priest did not attend, she held the ceremony himself.

Topham, meanwhile, told the Nottingham Post that he had lost his wife to cancer, and arranged for her to stay close to him in the front garden of their home. They had been together for 18 years, and lived in the property for 14 years: the Daily Mail reported that he didn't want her to be far from home.

Is this legal?

Home burials are legal. As long as you own the freehold of the land, you don't need permission to bury a loved one in the garden.

There are some rules you have to follow - to ensure the body is not too near standing water or a well, spring or borehole, and not too near the surface. It's also sensible to let the police know of your plans so that there is no suspicion of anything untoward.

But as long as you stay within these rules, you are at liberty to bury a loved one at home.

Is it unusual?

It's not as out-of-the-ordinary as you might think. Every year an estimated 200 people choose to bury a loved one at home. Perhaps the most famous example is Princess Diana, who is buried on an island at her family's estate. Famous people buried at home also include Barbara Cartland and MP Alan Clark.

The details are not recorded by any public body, and few of them are publicised, so the vast majority pass unnoticed.

However, there are two things which are vital to consider. The first is the reaction of the neighbours. In Luton in 2000 a family decided to bury a loved one in the garden, and the neighbours called the police. The police said there was nothing they could do, but relationships were irrevocably soured.

A year later, when one man in Dover wanted to bury his wife in the garden he told the council, who informed the neighbours. They were up in arms and persuaded the council to take out an injunction to stop him.

The second issue is the effect on house prices. Both of those who have buried loved ones at home this week appreciate that it could put some buyers off. Waters said she accepted this as a consequence of keeping her husband close, and Topham said he didn't care about the impact on the value of the property, because having his wife close was worth a million pounds to him.

The Mail has quoted estate agents who estimate that it would be likely to knock £50,000 off the value of your home. However, it is perfectly possible to gain permission to dig up a body and take it with you when you move house. That way you can keep your loved one close, without any affect on house prices.

Top 10 uses for British gardens

Top 10 uses for British gardens