With around half a million people dying each year and the current cremation rate being 77.05%, it is estimated that the UK needs over 114,000 burial plots each year. With land at a premium and cemeteries running out of space, the decision to buy a burial plot comes with plenty of careful considerations.
In this guide, we take a look at the costs of a burial plot in the UK along with the types of plot you can purchase. We also consider factors such as how long you own the plot, what a deed of grant is and some options about sharing a burial plot.
- Buying a burial plot
- Why buy a burial plot in advance?
- What happens if I do not buy a burial plot in advance?
- How to buy a burial plot
- What types of grave can you choose?
- What is the cost of a burial plot in the UK?
- Types of burial plot
- What is the cost of a natural burial plot vs a traditional cemetery plot?
- How much is a burial plot for ashes?
- How many burials can you have in a plot?
- How long do you own a cemetery plot?
- What is an Exclusive Right of Burial (EOB)?
- What is a 'Deed of Grant' For graves?
- Can a burial plot be passed on via a will?
- How long does an Exclusive Right of Burial last?
- What is the standard grave size in the UK?
- What is a companion plot?
- What are grave opening and closing fees?
Buying a Burial Plot
It is a commonly held belief that once you have purchased a burial plot, the ground is yours and, once buried, you have the exclusive right to remain so buried, forever.
The truth is that very few graves in the UK are actually sold in this way.
When you purchase burial plot, you are not in fact purchasing the land itself, you are merely purchasing a lease. Known as Exclusive Rights of Burial, the holder of the 'lease' (known as the Deed of Grant) has the authority to allow burials to take place in the grave and to erect memorials on the burial site. These memorials are legally only allowed to be in place for the length of the lease and are not granted to remain on the grave 'in perpetuity'.
For more information on Exclusive Rights of Burial and Deeds of Grant, see below.
Why Buy A Burial Plot in Advance?
Although many graves are bought on an 'as required' basis, some people prefer to know exactly where their final resting place will be. Reserving a plot can be comforting to many families and it is also a way of reducing the burden of funeral planning for your family in the event of your death.
Purchasing a plot in advance can also alleviate any financial cashflow issues for your next of kin.
What Happens If I Do Not Buy a Burial Plot in Advance?
If you do not purchase a burial plot, you can still be interred, however the local authority or burial ground management will choose the location of your grave which could be at any one of their sites in the area. An unpurchased grave also has no memorial rights and therefore headstones or other forms of memorial are usually not permitted (or with restrictions).
You may also not be buried in the grave exclusively and, due to pressures on the space available in UK cemeteries, it is becoming common for single grave sites to accommodate up to three burials. This does not mean that you will share a funeral, it simply means that the initial interment occurs at triple depth which will allow for two additional burials at a later stage.
How To Buy a Burial Plot
The process of purchasing a burial plot varies depending on the kind of burial grounds you are considering. Principally, there are three common types of burial grounds in the UK:
- Those run by local authorities, or council cemeteries.
- Those run by religious bodies such as the Church of England.
- Those run by private landowners such as natural, or woodland, cemeteries.
In order to buy a burial plot, you will need to contact the body, or organisation, who is responsible for managing the grounds and discuss the procedure for purchasing a grave.
For guidance, we have provide some basic information about the procedure which is quite typical for the UK . There may be some variation to this but, in general, this will give you a good idea of what to expect.
Pre-Purchasing a Burial Plot
Graves are most frequently purchased when they are needed and therefore are usually arranged through a funeral director, however if you are intending to purchase a burial plot in advance then you can do so by contact the management of the burial ground itself.
Each cemetery or burial ground will have their own procedures for leasing a burial plot.
You will usually be asked to complete an application form which will indicate if you are resident or non-resident (local authority run sites) or a member of the religious body managing the site (e.g. for church graveyards). This may determine whether you are eligible to purchase a burial plot.
You should then be provided with details of those plots which are available to purchase and you may choose one whose location you prefer (see 'What Types of Grave Can You Choose?', below).
The terms and length of the lease will be provided to you along with details of how this may be renewed along with a price.
If the cost is acceptable then you will be asked to make full payment up front.
Once the burial plot has been paid for you will be given an official 'Deed of Grant'. This document indicates that you own the Exclusive Right of Burial and must be kept safe. For more details, see below.
What Types of Grave Can You Choose?
Most cemeteries (either local authority or religious burial grounds) can offer a selection of grave types when you purchase a burial plot.
These will fall into one of the following categories:
- Traditional Grave
- Lawn Grave
- Cremation Grave
- Woodland Grave
- Wild Meadow Grave
Traditional graves are often kerbed with a brick surround and include a full headstone.
Lawn graves are situated on a grassed area and after burial (usually 9-12 months) are made level with the surrounding lawn. Grass seed is then applied to the top of the burial site.
It is common that a small memorial such as a headstone or granite vase plate can be added.
No kerbs can be used to denote the perimeter of the grave. This is to allow the burial ground management to maintain the lawns.
Cremation plots are much smaller in size than burial plots and are only suitable for the interment of cremated remains, usually in urns.
Although these are normally associated with natural burial ground, many local authorities now offer green burials with woodland plots being available.
As these are often placed among established and new trees, no memorials of any kind are usually allowed.
Details of grave locations are stored with the burial grounds management so you can find the plot in the future.
Wild Flower Meadow Grave
Similarly to a woodland grave, a wild flower meadow burial plot can be offered by many cemeteries in the UK.
In some locations, the local burial ground management may permit wooden grave markers with an accompanying name plate.
What is the Cost of a Burial Plot?
The cost of a burial plot varies considerably around the UK with urban areas that have less available land often charging a lot more than in rural communities.
In most parts of the country, the charges are also different depending on whether you are a local resident or not.
For the purposes of comparison, we have provided a breakdown of the fees charged by local authorities in all four countries of the United Kingdom for single graves with exclusive rights of burial and graves for cremated remains. It should be noted that natural burial plots and grave spaces in religious cemeteries can also vary.
1Source: City of Westminster Cemetery Fees (Mill Hill) 2018-2019
2Source: Swindon Council Cemeteries and Cremations Fees 2018-2019
3 Source: Leicester City Council: Cemetery and Crematorium Fees 2018-2019
4 Source: Newcastle City Council: Cemetery and Crematorium Fees 2018-2019
In Northern Ireland, costs vary just as widely as they do in the rest of the UK with prices in the city of Belfast being more expensive that in rural locations such as Ballymoney for example.
Again, the costs of buying a burial plot in any village, town or city in Northern Ireland varies within that district according to whether you are a local resident or not.
For comparison, we have taken the two examples of Ballymoney and Belfast to provide an approximate guide to the prices of a burial plot in NI.
Also known as a 'lair', burial plots in Scotland also vary by council with the following two areas (Edinburgh and the Highlands) being noted for comparison:
Unlike in other parts of the UK, the price of a burial plot in Wales is pretty standard wherever you are in the country.
We have chosen the capital city of Cardiff and the central rural county of Powys for a comparison of local authority prices for burial and cremation plots.
The following summary of prices is given as an approximate guide only and is based on urban areas where prices are higher. You may find that, particularly for residents, rural areas may have much lower costs for the purchase of a burial plot due to there being less demand on space.
Types of Burial Plot
There are four main types of plot that you can buy for burial:
Single Burial plot
A single burial plot is reserved for one person in one coffin.
Double Burial Plot
A double burial plot is one that is reserved for the use of two people in two separate coffins. They do not require to be used at exactly the same time and are usually sold as either a:
- double depth burial plot. The land space occupied is the same as a single burial plot but caskets will be buried on top of one another, or:
- side by side burial plot. This is basically two single burial plots which are purchased alongside one another. This kind of double burial plot is also known as a 'companion plot'.
Family Burial Plot
A family burial plot can extend to include up to three burials per single grave thus purchasing the rights to burial in a double (or side by side) plot could provide up to six burials.
Some families prefer the idea of a row of single graves; however the cost of this kind of plot will be more expensive than purchasing graves for multiple burials.
Ashes Burial Plot
An ashes burial plot is used for the cremated remains of a loved one and is traditionally a much smaller plot of land than a normal grave. Most ashes burial plots can contain up to eight burials consisting of a single urn for each burial.
What is the Cost of a Natural Burial Plot vs a Traditional Cemetery Plot?
Of course, being buried does not mean that you have to choose a church graveyard or a municipal cemetery. The popularity of natural burial now means there are more than 270 woodland and 'green' sites where you can be laid to rest. Also available as single, double or even large family plots, a natural burial plot is a preferred alternative for many.
The Natural Death Centre has a list of natural burial grounds which range from hillside meadows in rural parts of Wales to working farms in the home counties. Woodland cemeteries are particularly popular but there is a diverse range of options as to location.
As with traditional cemetery burial plots, the price of a natural burial space can vary widely depending on where in the country they are and how the land is being managed. Many natural burial grounds have long-term commitments to invest in environmental projects which can make interment more costly.
At the lower end of the price scale there are some natural burial cemeteries that will charge a few hundred pounds for a grave site whilst others could charge several thousand. For comparison, we have provided an example of four natural burial grounds located around the UK.
Prices quoted are for the burial plot only and do not include interment fees.
How Much is a Burial Plot for Ashes?
Burial plots for cremated remains, as you might imagine, are far cheaper than a traditional burial plot. The reason for this is because the space used is much smaller. There are also costs savings to be made for interment fees as a standard grave requires digging to a depth of around 3-4 feet whereas ashes may be buried at a far more shallow level (typically around 1 foot in depth).
Again, the same principles apply regarding land prices in the area you are choosing a burial plot for ashes but typical prices range from around £100 to £500. In some parts of the UK, this price increase to over £1,000 (see 'What is the Cost of a Burial Plot?', above).
How Many Burials Can You Have in a Plot?
Each single burial plot can accommodate up to three burials down to a depth of nine feet or up to eight individual burials of cremated remains.
Family plots which are, essentially, two (or more) single plots dug side by side can contain more burials.
How Long Do You Own a Cemetery Plot?
In reality, you do not own a burial plot, you merely purchase the rights to be buried there. These are known as Exclusive Rights of Burial (EOB) or Deed of Grant.
The length of time that you can own these rights for varies by local authorities, private landowner and church. However, it is common practice for a plot owner to hold the exclusive rights of burial for a period of between 25 and 99 years. In some areas the lease of land is only granted for 10 years (the City of London is a good example of this).
In accordance with the Local Authorities' Cemeteries Order 1977 (LACO), rights may not exceed a period of 100 years (with the exception of Commonwealth War Graves).
If you do not exercise your right to burial within a period of 75 years, the LACO also stipulates that the authorities may extinguish these rights (subject to notice). This period is shorter in the London area due to the huge restrictions on available burial land.
Once the initial term of your purchase has expired, you will usually be contacted by the landowners to see if you wish to extend your right to exclusive burial within the plot.
What is an Exclusive Right of Burial (EOB)?
As detailed above, an Exclusive Right of Burial (or, EOB) is the legal term given that entitles you to be buried in the plot you have purchased. During the term of the EOB, the burial ground owners may not use the grave for any other burials.
It also allows you to give permission for another person to be buried within the plot or you can transfer ownership of the plot (and the EOB) to someone else.
What is a 'Deed of Grant' For Graves?
The Deed of Grant is the official document which details your exclusive right of burial (see above).
This document is very important and confirms that you are the legal owner of a specific plot and must be presented to the cemetery office in order to prepare a plot for burial.
If you lose a Deed of Grant then the registered owner must make a statutory declaration under oath confirming that they have the right to the grant. In the event that the person named on the Deed is the deceased, then the executors (or administrators) may make this declaration on their behalf.
Can a Burial Plot be Passed On Via a Will?
Yes, the Deed of Grant can be transferred to a relative or Next of Kin in accordance with the Last Will and Testament of the deceased if
- they own the EOB to a burial plot, and:
- the plot has sufficient space for an additional burial, and:
- there is a term remaining on the EOB.
How Long Does an Exclusive Right of Burial Last?
The option to exercise your right to burial in the plot you have purchased under the Exclusive Right of Burial lasts for 75 years. If no burial has taken place within this time and, following a period of notice, the land reverts to the burial ground owners.
Graves can be reused after a period of 75 years after the last burial. If a burial ground intends to do this, they must issue a public notice. If there are no objections then a grave will be reopened and a further burial(s) can take place above the existing one. In some cemeteries, the original remans may be lowered by a few feet to allow up to an additional two burials to take place above (a maximum of three per grave plot or to a depth of nine feet).
What is the Standard Grave Size in the UK?
The depth of a grave can vary depending on the type of plot you have purchased (single, double depth, family etc.) but will typically be over three to four feet deep before the coffin is laid to rest.
A standard size grave will then be around seven feet in length and three feet in width.
Most cemeteries can accommodate a few burial plots that are larger than this but additional fees, both for opening and closing the grave plus land charges will apply.
What is a Companion Plot?
A companion plot is another name given to a double burial plot where the two graves are situated side by side and not in a single plot, double depth.
As a result of the extra land, companion plots are usually more expensive than a double depth grave.
What Are Grave Opening and Closing Fees?
In addition to the cost of the burial plot itself your estate will be charged interment fees when you are buried. This covers the labour charges associated with digging the grave (opening) and filling the grave in (closing).
These fees will be charged for each burial associated with your plot. Therefore, if you have purchased a double plot (either a companion plot or a double depth grave) then the fees will be charged twice.
All prices quoted in this guide are correct as of February 2019.