AROUND 6,000 cemetery memorials in Dorchester will have been checked for safety by the end of April.

Town council staff have been assessing whether each is at risk of falling, potentially putting anyone nearby at risk.

Dorchester Town Council say that over the last decade it found 49 memorials that were not secure and, therefore, needed to be laid flat on the ground, with the wording visible. In addition there were ten memorials which were made safe by re-affixing, loose foundations.

“Given the weight of the memorials (gravestones) we employed a local, professional memorial mason to undertake the work across our three cemeteries,” said a council spokesman.

The council operates cemeteries at Poundbury, Weymouth Avenue and Fordington.

Checks carried out are relatively straightforward – applying the equivalent of 25kg of force to the apex of a gravestone and measuring movement, if any.

The council says it operates its checks in line with the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management (ICCM) although carries them out more frequently than the five-year recommended interval at both Fordington and Weymouth Avenue, using a three-year programme.

At Poundbury, the town’s most recent cemetery, the interval remains at five year with the next survey due in 2028, compared to 2026 for the other sites.

Although the cemeteries are council-run the monuments within them are considered privately-owned structures and, in most cases, the ‘owners’ of the memorials are responsible for their upkeep and will be written to advising them of the need for action. In cases where the danger is considered imminent council staff, or a monumental mason, will generally lie the structure flat to prevent the risk of a fall, or make it safe in other ways.

Said a report to councillors: “Where possible the Council will take other action to stabilise the memorial consistent with the powers contained in the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977, either by repacking the area around its base or by providing appropriate external support, possibly with a warning notice affixed. This will afford the opportunity for the owners of the memorial to become aware of the matter if it has not been possible to notify them direct and to arrange their own remedial works.”

In cases where a stone is potentially unstable but not at immediate risk of falling, owners are notified and the council will then carry out further checks, usually annually.

Pic - Dorchester's Weymouth Avenue cemetery Pic - Poundbury cemetery