Memorials are intended to maintain awareness of those who have died. Yet without upkeep they will fade and decay. Who is responsible to keep the memorial alive?
Churchgoers will be familiar with overgrown graveyards and stones rendered illegible by the weather. So long as a close family member is around to care for a memorial stone, the ravages of time and nature can to some extent be kept at bay: but without human care memorials will themselves die.
Britain’s decaying war memorials are the subject of a new website, War Memorials Online, which aims to catalogue the location, nature and condition of war memorials throughout the country, in preparation for the 2014 centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
It is believed that war memorials derived from the tradition of burying soldiers where they fell, leaving relatives to find their own local place commemorate their dead. But now that generations have passed, many such memorials are illegible or damaged, and there is no record of who has responsibility for their maintenance.
The same can be said for individual graves and memorials. Services have grown up offering the tending and maintenance of graves, dressing of plots and commemoration of special days: just search ‘grave tending’ and you will find someone to cover your area.
A volunteer scheme now also matches people unable to look after a relative’s grave with a willing local helper: Tendagrave was set up by Jenny Barsby-Robinson, a journalist who saw the need for the service when unable to tend her own relatives’ graves from afar. The service is free and encourages the respectful care of graves and memorials by those who are prepared to exchange their time. Who better to keep a memory alive?