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  • 16,000 buildings. One resource.
  • 16,000 buildings. One resource.
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  • 16,000 buildings. One resource.
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About ChurchCare

Human Remains and Cathedrals

There are frequently Christian burials both within and around a cathedral. Some cathedral precincts also include ancient sites which may contain pre-Christian burials. This makes it very likely that below-ground works to cathedrals will encounter and disturb human remains from a range of periods.

Human remains principles

Human remains have a special position in ecclesiastical and secular law.

The underlying principles are that:

  • human remains should always be treated with dignity and respect
  • burials should not be disturbed without good reason. However it may be necessary to disturb burials in advance of properly authorised development
  • human remains and the archaeological evidence around them are important sources of scientific information
  • particular weight should be given to the feelings and views of living family members, when known
  • decisions should be made in the public interest, and in an accountable way.

Disarticulated bones (other than charnel deposits) can normally be carefully collected by general contractors for subsequent reburial. However, where articulated human remains are discovered, or predicted to be discovered, project teams should always include a competent professional archaeologist experienced in church archaeology. This should be either the cathedral archaeologist or an archaeological contractor briefed and monitored by him/her.

Human remains and the law

Any work materially affecting human remains in or under the cathedral church or within its precinct requires prior approval under the Care of Cathedrals Measure 2011 Part 2 (1) (a) (iv). Work involving disturbance or destruction of such human remains needs the approval of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE) and more minor work needs the approval of the cathedral’s Fabric Advisory Committee (FAC). For guidance on the approval procedures click here.

Until the end of 2014 the removal of human remains within cathedral precincts also required a Ministry of Justice exhumation licence under the Burial Act 1857, but this requirement has now been lifted. On 1 January 2015 amendments to the 1857 Burial Act came into force with the effect that an exhumation licence will no longer be required, provided that approval has been obtained under the Care of Cathedrals Measure.

For works affecting Scheduled Monuments within cathedral precincts, Scheduled Monument Consent will also be required. This can be applied for through the local Historic England team.

Further guidance

See the joint Church of England/English Heritage publication Guidance for best practice for human remains excavated from Christian burial grounds in England (revised, 2017) for detailed advice on the ethical, archaeological, scientific and legal considerations. Following this guidance will normally be a condition of any permission under the Care of Cathedrals Measure to disturb human remains. A copy can be downloaded from the APABE website

More detailed guidance on dealing with church and cathedral archaeology was produced by the Association of Diocesan and Cathedral Archaeologists (ADCA) and is available at

The Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Burials in England (APABE) has produced guidelines on the destructive sampling of human remains Science and the Dead: A guideline for the destructive sampling of archaeological human remains for scientific analysis (2013).

For individual queries please contact:

  • (general archaeological issues) Dr Joseph Elders, Major Projects Officer, Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 020 7898 1875
  • (cathedral planning issues, Care of Cathedrals Measure) Anne Locke, Cathedrals Officer, Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 020 7898 1862.

The details below relate to the 2012 application round. There are currently no ChurchCare funds available for the conservation of objects in cathedrals.

The programme was open to all Anglican cathedrals in England and supports the conservation of the following categories of objects:

  • Sculpture and furnishings (including monuments, timberwork, metalwork, church plate and textiles)
  • Glass
  • Paintings and wall paintings
  • Historic bells and bell frames
  • Historic organs and their decorated cases
  • Mechanical clocks
  • Books and manuscripts

All applications need to be supported by a detailed conservation report, which must be prepared following our guidance on the preparation of conservation reports (you can download a copy of the guidelines here). We recommend that any works are carried out by an accredited conservator (you can find details of accredited conservators via the Conservation Register. Click here to access the Register).

Only projects which fall within the remit of the Care of Cathedrals Measure and are subject to approval from either an FAC or the CFCE will be considered (approval should be sought separately, either before or concurrently with the grant application, and no decision will be taken on a grant until the relevant approval is in place);

What size are the grants?

The fund offers grants of up to £5,000.

When can applications be made?

The closing date for the 2012 round of applications was 21 September 2012. All applicants were informed about the outcome of their grant application during December 2012.

How to apply:

Applications are made online (link below) but please note that you will be asked to upload the following supporting information.

  • Statements of Significance and Need
  • Conservation report
  • Itemized estimate for proposed works
  • Section of the most recent Quinquennial Inspection report relating to the part of the building/precinct where the object/fixture/fitting is located
  • Brief summary of any recommendations in the relevant section of the Quinquennial Inspection report that have been completed, are in progress or are about to be put in hand (if applicable)
  • Plan of the cathedral or precinct showing location of the object/fixture/fitting or works
  • Drawings, plans and photographs (jpg files at 300dpi or above) sufficient to describe the proposal
  • Statement of most recent annual audited cathedral accounts
  • Copy of Form 10 or Form 5 granting approval for the works, plus a copy of the FAC or any other advice received on the project.

Additional documents may be submitted separately by email before the closing date to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Senior Conservation Officer, T: 020 7898 1889 (please quote cathedral name and application reference number in email header).

Applications that do not meet the eligibility criteria or are submitted without all the documentation listed above will not be considered.

If you meet the eligibility criteria you can apply by clicking on the button below:

Apply here

For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Senior Conservation Officer, T: 020 7898 1889 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Cathedrals Officer, T: 020 7898 1862. 

On this page you can download frequently used forms. Note: you may have to save the document to make it display properly once you start entering details.

Application to the FAC

Application to the CFCE

Other applications

Other forms

The Notice of Completion of Works was created to help Cathedral Administrators fulfill Section 12 (2) of the Care of Cathedrals Measure 2011. It does not form part of the Care of Cathedrals Rules.  Other forms are reproduced under the terms of Crown Copyright Policy Guidance issued by HMSO.

The next Commission meeting is on 17 May 2018. It will consider the following new applications:

  • HEREFORD CATHEDRAL archaeological investigations
  • NORWICH CATHEDRAL cloister conservation, Bays 28 to 30
  • CHICHESTER CATHEDRAL loan of Sutherland painting
  • EXETER CATHEDRAL loan of library items.


The last Commission meeting was on 22 March 2018. It considered the following new applications. 

  • MANCHESTER CATHEDRAL internal lighting
  • CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL oculus window reglazing
  • CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL new stonework detailing to nave and west towers
  • CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL conservation of the Black Prince's cap of maintenance
  • NEWCASTLE CATHEDRAL archaeological evaluation in the south-east churchyard
  • ST ALBANS CATHEDRAL loan of a manuscript sheet on vellum
  • ST PAULS CATHEDRAL loan of Grinling Gibbons carvings


Twitter Updates

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Upcoming Events

CFCE Cathedral Inventories Conference 2018

Friday 22 June 2018, 10:30am – 4:30pm (St Paul’s Cathedral)

DAC Organ Adviser's Conference 2018

28th-30th August 2018 - West Didsbury

DAC Bell Advisers Conference 2018

22 June 2018 (Loughborough)

Annual DAC Conference, Salisbury, 2018

Tuesday 25 - Thursday 27 September 2018 (Salisbury)