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:
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.
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 http://churcharchaeology.org/ADCA.html
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:
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:
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);
The fund offers grants of up to £5,000.
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.
Applications are made online (link below) but please note that you will be asked to upload the following supporting information.
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:
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.
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 25 January 2018. Links to the new applications it will consider will be uploaded shortly.
The last Commission meeting was on 7 December 2017. It considered the following new applications. Links to the determination documents will be uploaded shortly.
Cathedral Fabric Commission for England Minutes 2011.
From the start of the new quinqennium beginning June 2011.