Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to commission a memorial?
Commissioning a memorial can take from several months to over a year. It is a process that should not be hurried; allowing plenty of time for your thoughts to fall into place will often lead to a better result. Quarries can take several months to supply the stone, and in the case of a burial, time must be allowed to pass before placing the headstone, in order for the ground to settle. This varies, but is commonly around six months.
How much does it cost?
A memorial tablet can be very small and simple and cost under £1,000 but a headstone, and even a tablet or plaque, with more lettering and/or carving, will probably be a few thousand pounds. The cost will vary according to the amount of lettering and carving, the complexity of the design, the size, shape and type of stone and the installation requirements. The artist will be happy to discuss your ideas and provide a guideline of cost at an early stage without obligation.
When a commission is arranged through the Lettering Arts Trust, the fee will include a percentage which goes to support the Trust’s work. The contribution enables the Trust to safeguard skills for future generations by training young artists through its programme of apprenticeships, journeyman schemes and national lettering workshops. The Trust also works to raise public awareness of the UK’s lettering heritage through exhibitions, lectures and artist demonstrations.
How do I decide upon the wording for the memorial?
For many people, deciding on the words for the memorial is the most difficult decision. There is no universal formula. The best advice is often 'less is more': the fact that the lettering is beautifully designed and carved can say as much as many words. Sometimes a name and dates will suffice. If you wish to have an epitaph, the words should feel right for you and the person you are remembering. It can be helpful to look through personal material such as letters, emails or journals; you may find a phrase or quotation that is totally apposite to the person being commemorated.
Is it true that there are rules about the type of memorial I can have?
Churchyards and cemeteries all have rules governing the size and type of memorials they allow and these vary from place to place. Cemeteries are usually controlled by local councils; their rules tend to be more liberal in terms of wording and carving, but more specific in terms of size and fixing. Churchyards have a specific set of criteria which varies from diocese to diocese. Chapel graveyards often have their own rules. Your artist will be able to help you interpret the rules and will design your memorial accordingly.
Material – What are the merits of different stones?
Britain is blessed with a great variety of stones of all types: slate, limestone, sandstone and granite. The hardness, structure and texture of the stone will affect its carving. Letter carvers tend to favour fine-grained stones of medium hardness. Other qualities that may affect your choice are colour, durability and appropriateness for the locality. Granite is often used nowadays for machine-cut memorials but is usually imported, and is hard to work finely by hand. Your artist will be able to advise.
Who will arrange permission to install the stone in the cemetery or churchyard?
Applying for permission is usually a formality. The artist can complete the application form on the client’s behalf or the client may like to complete it. Either way, the artist will be able to guide you through the process. There will be a fee payable to the churchyard/cemetery authority.
How often will I need to visit the artist’s workshop?
It is beneficial to visit the artist’s studio or workshop for a meeting before a drawing is made. This will enable you to discuss your ideas fully and see further examples of the artist’s work, as well as samples of stone. Very importantly, you will be able to ensure that you are in tune with one another’s ideas and that you both feel you can work together. Once you are happy with the design, and permission has been granted by the church or cemetery authorities, it may be possible to visit the artist when the work is underway or before it is installed.
Who will install the memorial, and do I need to attend the fixing?
Most of our artists either install memorials themselves or have memorial fixers they regularly use. The artist may ask you to meet them at the site to confirm the exact location and to view the memorial before it is fixed. The artist will discuss this with you.
Can I pay in instalments?
Payment is by arrangement with the individual artist. Each has their own terms and conditions, but most require an early deposit payment, then sometimes an interim payment, with the final payment made after the memorial has been set into place.
More help and advice on these topics, and examples of beautiful memorial designs, can be found in the Lettering Arts Trust publications: The Memorials by Artists Guide and Memorials by Artists for Young People. If you have anything that you would like to talk to us about, please ring on 01728 688934.