Independent Monumental Masons Tel: (01934) 742046

Choosing a Memorial

A headstone will memorialize a loved one for many years to come. The design should not only mirror the deceased’s personal tastes, but should represent the way in which they lived their life. When the time comes to decide you’ll be faced with many questions – “Where do I start?” “What type of headstones are permitted?” etc. – and making a choice during this difficult period can be highly stressful. The purpose of this guide is to help you make a more informed decision without letting your emotions cloud your judgement.

We personally recommend that you make an appointment and visit us so that you can choose the memorial of your choice and we can then help with inscription and complete all paperwork required by the church or cemetery for approval for installation.

Types of Headstone

When choosing a headstone you must first decide what text and images to use. Each letter counts and can significantly affect the outcome of the design. Choosing afterwards will only leave you with limited options.

Upright Headstones

The upright headstone is the most traditional design. They are usually made from granite, marble or limestone and are fixed to the ground with a concrete base. They are typically 45 inches tall, 30 inches wide and 6 inches deep.

Flat Headstones

Flat headstones (flat tablets, flat markers) are usually made from granite. They can either be flush with the ground or raised to a slant from the rear (raised-top flat markers, bevel markers). Like traditional headstones they are available in a variety of colours, finishes, sizes and materials.

Kerbed Headstones

Kerbed headstones (ledger markers) are full length headstones that lie flat at ground level. They are a minimum of 4 inches thick and provide more room for personalized expression. Ledger markers can be combined with slant and bevel markers in addition to traditional upright headstones.

Headstone Finishes

Choosing the finish is just as important as choosing the material and will have a significant impact on the durability and appearance of the headstone. Like the material, if you want to bury your loved one in a churchyard you have limited options.


Polished headstones are smooth and shiny. The majority of churchyards won’t allow them because they have a reflective surface which can look out-of-place among older stones. Regardless of the material polished headstones will require regular cleaning and maintenance.


Part-polished headstones are only polished or honed on the inscription and base area. Everywhere else is either sawn, sanded, blasted or rubbed. This effect is used to emphasize the epitaph and images.


Honed finishes (eggshell) are smooth, yet unreflective – an effect that’s achieved by partially removing the polish with dust. They are often used with headstones that have three or more colours in order to give them more depth. Honed finishes are usually permitted in churchyards.


Pitched (rock pitch) finishes are created with a bolster and hammer. Pitched headstones are very rustic and often used in older churchyards.

Selecting a Design

Only after you’ve finalised your epitaph and chosen what images to use should you select your headstone design. While we have a selection of shapes and sizes, all headstones can be personalized to suit your needs.


There are various ways to include images on headstones. We still use the traditional hand-carved services.  Images can also be attached using ceramics. This is recommended if you’d like a full colour photograph.

Like the epitaph the image should represent the deceased’s beliefs, lifestyle and personality. For example, if they were religious, then some kind of symbolism may be appropriate, such as a cross.


The font of the inscription will impact the entire design. As true monumental masons we match fonts to memorial design, size and colour. We can also offer a full size paper copy of your inscription before going to stone. Some fonts require a deeper cut than others and may not be clear when inscribed into certain materials. Italics are usually reserved for bible passages, quotes and poetry, while bolder text (usually capitalized) is used for names and dates.

Suggested Inscriptions

The inscription is the most important part of the headstone, yet it’s arguably the most difficult part to finalize. Finding the right message to represent your loved one is challenging as it should be short, dignified and summarize their life. There are three common ways of showcasing this message; through engravings that are directly carved into the stone; through memorial plaques that are attached to the stone; and through metal or ceramic letters that are attached to the stone.

Gravestones are usually inscribed with details such as the deceased’s name, date of birth, date of death, occupation, accomplishments, etc. and short phrases like:

“In memory of”

“Treasured memory of”

“Cherished memories of”

“Sacred to the memory of”

“In fondest memory”

“With Love We Remember”

“Eternally loved”

“Rest in peace”

“Forever with the Lord”

“Forever in our hearts”

In addition, you can honor a loved one by including verses from scriptures, beautiful poems, and even touchy song lyrics.

Moreover, you can compose a nice poem or a wonderful epitaph yourself to commemorate a life well lived.

Common Phrases

These phrases are often used on headstones either alone or alongside other, more personal messages:

•    Gone, but not forgotten.

•    In loving memory of…

•    Forever in our hearts.

•    Always in our hearts.

•    Entered into rest.

•    Rest in peace.


Writing poetry is a creative and highly respectable way to express your feelings and memorialize a loved one. Examples include:

•    “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

•    “Our Happiness Together Are Memories Forever”

•    ”Heaven is a special place, where the Almighty Creator will bless you with even greater love and grace.”

Bible Passages

Some church yards will require a bible passage. If so, research potential verses and analyse their meanings to ensure they’re relevant to the deceased. Common passages include:

•    Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil

      23rd Psalm

•    He shall receive in the world to come eternal life. Mark 10:30

•    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

•    Thy remembrance shall endure into all generations. 102nd Psalm

•    God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

      1 John iv:16

Rules and Regulations

There are various legal regulations surrounding both cemetery and churchyard burials. In addition, each parish or council may have their own rules and requirements that must be met before the funeral takes place.


Because cemeteries are owned by local councils and are not religion specific they will usually have very relaxed rules and regulations.  However, there may be specific buildings or areas that are dedicated to certain faiths. As a local monumental mason we know all the rules and regulations regarding the cemeteries in our area, and will guide you through what is allowed.


Churchyard rules and regulations differ according to the branch of the church and the local parish. Most burial plots are located on adjoining land and must fit with the general aesthetic. The most common rules and regulations for installing headstones in churchyards are:

•    The material and finishes must be non-reflective.

•    The headstone must not contain ceramics or bold colouring.

While the rules and regulations may seem strict, they are rarely definitive and you are allowed to apply for special permission if you would prefer something a little less traditional. However, if you manage to acquire permission the local parish will usually give themselves leeway to remove the headstone in the future without your consent. The churches within our areas are governed by The Bath and Wells Dioceses, we are aware of what is allowed and will only guide you along these lines, sizes do vary from churchyard to churchyard.

Timescale and Installation

Headstones are erected a minimum of six months after the burial in order to give the ground time to settle; however, this can vary in certain circumstances. For example, if the burial spot is on a hillside or uneven ground, waiting times can be as long as twelve months. In the event of a cremation, no waiting time is required and any headstone can be fixed as soon as permission is granted, with ourselves as mason we are able to complete the memorial in time for the internment if notice is given early enough, this helps with the closure for people who are mourning their loss.

Who works with you and what are their roles?

My daughter Helen is your first point of contact when telephoning with an enquiry or to make an appointment. She looks after all our customers and arranges all the work that needs to be completed. Helen also comes out with me when we have to remove tablets as she is able to lift them and also drives me about to price work and visit customers. She does all the paperwork for applications and keeps everyone together as much as possible. Then Martin and Philip do the vast majority of the manual work, Martin designs the layouts for memorials and goes out fixing memorials with Philip. Philip does all our polishing of memorials and prepares all our bases and foundation places. Without them all working together we could not get the work done that we do.

How long does it take to complete a memorial from ordering to completion?

If the customer chooses one of our stock memorials then we are able to get these out within 3-6 weeks depending on how long it takes for the authorisation to be returned from a Vicar, Clerk of Council or Cemetery Managers. If a memorial is chosen from one of our catalogues then delivery will be 12 – 20 weeks depending on choice. We are also able to do bespoke memorials from customers own designs, again these take a little longer but all the work is done in house, we do not sub contract any of our work.

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